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Your AirPods Will Die Soon (theatlantic.com)
49 points by akeck 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 38 comments



Every one of my devices is from Apple: phone, laptop, and yes, AirPods. My practice has been to sell any devices after four years and use the proceeds to buy new. AirPods are probably the first Apple device I've bought that will likely have no resale value; after all, I put them in my ears. Reading about the Fairphone mentioned in the article [0] and the related iFixit teardown [1] made me pretty envious. While I find it highly unlikely I would leave the Apple ecosystem due to security and ease-of-use I would love to be able to make minor repairs on my devices and keep them for more than four or five years. Apple's been investing in making device components more recyclable [2] but also in making devices less repairable. Regulation seems like the wrong way to compel change but I doubt Apple or others will elect to do so without clear mandates from regulators or customers.

[0] https://www.fairphone.com/en/our-goals/recycling/

[1] https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Fairphone+2+Teardown/52523

[2] https://www.apple.com/environment/safer-materials/


If you want to stretch out your contribution to your next purchase, part out your old hardware.

I earned a lot more parting out my old MacBook Airs than I would selling them as a full unit with well-worn charger and battery.

Learned a lot too about the internals.

And I sold every component. Even the screws.


This is mind-blowing. Can you point to any resources on how to do this? Also, where’d you sell the components? eBay?


IFixIt, same place you saw the Fairphone teardown.

Ebay is the best place to sell parts, yes. Prepare for some shrinkage as it's easy to scam new Ebay sellers.


Mostly ifixit “repair” guides and eBay.

Usually you just need a special screwdriver ($2-3 or so from eBay from Asia).

Ship everything in anti-static bags and reused Amazon packaging.


> Even the screws.

Why? Dont normal screw dont work in Apple devices? Or do people think they dont? Are their heads more beautiful?


Apple screws are not generic parts-bin screws. They choose specific screws for each location. I assume because they work with manufacturers, their cost for a laptop full of custom sized screws vs a few common screws is negligible.

Not an apples-apples comparison, but for PCs you can buy cheap sets of standard screws you can use for a long time:

https://amzn.com/B07F71KFMQ

(not a referral link and I have no connection with the vendor - it was just top result in an amazon search)


Probably because it's easier to order 'genuine macbook pro 2019 screws' than try and find other screws with the exact same dimensions?


And who knows what kind of shitanium is used by 3rd party manufacturers. Or lots rejected by Apple that find their way to market.


Ever tried to replace a screw? Finding the exact threading, length, etc?


fastener measurement is impractical and unrealistic on a device as well documented as an Apple product. A simple search query will find you all of the hardware sizings.

As far as measurement being difficult : we're already talking about major disassembly of a device here. These fasteners are small, sure, but I would hope that anyone that is undertaking the task of disassembling whichever expensive product already knows how to manage a magnifying glass and a ruler or caliper.

With all that said : with an Apple/Lenovo/Dell product, screw sets can be had on amazon/ebay for extraordinarily cheap. Measurement and fastener acquisition only really happens on one-off models and flighty brands.


Yabbut, buy the cheap “new” ones and you run a risk of stripping them. And that’s annoying to fix.


> Regulation seems like the wrong way to compel change

Why?


I worry lawmakers are more interested in scoring political points than fully-understanding a problem and crafting legislation that best serves the public interest.

I don’t think regulation is bad, per se, but my preference is for changes like these to come from the market instead of the statehouse.


The market has spoken, and it wants unrepairable throwaway devices and dongles for everything.


i wonder if it's possible to root iphones mainboards to use them as standalone compute modules


The problem is that most consumers' revealed preference is for better performance rather than replaceability or device longevity (I know some people here will express a different preference, but you are a minority of consumers). Consumers don't factor device longevity into their purchase decisions, so companies don't prioritize it during the design process. And it needs to be prioritized because design decisions for longevity involve tradeoffs with other device performance metrics like size, weight, battery life (you can improve battery longevity by decreasing the depth of discharge of the battery before a recharge is required), processor performance, price.

Unfortunately this article clearly demonstrates the problems companies face when they try to improve longevity at the cost of performance. Apple implemented processor throttling based on measured battery condition to improve the longevity of their devices, but even in this article, seemingly focused on device longevity, they still receive criticism for this decision:

"But even consumers who hang onto their old iPhones for as long as possible learned in 2017 that Apple released a software update that slows down old phones to counteract aging lithium-ion battery problems."


> most consumers' revealed preference is for better performance rather than replaceability or device longevity

Because replaceability and longevity are hidden and obfuscated by the manufacturer. How can you talk about 'preference' when consumers don't have the information in the first place, or, in many cases, even any alternatives?


Throttling CPU in a non-transparent and non-configurable manner is not an acceptable means to increase longevity.Maybe it works for your grandmother who just wants to continue to send text messages, but most people want to use their smartphones for running actual applications.

Particularly when iphone batteries have honestly not shown to be that difficult to replace batteries of. But when you start throttling perceived performance, you're not willing to replace battery for something that as far as you know has lost it's ability to perform at it's original capacity.

