Apple’s AirPods have been available for only a day, and with very limited availability, but iFixit managed to get ahold of a pair and subject them to their usual new product dissection. What they found inside were components that can’t be repaired, and a charging case that may be behind the extended delay in getting to store shelves.
AirPods mark Apple’s first take on wireless earpods. Like other wireless earbuds, AirPods use Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone, but thanks to Apple’s proprietary W1 chip are much easier to pair.
Apple showed off AirPods at its iPhone 7 launch event in September saying they would ship in October. Apple missed that deadline, and as the year end loomed ever closer it looked like we wouldn’t see them until January or February. That changed on December 13th, however, when Apple began taking preorders for delivery on December 21st and in-store purchase on December 19th.
Getting inside the AirPods proved to be something of a chore. iFixit said they’re essentially a big glob of glue with some electronic components mixed in. The iFixit team said, “If jamming complex components into a small form factor and sealing it with a copious amount of glue were a game, Apple would be winning.”
Once inside, they found a 93 milliwatt hour battery, IR sensors for proximity detecting, and a speaker. The shaft holds the antenna for better reception, and the chrome cap on the end is the charging contact.
iFixit destroyed the AirPods getting inside, earning them a repairability rating of 0.
The Case for AirPods
Opening the AirPods case, which also serves as a portable charger, required a rotary saw. That earned it a 0 for repairability because destroying the device just to get inside isn’t a good plan if you’re trying to fix it.
Before ripping the case open iFixit looked inside via X-ray, and what they saw may solve the mystery of why AirPods were delayed two months. iFixit said,
Our X-ray imagery shows some quality issues in this chip’s solder joints. Empty spaces, known as voiding, could be evidence of low quality standards, or a rushed product release. Could issues with the AirPod case be what delayed release?
The case holds a 1.52 watt hour battery, which equates to about eight full charges for the AirPods. The case charges via a Lightning port—no surprise there since that’s what Apple is using for the iPhone and iPad, too.
Don’t Break Your AirPods
All of that destructive surgery showed some clever engineering and drove home a very important point: don’t break your AirPods because they can’t be fixed. Luckily, you won’t be completely out of luck if you break or lose one because Apple sells individual replacements for US$69 each.
AirPods are available now in severely limited quantities for $159. Online orders are backlogged about six weeks right now, and AirPods are trickling in to Apple’s retail stores a handful at a time. You may get lucky and find a pair before the holidays season wraps up, but odds are most people won’t find a set until some time in January.