One of the things that I absolutely despise is the habit people have for consumer entitlement. People are assholes - just ask anyone who has worked in a call center or H&M cash register. General public is thankless and constantly complain about how much everything just sucks. It's almost like a passtime.
Unrelated thankless jobs: Imagine you’re an engineer working on Siri and the entire world makes fun of your work constantly. And it’s not your fault that Apple doesn’t collect insane amounts of data like Google does to make AI work. This is debatable.
Edit: let’s not talk about Siri. I’m sorry to bring it up, just had the thought come to my mind about it today when I watched Linus Tech Tips’s video about Siri. I was like damn, it must suck to be in that team. They’re just people like you and me.
It is an expectation for a can opener to less than $7. With this kind of consumerism, you're barking at the wrong tree with the Airpods.
Apple gets the dirty end of the stick - It is pretty juicy to hate Apple and people love it in some kind of a deep contemptful vengence.
To be fair, Lego don't stop working. Lego made decades ago work just fine today and will continue to work a century later. It's not that making things out of plastic is a sin, it's building planned obsolescence into our plastic products which is wrong.
No, kids just grow out of it, and parents throw it away...
In many respects, it is the antithesis of what we are talking about since it is not designed to be disposable. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if many people simply toss Lego. Such is our culture ...
Price in the consequences, and consumers will notice. See how much even the tiny 5¢ price of the disposable supermarket bag change consumers' behavior.
Where is Samsung's or Google's? Or Microsoft, GE, Lenovo, Amazon, HP, Huawei, Xiaomi?
Perhaps a single-minded focus on thinness and smooth industrial design is the real root of the problem here. Plenty of phones have decent repair scores, amidst many that have very poor ones: https://www.ifixit.com/smartphone-repairability
Plus these scores need to price in scale of manufacturing. Fairphone total sales is less than iPhones per day.
Reality for smartphone fixes is 90% of cases they gonna replace screen, remaining - battery. Both jobs take something like 10 minutes.
I have a problem with people complaining without first ever think about the why, understanding the problem, the trade off etc. So in these cases they are not Assholes, they are idiot. And when you explain to them they still complain? Yes they are assholes.
Not only do they think they are entitle to so many things, those complaining also tends to be the group of people unwilling to pay anything for it. You want super fast charge and thousands cycle Carbon Nanotube Solid State Battery so they last 5 - 6 years without battery replacement included with AirPod Pro? How about $399? Nope. Crazy! You are now accused of trying rip people off..... You just cant win.
They want best 4G/5G Modem and Network Technology? How about paying a slight premium for Qualcomm Modem? Nope. Qualcomm are Patent Troll.
5G is useless, stupid, patent grabbing pile of mess. I guess no one look at 3GPP Profile and view the amazing engineering achievement we went from literally little Data usage from 2009 to 4.5B people on Earth with 3G+ ( And Soon 4G ) Mobile Data connection.
And you know what make it hundred times worst?
Some of these people complaining also happen to have engineers in their title.
I generally agree with you - I personally wish people weren't so afraid of screws and other cosmetic artifacts that allow things to be repairable. There is a general distaste from the public to make things sexy, clean and minimal. So manufacturers comply. Just look up a 1950's electric coffee grinder  - it will have visible screws without an apology. Or a Collins instrument in a airplane cockpit even today . I blame the public, designers and the bean counters. Generally, engineers' job would be easy if things were repairable because assembly/disassembly is part of the requirements from the get go and there is no Jony Ive breathing down their necks to hide screw holes. There is a whole area of study of snap-fit components to reduce BOM cost and this is where the bean counters come in.
opening compartments require more space. Any place that has a compartment needs to have that area waterproofed off of the rest of the device. When it's a thing that can be removed, it may not provide as much structural rigidity, so it can't be trusted in as part of the foundation of the device.
If the same form factor was to be maintained, then, since you need a compartment to store the battery, that takes up extra space that can't be used for more battery, so battery life would suffer, too.
because of consumers
and it makes them last longer
> I think it's just planned obsolescence.
you're blaming them for planned obsolescence (which is a wildly overplayed card on HN), while being willing to discard water resistance, which has ended god only knows how many consumer electronic devices.
please consider the possibility that you lack the information to understand the trade offs being made.
I think if anything else, we shouldn't be attacking Airpods for their construction. There is bigger fish to fry like Macbooks, and often quoted along with Apple - John Deere and their tractors.