I agree with your first point, but it's frankly absurd to imply that secret CPU throttling is a remotely acceptable manner of extending longevity.


Do you think upfront transparency about CPU throttling is an acceptable manner of extending longevity?


If it's paired with the option to disable throttling, absolutely.


You say consumers have expressed that but I'm not actually sure that is true. Sure people often buy things that are less durable but it is hard to tell the longevity of many products in advance, especially of tech for non techy people.

I used to do computer repair and the number of people who were furious to discover, years after they bought it, just how uneconomical it was to repair certain Apple products due to how unmodular those products were.

Plus say I'm buying headphones, obviously (to technologically aware people) wireless ones will break more often because they have more parts that can break and have batteries that will eventually go out. But after that I'm kind of stuck with buying a brand that has a good history, people don't write reviews of currently available products saying "I've owned these for 6 years now and they still work". And even if those reviews exist the company may have changed the internals of the product by now so that review is no longer valid.

Sure consumer purchase patterns don't reward building for longevity and I agree with that, but I disagree that consumers have necessarily expressed they don't care very much about it.


Skaevola didn’t say “expressed preference.” He/she said “revealed preference.” I.e. revealed by actual purchases. This is more meaningful than any other “expression.”


I misused the word "expressed" as opposed to "revealed" but I was meaning to use it the same way Skevola used "revealed". Sorry for the confusion


This piece positions Apple as a nefarious actor with exploitative intent. I'd imagine that if Apple built products without holding aesthetics in the highest esteem (like many Android or non-Apple manufacturers do), their audience wouldn't be willing to buy. The market has clearly voted with its dollars - think of how bulky ultra-low-profile earbuds would become if their batteries were replaceable, or how much more susceptible to water damage & general abuse.

And Apple already runs a fairly generous program for old iPhones, which btw, last far longer than their Android counter-parts.

Anyway, not to say that Apple can't improve its recycling process (or incentive systems for consumers to recycle) but to my knowledge, it's far ahead of the competition.


Customers may prefer Apples earbuds, but we dont know if that is because they prefer aesthetic ones over ones with replaceable batteries. We would only know that if Apple also made Airbuds with replaceable batteries -- i.e. same general design, same build quality, same pairing UX, same brand etc. -- but with replaceable batteries and the associated trade-offs.

Since they dont do that, its more appropriate to blame Apple than its customers. Customers cannot choose between replaceable batteries and bulk, only between the packages that companies offer.


I suppose given the necessarily tight integration that replacing the batteries is near-impossible on these? I've actually come around on the "non-replaceable" batteries on phones because it ends up being literally a once-in-a-lifetime event for the phone, and it turns out that it's actually just an hour or so to replace the battery.

But these AirPods are so damn tiny it's hard to imagine them being constructed in any way that isn't filled with glue and making clean battery replacement straight up impossible.


My first instinct when I saw these was that if they'd been invented first, I'd have held out until they invented a wired version. Simpler, cheaper, harder to lose, more reliable.


Don't they just replace the whole bud as part of "battery service"? Basically $138 for the pair + 7 shipping. Or do they give you refurbs?

Shame Samsung Buds sound quality isn't high based on all the reviews... because it has easy to replace coin battery.


Apple says $69 to replace one. Article says $49 to replace batteries. You can buy new ones for $139.


Its 1 dollar cheaper to buy a new set than to replace them indivudually. Typical apple.


I’ve never had any earbud style headphones last more than a few years. Usually the very thin wire breaks partly or completely.

My AirPods have outlasted two sets of EarPods.


Oh the irony of reading this article on a four and a half year old iPhone 6 fully patched and running the lastest version of iOS...


My wife's iPhone 6 is on its 3rd touch-IC repair cycle. She keeps it in her back pocket and thus bends it slightly, and in 4 months it starts showing flexion damage.

The whole touch-IC debacle is crazy. The fact that they fix it by just replacing the board with another one that will be defective in X months instead of actually soldering it correctly is a disgrace.

And a failed drive in our iMac made the Apple store declare it broken beyond repair and offered us to replace most of the device which would be about as expensive as buying a new one.

I ended up doing it myself. I will never get another iDevice.


My boss recently have me six of her previous MacBooks that Apple deemed unrepairable, stating liquid damage on all of them. Upon further inspection only one had liquid damage, two had unresponsive touchpads, one non functioning keyboard, one a shattered screen, and a screen that was peeling excessively. I was astonished at the disrespect they have for their own customers.


Your boss bought 5 replacement MacBooks instead of just saying, "I never spilled liquid into any of these"?

TBH I'm astonished at what Apple customers accept.


What are they supposed to say? Apple computers have small moisture indicators in their computers and when those are tripped you won't get anything for free.


They are supposed to say, "I don't care what the indicator says, I never spilled anything on this laptop".

If the indicator doesn't do what it's supposed to then why would you accept it once? Why would someone accept it 5 times??

As a comment, if the other parts of the laptop can fail it's not unreasonable to think that the moisture indicator could also fail.




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