Why Fairbuds Got the First 10/10 Repairability Score for Wireless Earbuds
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Why Fairbuds Got the First 10/10 Repairability Score for Wireless Earbuds

We’ve been saying it for years: Earbuds don’t have to be disposable. They can—and should—have replaceable batteries. And finally, one manufacturer has taken us up on the challenge.

Enter the Fairbuds from Fairphone, the first-ever wireless earbuds to get a 10/10 repairability score. Notably, they are also Fairphone’s second crack at wireless earbuds. The first attempt, called Fairphone True Wireless Earbuds, scored just 1/10, thanks to the soldered-in batteries and charging port, and plastic rivets and clips holding things together. To say things have improved would be an understatement.

Ever wish you could replace the batteries in your perfectly functional $249 AirPods Pro? Of course you do. AirPods sound great and integrate perfectly with your Apple devices, but once that battery wears down, as all batteries do, it becomes a disposable gadget. You can’t even recycle them—because the batteries are so hard to remove, wireless earbuds are not welcome in recycling facilities. If one single earbud with a sealed-in battery ends up in a shredder, the battery could ignite and end up burning the whole place down. 


The Fairbuds are exactly what you’d expect from a pair of true-wireless earbuds. They live in a pocketable charging case, and they connect to your devices via Bluetooth. The Fairbuds also have multi-point connectivity, i.e., they can connect to more than one device at a time, and you can switch easily between them. They also have a six-mic array for active noise canceling and for phone calls.

But Fairphone really upped their repairability game since their first attempt at earbuds. First up, as you can see in our teardown video, the batteries can be swapped as easily as those in a hearing aid. In fact, the mechanism for swapping batteries is quite similar. Once you’ve removed the silicone gasket that surrounds the body of the bud, you unclip a little battery-carrying door, which then rotates out of the side. Those are standard batteries too: LIR1054 li-ion coin cells, which you will be able to buy in a two-pack from Fairphone (including two replacement silicone gaskets), or you can order some from your usual source. I found some for under €4 per piece, for instance. 

The rest of the Fairbuds are fairly straightforward to get into. Both ends are lightly adhered, but we think that the adhesive is mostly there to provide water and dust resistance (IP54), rather than being a barrier to repair. Both sides are removable with a pick, and the speaker unit needs a little heat first, to soften the adhesive. However, while the glued-in cover is easy to detach with a pick, it is tethered with a delicate flex cable that is easy to damage if you’re not experienced at this kind of repair. Not that you will be going in there anyway, as Fairphone doesn’t sell any parts that you could replace after prying your way in.

Remove the silicone tips, and the silicone bands, and you’re almost in.

In summary, then, glue=bad, and not something we like to see, but a little bit of glue is a little bit less bad than lots.

Fairphone will sell you some spares though: You can buy individual earbuds, and also the inner case assembly and the outer shell of the charging case. But they do not sell spare speaker drivers or PCBs. However, thanks to the very modular design, with detachable ribbon cables connecting most parts, it’s easy to swap in cannibalized spare parts—like the modular USB-C port—from other units. 

Case Closed

Speaking of the charging case, it’s just as easy to replace its battery as those in the buds themselves. One Philips-head screw gets you inside, and then it’s just like swapping batteries in a smoke alarm. The case uses a 1.85Wh lithium polymer battery.

Five more Philips screws get you inside the main, inner unit, which is replaceable as a whole, but like the buds, individual parts are not available.

So how did we get to a 10/10 repairability score? First, this score is provisional until we can verify the promised repair manuals, as well as the availability and pricing of replacement parts. Given its history, and the fact that Fairphone exists to make repairable devices, we fully expect this to be the case. Next, let’s compare them to the next-best wireless earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Live, which we scored at 8/10.

Like the Fairbuds, Samsung’s buds also have replaceable batteries, but the disassembly is trickier thanks to the extra care needed not to damage components when prizing the case open. 

Plus, the Fairbuds’ score gets a big boost from the fact that you can replace the batteries in the earbuds with minor disassembly,  no special tools—you could even manage it with a fingernail in a pinch—and by undoing a single screw for the case.

“The important components when scoring repairability are earbud batteries, case battery, and case charging port,” says our repairability engineer Carsten Frauenheim. “The TLDR is that the Fairbuds do all of the above right. Some companies have quickly replaceable earbud batteries, but then their charging case isn’t repairable, for example.”

This 10/10 score clearly demonstrates also that Apple (and the many, many other manufacturers of wireless earbuds with sealed-in batteries) could totally make the AirPod batteries replaceable. In fact, when you saw open an AirPod, you’ll see that they use very similar coin cells to the Fairbuds—so there’s not even the excuse that they provide structural support, or that they are custom-shaped to fit. It would certainly be a great way for Apple to improve the 0/10 score that we awarded the AirPods Pro when they launched.

In short: More like this, please.