- Owners have noticed that Apple AirPods eventually will last only an hour or so before needing to be recharged, compared to their four-to-five-hour battery life out of the box.
- But it’s almost impossible to replace the battery at home because AirPods are tiny, packed with components, and hard to take apart.
- A new startup called PodSwap is aiming to make it easier to repair AirPods and keep them out of landfills or recycling plants, but its challenges show the need for right-to-repair laws.
When AirPods were first released in 2016, they were a marvel of miniaturization.
To ditch cords and go wireless, Apple packed several chips, microphones and speakers into each headphone, which weigh about 4 grams. Without a cord, the earbud gets its power from a tiny cylindrical battery that has about 1% of the capacity of an iPhone’s battery.
But lithium-ion batteries, like those used by the AirPods, wear out the more they are used.
Some owners have noticed that, after a few years, used AirPods eventually will last only an hour or so before needing to be recharged — a big decay from the four-to-five-hour battery life they have when new. Because each AirPod is so small and so tightly packed into its housing, it’s almost impossible to swap out the old battery for a new one. Most people give up and just buy a new pair.
The limited lifespan of AirPods is exactly the kind of problem that the “right-to-repair” movement wants to fix. Repair shops and lobbyists that support repair reform want lawmakers to implement a variety of rules, including increased access to manuals and official parts and consumer protections around warranties.
But one of their most important requests is for companies to design products with repair in mind, instead of packing gadgets with unlabeled parts and sticking them together with glue, forcing users to use a knife to take them apart.
This desire puts repair advocates at odds with hardware companies like Apple, whose business models depend on customers upgrading to the latest model every few years. When Apple offered cheap iPhone battery repairs a few years ago, it