Not just adhesive, but alcohol-resistant adhesive: Well done, Apple. Airpods Pro repairability is a zero
Professional wireless buds pack interesting features, though
iFixit, the Huntingdon Life Sciences of the tech world, has published its long-awaited teardown of the latest Apple earbuds (or, using the terminology of pro tea-leaves readers at Gartner, "earworn wearables").
The AirPods Pro autopsy revealed few surprises. Just like its predecessors, Apple's latest designer buds are impossible to self-service, earning them a repairability score of zero. This is largely a consequence of Apple's liberal use of alcohol-resistant adhesives, which makes it almost impossible to separate components without causing serious damage.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came when iFixit applied a rusty shiv to the in-ear portion of an AirPod Pro bud. While removing the speaker driver, the AirPod let out an audible scream (which iFixit described as "a little awooo"). Was this the last dying thrash of a product about to be irreparably broken, or was it the product of a power surge caused by the disassembly process? I'll leave that to your imagination, dear reader.
One genuine surprise was the inclusion of a standard button cell battery, rather than a proprietary cell purpose-designed by Apple for this particular product. iFixit spotted a German-made 3.7 V lithium-ion cell, similar to the one included in the Samsung Galaxy Buds.
This, however, doesn't redeem the AirPod Pro in the eyes of iFixit, as it's still almost impossible to replace the battery without causing a catastrophic level of destruction. The cell sits buried under thick blobs of white glue, and, to add insult to injury, is firmly soldered to the device.
In a statement issued to Wired, Apple confirmed the AirPod Pro is "not repairable, only replaceable". Although that's not surprising given the form-factor, it's still somewhat disappointing.
Those who've bought a pair of the $250 buds will have to accept that when its rechargeable battery eventually fails (give it a couple of years), they'll have to purchase a brand-new product. Their dud earpods will most likely make their way to a landfill, where they'll spend the following few millennia slowly decomposing.
For what it's worth, iFixit think it's within the realms of possibility for Apple to re-work the AirPods Pro to become slightly more fixable. One way suggested by engineers at the repair shop is to design the buds to be slightly more modular, where the stem (which includes the antennas and microphones) is re-used, while the battery and driver is discarded. But as it stands, that's little more than a pipe dream.
"There's still no good way to perfectly reassemble a dismantled 'Pod, unless you happen to work in the AirPod assembly line at the factory," sighed iFixit. ®