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Video Overview

Introduction

It’s been two years since the first AirPods teardown, and in those two years AirPods have become both surprisingly popular and infamous for their short lifespan. These second-generation ‘pods look the same on the outside, but have a couple notable internal upgrades. The real upgrade we’ve got our hopes up for is repairability—it would be great if these didn’t end up in the landfill after a couple years of use.

Is this upgrade worth the price increase? What does the H in H1 stand for? Will these AirPods be the RepairPods evolution we are hoping for? There’s only one way to find out: with a teardown!

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This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your AirPods 2019, use our service manual.

  1. This fancy dental floss looks very familiar, but according to Apple it's worth $40 more than its predecessor.  Here's the story the spec sheet tells: Two AirPods weighing in at 0.14 oz (4 g) each, with a 1.41 oz (40 g) charging case Each AirPod measures 0.65" × 0.71" × 1.59" (16.5 mm × 18.0 mm × 40.5 mm) while the charging case measures 1.74" × 0.84" × 2.11" (44.3 mm × 21.3 mm × 53.5 mm)
    • This fancy dental floss looks very familiar, but according to Apple it's worth $40 more than its predecessor. Here's the story the spec sheet tells:

    • Two AirPods weighing in at 0.14 oz (4 g) each, with a 1.41 oz (40 g) charging case

    • Each AirPod measures 0.65" × 0.71" × 1.59" (16.5 mm × 18.0 mm × 40.5 mm) while the charging case measures 1.74" × 0.84" × 2.11" (44.3 mm × 21.3 mm × 53.5 mm)

    • TL;DR: exactly the same size as the first-gen AirPods, but the charging case gained an additional 2.3 g—about the weight of a US penny.

    • New H1 chip featuring Bluetooth 5

    • Wireless charging case

    • "Hey Siri" support

    • Our last AirPods teardown got pretty messy, so we've partnered with Creative Electron for some X-treme X-ray guidance. Check out the arrangement of magnets for the case's Zippo-like flip top action, which looks like dark rectangles embedded in the plastic shell.

  2. We start our examination with these curious markings on the boxes. We're seeing multiple references to something called "AirPower" ... ? Wonder what that is, @apple? Next we X-ray the box to confirm if it's safe to open. Oh, who are we kidding—we're opening it regardless. Safety third, we always say.
    • We start our examination with these curious markings on the boxes. We're seeing multiple references to something called "AirPower" ... ?

    • Wonder what that is, @apple?

    • Next we X-ray the box to confirm if it's safe to open. Oh, who are we kidding—we're opening it regardless. Safety third, we always say.

    • Meanwhile, we rummage through our ancient tech drawer and pull out a set of first-gen AirPods for a quick comparison.

    • While you may not think of two-year-old products as ancient, reports say these first-gen AirPods (left) are aging fast.

    • The new case (right) looks shinier, but that might just be due to wear on the Gen 1.

    • We also note a relocated pairing button, and a newly placed external LED charging indicator.

    AirPower as many of your readers know is the wireless charging mat that Apple was supposed to have released by now.

    What nobody talks about and what I noticed immediately is this: Why does Apple have this on the outside of the AirPods 2 box as a sticker??!! What’s underneath the sticker?

    We start our examination with these curious markings on the boxes. We're seeing multiple references to something called "AirPower" ... ?

    firefish45 - Reply

  3. On the other end of the wireless earbud arena, we have the new Samsung Galaxy Buds—which we recently tore down and found to be surprisingly  repairable! The ball is in your court, AirPods. Time to get up close and personal: the AirPods have model numbers A2031 (left ear) and A2032 (right ear). We have some real gripes with the AirPods' design priorities, but there's no denying the engineering talent that goes into them. Peer into this X-ray and you can pick out batteries, microphones, antennas, speaker drivers, circuit boards—all in something that fits in your ear.
    • On the other end of the wireless earbud arena, we have the new Samsung Galaxy Buds—which we recently tore down and found to be surprisingly repairable! The ball is in your court, AirPods.

    • Time to get up close and personal: the AirPods have model numbers A2031 (left ear) and A2032 (right ear).

    • We have some real gripes with the AirPods' design priorities, but there's no denying the engineering talent that goes into them. Peer into this X-ray and you can pick out batteries, microphones, antennas, speaker drivers, circuit boards—all in something that fits in your ear.

  4. Inside the flip top, we find a new model number, A1938—with the same indicated 398 mAh battery capacity for the case. And next to that, we find the no wheelie bin icon, indicating that these are not to be thrown away in two years when the batteries start to fail. What should you do with them, then? Good question.
    • Inside the flip top, we find a new model number, A1938—with the same indicated 398 mAh battery capacity for the case.

    • And next to that, we find the no wheelie bin icon, indicating that these are not to be thrown away in two years when the batteries start to fail.

    • What should you do with them, then? Good question.