Which is why I think everyone would have been a lot happier with everyone else if we'd just drop the damn marketing wank, and just admit we all made a thing, here's the price if you like it, and moved on.
lol, touche. Apple's marketing dept needs to tone things down.
And it's not like interactive language based interfaces can't be built, that's what the shell is!
Of all the places to point fingers at waste problems, this is a strange one.
Google's refusal to provide Android updates past a meager few years certainly results in a much larger volume of electronic waste in the landfills every year.
Granted Google could probably lean on them a little harder to stop doing that.
Moreover, Apple does the same thing. They might give you longer than HTC, but they still stop issuing updates to perfectly operational devices, and don't publish the documentation necessary for anybody else to make an OS for them.
Compare this to PCs where you can still install the latest Windows or Linux on some piece of hardware that originally shipped with a CRT monitor and whose manufacturer went out of business a decade ago.
The problem does indeed come down to Google and their choice to prioritize rapid market share growth and what the device makers and carriers wanted over what would provide a good end user experience.
The original $399 iPhone SE just started its sixth year of OS and security updates. Android devices get half that support period if you are lucky.
That is part of the kernel. You might as well blame Linus Torvalds.
> The problem does indeed come down to Google and their choice to prioritize rapid market share growth and what the device makers and carriers wanted over what would provide a good end user experience.
Google didn't have market power in phone operating systems when Android was just getting started. They had no power to dictate terms at the time because the device makers would have just used something else.
> The original $399 iPhone SE just started its sixth year of OS and security updates. Android devices get half that support period if you are lucky.
This is whataboutism. They're both doing it wrong, so your defense is that HTC is doing it wronger. But they're both still doing it wrong.
And what are you going to say if Google does get a hardware abstraction layer, so that Android devices are supported indefinitely?
This is a very poor job of excuse making.
The point stands. Google's poor decision making led to a much higher volume of electronic waste on a yearly basis than any imaginable level Airpods sales ever could.
You can't convince them to do that in order to use a new operating system with no market share.
> Google's poor decision making led to a much higher volume of electronic waste than any imaginable level of Airpods sales ever could.
You can't blame others for the mountain of electronic waste Google's poor decision making has caused.
Which one causes less electronic waste?
In all your comments on this page you have contorted every negative for Google into a positive but every positive for Apple into a negative.
Nope. Windows 10 and iOS both require two Gigs of RAM at a minimum, although Microsoft's minimum OS requirements have always been regarded as something of a joke in the industry.
Linux does. For that matter Android does.
Also, machines from 2003 support 16GB of RAM:
Whose fault is it that you can't upgrade the memory on the iPhone 4?
Apple supports iPhones for as long as they have enough resources for the new version of the OS to continue running on them.
Google does not. The fact that they only provide half as many years of support at best proves the point.
Meanwhile Apple, like most Android phone makers, don't publish the information needed for third parties to make drivers for their hardware. Which is why you can't install the latest Android on an iPhone 4. And what is Google supposed to do about that? But Apple could do something about it.
I can easily see how having a removable battery might increase failure rate in a product like this
Maybe these unintended side effect are worth considering more than we think.
I’m very sensitive to environmental issues and keep my devices for a really long time, but being battery replaceable is not the panacea it appears to be.
The physics aspect is that the most straightforward way of assembling such tiny and lightweight devices and have them be at least somewhat waterproof is to glue them together.
The economics aspect is more important.
I just had my AirPods break last week. I took them to an Apple store and they were replaced under warranty for $0. This still felt expensive, because it took half of my Saturday to drive to an Apple store, sit around while they tested the device, and then drive home. Simply having my free time wasted is -- to me -- a comparable opportunity cost to simply paying for a pair of replacement AirPods.
In general, everything breaks, and eventually is simply not worthwhile repairing because replacement with a newer model with more features is a more attractive proposition. Making things repairable is more expensive, so there's a tipping point where it is counterproductive for manufacturers to design their products for longevity.
This tipping point changes with the wealth of nations over time. As people's time becomes more and more expensive, bothering to repair cheap gadgets becomes less worthwhile. Paying for someone to repair them becomes increasingly expensive.
Repair is a service, electronic gadgets are products.
As the cost of services increases relative to manufacturing, the tipping point moves.
Of course, there's always going to be the complainers bemoaning the changing times.
These complaints are literally stating: "I don't like manufactured products getting so cheap that they can be simply thrown away! I prefer the good old days of relative poverty where people had to resort to expensive services to repair even more expensive products! I miss those times!"
Don't listen to the Luddites, embrace the increased wealth of nations made possible through manufacturing automation.
