iFixit Teardown Shows Apple’s New AirPods Are Still ‘Disappointingly Disposable’

iFixit AirPods2 Teardown Credit: iFixit
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Now that Apple’s second-generation AirPods have actually started landing in peoples’ hands, iFixit has grabbed a pair and done its usual comprehensive teardown of Apple’s latest wireless earbuds, discovering that while the new AirPods may look the same on the outside, there have been some noteworthy changes to the internals.

iFixit begins with the measurements, which not surprisingly come in at exactly the same size and weight as the first-generation AirPods, although the new wireless charging case gains an additional 2.3 grams, or about the weight of a penny. The pairing button has also been relocated on the case, and there’s a new external LED charging indicator.

The second-gen AirPods bear the model numbers A2031 and A2032 for the left and right ears, respectively, while the new wireless case is model A1938 and indicates that same battery life as the original — 398 mAh.

After carefully and meticulously opening up the new AirPods with surgical precision, iFixit discovers a neatly folded away collection of flex cables, antennas, and microphones, marvelling at how much Apple manages to cram into the small earbud housings. Inside is Apple’s new H1 chip, identified as “Apple 343S00289” along with another Apple-made chip that is likely a low-power stereo audio codec chip.

Turning their attention to the wireless charging case, the iFixit engineers note a sturdier machined-metal hinge, and an identical battery to the one found in the first-generation case, right down to the same part number, A1596 — a 3.81 V and 398 mac battery providing 1.52 Wh of power. As iFixit notes, this packs in more power than Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds case at 1.03 Wh, and even more than the 1.113 Wh battery in the Series 4 Apple Watch.

The case also includes a modular charging port, so it can be easily replaced in principle, but that’s in the extremely unlikely event you can get enough of the case apart to get at it without breaking anything else in the process. A Broadcom chip is used for the wireless charging module, along with two other unspecified power management chips.

While iFixit notes that the case provides additional durability — from both the stronger hinge and a new water-repellent coating on the circuit board — however the new second-generation AirPods are no more easily repairable than the original model, getting a “Repairability Score” of zero. By contrast, iFixit notes that AirPods’ chief competitor, Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds, are actually surprisingly repairable, earning a score of 6 out of 10.

Essentially, the design of the AirPods and the wireless charging case means that they are “disappointingly disposable”; when the batteries fail, which they ultimately will, there’s not much to be done with AirPods beyond throwing them in the trash. The amount of glue and solder makes them unattractive to most recyclers as well. Apple itself will still offer to take them back, but you’ll have to mail them in using a prepaid shipping label; you can’t just drop them off at an Apple Store. As a company that prides itself on environmental responsibility, it’s somewhat disappointing that Apple can’t do a bit better than that.

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