Apple’s AirPods are disposable and they shouldn‘t be

Last week I came across an article by Geoffrey A. Fowler in the Washington Post titled „Everyone’s AirPods will die. We’ve got the trick to replacing them.“ (thanks to Dave Mark of The Loop for bringing it up).

Sadly, the title is not just slightly clickbait-y, it also belies the sensible discussion about the viability of AirPods the article contains. Fowler goes into detail about how and when the batteries in AirPods tend to stop performing and then dives into an analysis of the economic circumstances and environmental implications of a product like the AirPods.

Fowler quotes a rule by Kyle Wiens, CEO of the repair website, that has stuck with me for the past few days:

The life span of an expensive, resource-intensive gadget shouldn’t be limited to the life span of one consumable component. You wouldn’t buy an electric toothbrush where you couldn’t replace the brush. Or a car with glued-on tires.

Sadly and also predictably, the new AirPods Pro are made to be just as disposable as their predecessors (and just like any other pair of wireless earbuds on the market right now).

I bought my AirPods a little over two years ago. These little things are a brilliant gadget with decent sound and when pairing works as it should, they’re the pinnacle of convenience. They’ve also been in almost daily use since I purchased them then and the battery life is accordingly bad at this point: I get less than 1.5 hours of listening or calls out of them nowadays.
When I purchased them, I knew full well that the battery was not replaceable and to be honest, I’m kind of mad at myself that I put convenience over the longevity, repairability, and recyclability of a device. Typically everything I buy needs to be either repairable and if for some reason that’s not feasible, it has be long-lasting and recyclable.
Case in point: in writing this article I remembered that I bought a pair of EarPods a couple of days after they were released in September 2012 and that pair lasted me almost six years — yes, I treat my earphones carefully.

I’m going to keep using my AirPods until the finally give out or rather until the battery life is so bad that it negates any kind of convenience these truly wireless earphones offer and I’m going to go back to wired earphones with an in-line remote for casual listening. I still have two pairs of completely new EarPods that came with my iPhones over the years in a drawer (one with the lightning plug and one with a standard 3.5 mm plug), or I might splurge on the Campfire Audio Comet.

Alex Hoffmann @mangochutney