Your other points are valid and it's certainly clear why manufactured electronics are the way they are, but it's unclear how the goalposts could be shifted to encourage environmental responsibility.
They have a net zero carbon footprint, they recycle as much material as it is feasible to do so, and they've even worked hard to source rare earth metals responsibly.
Meanwhile people are frothing at the mouth because the tiniest, most compact device they make isn't modular.
That's just asinine.
Laptops with batteries, for instance, aren't "luddite" technology. Plenty of companies still make them. There's other ways of connecting a battery to chassis even in a small form factor like AirPods. For instance, a threaded base that screws in. It's not rocket science.
What you're saying is that Apple, the great innovator, can't find a way to make replaceable battery in a clean and elegant form factor for a small device, and that's the reason that nations are wealthier now than they used to be?
C'mon now, that's hard to make with a straight face isn't it? Failure is now success. Private profiteering at the expense of the environment is technophilia. Feels a lot like Owellian doublespeak to me.
tl;dr: Apple spends $16B per year on R&D. They can figure out how to screw a battery into an AirPod, and no, that's not why we're all wealthy now. It's why Apple is wealthier now.
I guess my question is, why are you championing e-waste? What benefit do you get from losing the ability to replace a battery?
A laptop is a physically large device, typically in the $1000 range, and the "overhead" of a screw is negligible.
Did you watch the video? AirPods are a marvel of modern engineering! They're incredibly, astonishingly packed full of fantastically miniaturised parts. This is absolute bleeding edge stuff.
A screw, no matter how tiny, would absolutely be a problem. You'd also have to make the battery "loose" and not glued in, add a connector for it -- but not one that could work loose from normal shaking.
This is a borderline physically impossible problem that's just not worth it to solve.
What volume do you think all the AirPods in the world take up in rubbish tips?
No, seriously. Let us sit down and compute this:
At least one site is claiming that Apple sold 60 million AirPods in one year.
The charging case is 44.3 x 21.3 x 53.5 mm and together with the two AirPods weighs 44 grams.
That's 2,640 tons annually: https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=44+grams+*+60+million
... or about 20% of the trash produced by New York daily,
And in terms of volume, it is a little more than the volume of an Olympic swimming pool: https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=44.3+mm+*+21.3+mm+*+53...
You'd also have to factor in that adding a screw doesn't mean that 100% of all AirPods are recycled in perpetuity, but that more like 20% might have their lifespan extended one or two years at most before the owners lost or broke them.
Now keep in mind that Apple sells over half of all wireless headsets globally, so the sum total annual e-waste is double those numbers above, roughly speaking. Not exactly the end of the world.
Or to put it another way, I own a set of AirPod+case that weigh 44 grams. I bought them a year ago. The 4g airpods got replaced after 1 years, generating 4g of e-waste in the first year of ownership. I intend to keep these for at least one more year, generating twenty-something grams of waste in annualised terms.
I just took out the family garbage today, it was several kilograms. I have a small family.
I suggest once again that defeatism and apoligism has led you to believe that Apple could build an "engineering marvel" in AirPods, but couldn't figure out a non-permanent attachment mechanism for a battery that doesn't otherwise compromise the product and the experience. Remember, we're not even talking about user-serviceable. Just, you know, serviceable.
> This is a borderline physically impossible problem that's just not worth it to solve.
Wouldn't you not have said the same about any aspect of AirPods before? No wire between them? Smooth hand-off?
I mean, think about it, they were able to miniaturize all those parts, solve all the difficult electrical engineering and software challenges, but somehow they're just physically incapable of finding a non-permanent battery attachment mechanism? Do they not have access to all the world's best mechanical engineers?
> No, seriously. Let us sit down and compute this:
We agree creating tons and tons of waste, well that's bad. Where we apparently disagree is that because this is a "small" amount of waste it doesn't matter. As though a lot of small amounts of waste together do not form big waste? If we let Apple get away with building thoroughly unrepairable devices, why would we stop anyone? And suddenly we're right back where we started.
Everyone needs to engineer with reparability in mind, and yes, the biggest tech company in the world is a great place to start. Especially one with 50%+ margins, as thus, could very easily afford to try.
As a final note, to be clear, I didn't suggest adding a screw. I suggested threading the base. However, I am not a mechanical engineer, those are the folks who I would trust to come up with a solution to this problem.
I'm not even arguing about this per se, I reject the theory that anyone who believes in reparability is a luddite and that there's no way to increase the wealth of nations without being as aggressively wasteful as possible.