  5. Okay, enough talk! On to the good stuff. Having been down this road before, we start with some heat to soften the adhesive. Does it help? Honestly ... maybe. Next, some careful blade work. Don't try this at home, kids.
    • Okay, enough talk! On to the good stuff. Having been down this road before, we start with some heat to soften the adhesive. Does it help? Honestly ... maybe.

    • Next, some careful blade work.

    • Don't try this at home, kids.

    • After slicing open the buds, we give them a nice relaxing isopropyl alcohol bath in hopes that they will let their (adhesive) guards down a bit.

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  7. While the alcohol helped us get one foot in the door, we caught our tweezers in the jamb. A good firm pry opens up the driver for inspection. Sweat beads as we make an incision down this AirPod's belly using an ultrasonic scalpel knife, slicing the shell without damaging the battery underneath ... mostly. Flex cables, antennas, and microphones are all carefully folded together like origami and cemented in place with glue. We cut away as much of the outer casing as we dare, and painstakingly scoop out the rest with a fine dental pick.
    • While the alcohol helped us get one foot in the door, we caught our tweezers in the jamb. A good firm pry opens up the driver for inspection.

    • Sweat beads as we make an incision down this AirPod's belly using an ultrasonic scalpel knife, slicing the shell without damaging the battery underneath ... mostly.

    • Flex cables, antennas, and microphones are all carefully folded together like origami and cemented in place with glue. We cut away as much of the outer casing as we dare, and painstakingly scoop out the rest with a fine dental pick.

    • Our badges say Teardown Engineer, but today we feel more like surgeons, or paleontologists. Paleosurgeons?

    Paleosurgeons”

    I believe the correct term for this sort of job is Rocket Surgeon…

    name99 - Reply

  8. With these delicate fossils extracted, it's time to examine the brains: Apple 343S00289 (likely Apple's new H1 chip) 25SL 128A 1820
    • With these delicate fossils extracted, it's time to examine the brains:

    • Apple 343S00289 (likely Apple's new H1 chip)

    • 25SL 128A 1820

    • Apple 338S00420 (likely a low-power stereo audio codec)

    • T 8 36

    • Turning our attention to the brawn, we find the familiar 93 milliwatt hour battery in each bud.

    • That's less than half the capacity of the coin-cell batteries in the Samsung Galaxy buds. We're curious to see what will be powering the rumored Powerbeats Pro, but we'll have to wait for that comparison.

    25SL128: 16MiB serial data flash ?

    ebcom - Reply

  9. We learned last time around that the AirPods case is a tough nut to crack, so this time (with some guidance from a community member) we turn to something with a bit more clamping force. The vise deforms the outer shell just enough for us to wedge a blade into the seam, slicing through the adhesive underneath and freeing up the AirPod docking tubes. It'll never look quite the same, but the case suffered a lot less damage with this technique.
    • We learned last time around that the AirPods case is a tough nut to crack, so this time (with some guidance from a community member) we turn to something with a bit more clamping force.

    • The vise deforms the outer shell just enough for us to wedge a blade into the seam, slicing through the adhesive underneath and freeing up the AirPod docking tubes.

    • It'll never look quite the same, but the case suffered a lot less damage with this technique.

    • Next, we spudger away the status LED, which is nestled between the AirPod tubes at the front of the case.

  10. This machined metal hinge looks sturdier compared to the last generation's, and it definitely has the adhesive to match. After giving the case almost more heat than it can handle, we still need vise grips to pull this thing out. We go for the battery next, but the battery's adhesive has other ideas. Against our better judgement, we crank the heat to eleven, watch for swelling, and cross our fingers that the battery doesn't go Galaxy Note 7 on us.
    • This machined metal hinge looks sturdier compared to the last generation's, and it definitely has the adhesive to match.

    • After giving the case almost more heat than it can handle, we still need vise grips to pull this thing out.

    • We go for the battery next, but the battery's adhesive has other ideas. Against our better judgement, we crank the heat to eleven, watch for swelling, and cross our fingers that the battery doesn't go Galaxy Note 7 on us.

    • Despite the effort, one spudger still can't lever this battery out. Fortunately, we found some more.

  11. As the battery comes free, it's clear there is simply no comparison between this battery and its predecessor ... because they are exactly the same. Model A1596—running at 3.81 V and 398 mAh, for 1.52 Wh. That's a fair bit more than the Galaxy Buds case, which houses a 1.03 Wh battery ...
    • As the battery comes free, it's clear there is simply no comparison between this battery and its predecessor ... because they are exactly the same.

    • Model A1596—running at 3.81 V and 398 mAh, for 1.52 Wh.

    • That's a fair bit more than the Galaxy Buds case, which houses a 1.03 Wh battery ...

    • ... and also more than the 1.113 Wh li-po we found in the Series 4 Apple Watch (42 mm).

