Popular repair website iFixit has posted its teardown of Apple’s new Beats-branded Powerbeats Pro, noting a number of similarities to Apple’s second-generation AirPods, which it tore down earlier this year, while adding that the higher-end true wireless sport earbuds are slightly — but only slightly — easier to repair than the glued together and tightly packed in AirPods.
While iFixit published its second-gen AirPods teardown only days after the earbuds were released, it’s taken a bit more time with the new Powerbeats Pro, but this time has included a four-minute video that shows the teardown process.
Much of what iFixit discovered inside the Powerbeats Pro wasn’t all that surprising; they use the same Apple H1 chip as the latest AirPods, and everything is still pretty tight inside, with small ribbon cables connecting everything — cables that don’t actually detach. During the teardown, it was necessary to cut the ribbon cable connecting the main board to the driver rather than pulling out an ultrasonic cutter to access it, but the result would have been a destructive teardown either way.
One thing that’s particularly noteworthy is that the Powerbeats Pro actually use the same coin cell battery as that found in Samsung’s Galaxy Buds — a 200 mWh cell that offers twice the capacity of the battery found in Apple’s AirPods. This is what provides the considerably longer battery life that Powerbeats Pro offers, but what’s interesting is that even though they use the exact same battery as Samsung’s buds, Apple has managed to extract even longer run times from it — likely a testament to the power efficiency of the Apple-designed H1 chip.
While the coin cell battery is soldered to the board, it’s only done so lightly, making a replacement theoretically possible, although not easy by any stretch of the imagination.
iFixit notes that the audio driver looks “pretty similar” to the one found in the AirPods. While its unclear if the driver is exactly the same as the one used in the AirPods, it doesn’t look like Apple has done anything special here; the Powerbeats Pro certainly offer a different sound signature and better quality, but this may be entirely due to physical design of the acoustics and improved passive noise isolation.
While the Powerbeats Pro weren’t too difficult for iFixit to get into, the charging case was more of a nightmare, with incredibly strong adhesive holding everything together. “Tons of heat and difficult prying” was required, and pretty much everything inside the case was glued together, right down to the cable connections. While iFixit concedes that the IPX4 rating may have had some bearing on this design, they still noted that it feels “excessive and a little sloppy.” The battery in the charging case is a 1.3 Wh cell, which falls in between the AirPods at 1.52 Wh and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds at 1.03 Wh.
Ultimately, iFixit assigned the new Powerbeats Pro a repairability score of 1 out of 10 (where 10 is the easiest to repair), placing it only marginally ahead of Apple’s AirPods, which received a flat 0 in both of their iterations. iFixit had the following conclusions about the repairability of the new wireless earbuds:
- The battery is a fairly common button-cell, and is only lightly soldered in place, meaning battery swaps are technically possible with the right tools.
- The earbuds’ opening procedure is not totally destructive per se, but it will likely lead to at least some cosmetic damage.
- The earbuds’ internal circuitry is all connected with fragile ribbon cables that do not detach, so a full disassembly can only be accomplished destructively.
- The charging case is a nightmarish bucket of glue, making potential battery replacements unnecessarily difficult and destructive.
For all intents and purposes, it seems that the Powerbeats Pro should be considered almost as “disappointingly disposable” as Apple’s AirPods, which is kind of sad for a product in their price range. Apple of course offers a recycling program that will allow users to turn in their old AirPods — and presumably Powerbeats Pro are also included in this — and Apple’s own warranty and paid service programs will simply replace a defective earbud or charging case, and recycle the original, so we don’t see this as a serious environmental concern, but it definitely stands in the way of those who would prefer to go for the less costly DIY route.