But I also don't think I'm a luddite re: disposable electronics. I think I'm the opposite. I agree that as integration and product complexity increase, it makes more sense to make a new thing from feedstock than repair an old thing.
But what we can do is recover the resources used in manufacture. Critically, the product needs to be made in a way that supports this.
I want manufacturing to be so advanced that "full circle" resource recovery is incorporated into the design. The glues have corresponding (low toxicity) solvents for disassembly, the plastic can be cheaply digested back to clean monomers, the metals easily separable. No "retrofit" processes with show pony robots, but full "reverse manufacturing" facilities built with the same care and attention as the ones that make the product.
The thing I want is more automation, and more advanced design.
If you can reverse the glue, then it means there's going to be some guy who gets really good at this and sets up a mall shop where he does it for you for like 10% the price of replacement and throws in a warranty because he can.
Boom goes your profit margin.
If Samsung can make pods with replaceable batteries, then power to them.
The economic logic of non-circular economy is sound only for the parties with a direct, short-term economic stake in it (you, Apple, and its suppliers). The system compensates you for your time wasted driving to the Apple store, but does it sufficiently compensate people whose children grow up in the midst of pollution from mining or landfills?
There’s a name for this effect—Baumol’s cost disease.
But that's exactly why you want repairable products. It takes less time to fix something yourself with a standard screw driver and inexpensive commodity parts than to travel to the manufacturer's facility and prove to their satisfaction that it's broken so they'll replace the entire product.
What you really want is products that work like legos, so that no individual piece costs more than $25 and anybody can replace what's broken in five seconds without expert knowledge or specialized tools. To minimize labor costs.
This is not arcana.
I think it is arcana, because there's no real competition to the AirPods, all other similar products are huge and ugly, or have terrible battery life, or terrible bluetooth, or some combination.
But Apple makes the individual parts themselves and won't sell them to anybody else.
The economics are that you want products that you sell to be rendered useless as soon as possible, barring the possibility that the customer becomes so resentful that they switch products. So you claim that features that will eventually destroy a product are necessary to make it appealing, you hide the costs of replacing the product through purchase schemes and equivocations about the environmental impact, and you denigrate older models as horrifically, irresponsibly dangerous.
> Of course, there's always going to be the complainers bemoaning the changing times.
This is a vapid argument that can be used to defend anything from New Coke to the Holocaust.
Most of the ones I've had have that have failed did so at the cable connection. Without the cable I'd imagine these will last longer than your average pair of earphones, and I don't see them creating much more waste; less if anything.
Worrying about the environmental impact of AirPods is like legislating shower flow while turning a blind eye to the useless millions of acres of lawns and the water they suck up (1.7 trillion gallons vs 234 trillion gallons). Dumb, a bit insulting.
You don't need a specialized shop staffed with electrical engineers to replace the batteries in your TV remote.
If Apples products are designed that way, there is no reason why it could not be the same (at least for batteries). Watches have usually the same constraints: Water tight, less/no screws, small, intricate.
Of course, lithium batteries are more expensive, but that's it.
A tiny balance jewel might be 0.6mm in diameter. The smallest surface mount components are now (I think?) 0201 metric - i.e. 0.2mm x 0.1mm. Plus a balance jewel is not a two-terminal component that needs to be soldered in place.
So you decide to trust someone else, you've likely done your due diligence, and ended up with a professional that claims to do it for half the price.
I had to replace my Mum's Macbook Pro's track pad, and while I have the general knowhow (as in, replace laptop parts), I wasn't willing to do it myself because I'd never done it before, and looking at the steps required I probably wouldn't have had the patience to do it due to the billions of things they'd done to prevent me from doing it. So I went to Apple, who quoted me £350+. Not willing to shell out that much considering it was a 2012 model, I went to my local computer shop, who quoted me ~£90, told me about all the issues that might arise, but he'd happily do it otherwise.
By comparison, I had to replace my Dell XPS's track pad less than a month ago. It was extremely easy. A bunch of screws, and remove random parts. Then pop out the trackpad, replace it with the working one, and lastly replace all the parts I'd taken out and screw them back in. It took all of 30 minutes.
For sure there will always be bad technicians, but the majority know what they're doing and maybe they break the first one or two, but after that they'll be fine. Providing the technician isn't purposefully malicious, the likelihood of someone going wrong (or your trust being broken) is relatively low.
So sure it's small, but given the right setup, most technicians who repair for a living will learn to repair it safely and accurately for a fraction of the price.