  12. We're starting to see a trend here. Getting the next layer out of this case requires—you guessed it—heaps of heat, a plethora of prying, and a pair of pliers. We immediately notice that this generation's logic board is more ... goopier ... than the board that emerged from the wreckage of the first AirPod fiasco—probably to help with water resistance. Finally, a beacon in the darkness—there's still a modular charging port!
    • We're starting to see a trend here. Getting the next layer out of this case requires—you guessed it—heaps of heat, a plethora of prying, and a pair of pliers.

    • We immediately notice that this generation's logic board is more ... goopier ... than the board that emerged from the wreckage of the first AirPod fiasco—probably to help with water resistance.

    • Finally, a beacon in the darkness—there's still a modular charging port!

    • ... although if you tunnel this far into the case, there's a good chance you now have more broken parts than just the charging port.

    • Beneath that shiny liquid-resistant coating, we make out some chips:

    • Broadcom 59356A2KUBG wireless charging module

    • L476MGY6 A5

    • TI 87A6FP

  13. Reaching into the almost-empty case, we fish out the slightly modified (compared to last time) sync button—now with two additional solder points for the ends of the wireless charging coil. Finally, the thing we came all this way for: the new wireless charging coil, and a thermal pad to keep it cool under pressure. ... which, despite our best efforts, refuses to come out intact.
    • Reaching into the almost-empty case, we fish out the slightly modified (compared to last time) sync button—now with two additional solder points for the ends of the wireless charging coil.

    • Finally, the thing we came all this way for: the new wireless charging coil, and a thermal pad to keep it cool under pressure.

    • ... which, despite our best efforts, refuses to come out intact.

    • This updated case seems designed for increased durability, but not repairability. That beefier hinge and water-repellent coating on the board probably makes for fewer failures—hopefully way fewer, because the rest of this thing is still a hot mess to service.

  14. Teardown complete! Let's put these back together and sync them up for some tunes. Just kidding! These are toast. What did we learn? After two years, AirPods are still disappointingly disposable. Those tiny batteries will fail before long, and good luck replacing them (or even recycling them).
    • Teardown complete! Let's put these back together and sync them up for some tunes.

    • Just kidding! These are toast.

    • What did we learn? After two years, AirPods are still disappointingly disposable. Those tiny batteries will fail before long, and good luck replacing them (or even recycling them).

    • That said, the construction isn't entirely unimproved—this set might survive an extra trip through the washing machine. It's just, we know Apple can do better.

    • If you like wallpapers, here are some bonus X-rays you can print out and skin your AirPods case with!

  15. Final Thoughts
    • AirPods are not designed to be serviced. No hardware components can be accessed without damage to the device.
    • Sealed-in batteries limit the AirPods' lifespan, making them a consumable/disposable item.
    Repairability Score
    0
    Repairability 0 out of 10
    (10 is easiest to repair)

11 Comments

That shiny water repellent coating looks like conformal coating. Does helps but only to a certain degree.

Kong Wee Loh - Reply

Love the tear-down but could you also delve into the top magnets that pull/hold the airpods in their charging tube and also how they are magnetically aligned in the lid? My thoughts are that the rear lid magnets oppose each other so has to help hold the lid open but their opposing force is overcome when the front magnets are attracted and obviously have more leverage being further from the hinge to snap shut and hold the lid closed. To me, this is an ingeniously overlooked design aspect of the case using magnets rather than springs to create a spring-like effect.

johnpolston - Reply

You guessed correctly :) That’s exactly what’s happening.

Jeff Suovanen -

How about a picture comparing the the driver to the original one?

evlfred - Reply

Yeah, this is important. You can sort of see it here, but it’s covered up by some type of grill.

Suchir Kavi -

That is one expensive coil of wire.

bergamot - Reply

If you check the dates on the serial numbers of the “New AirPods” you will find that they were going to be released with the iPhone Xs. Really Apple?

Ryan Scott - Reply

The hinge is on the same side as the charging coil… Anyone with a wireless charger should know metallic objects in proximity of the coil is a big no no… Change in hinge material/size mamy be also to prevent the hinge from heating while the case is charging

Rafał Ostrowski - Reply

Vielen Dank an Annika und Sandra für ihre Übersetzung

Detlef Schneegaß - Reply

If one is trying to replace the battery rather than do a full dissection, might that be possible by making two cuts all the way through the tubes— one just above the battery and one just below, severing only the connections to the battery, antennas, and whatever is below it (a mic?).

The x-ray, were it less oblique, might show how many conductors are involved, but maybe it’d be possible to cleanly chop those tubes such that the battery is removed, then replace it with a new battery, reconnect the antennas and mic, and continue to use the AirPods for a couple more years with a new battery?

Or maybe there’s a bigger bundle of wires running through there or there’s too much glop and I’m just dreaming.

Zach Fine - Reply

Hi, very userfull review, thanks a lot!

Guys, who know, what is the metall ring around the USB, which makes apperance so nice?

Can find totally nothing. :)

ismishin - Reply

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