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Introduction

Welcome, Fairphone, to the world of wireless earbuds. We’re about to tear down the company’s first offering in this expanding category to see if it bears any familial resemblance to their line of smartphones—which consistently rank at the tippy-top of our repairability scale. (No pressure or anything.)

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This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Fairphone True Wireless Earbuds, use our service manual.

  1. We only just tore down the stellar Fairphone 4, but we're not through yet. Let’s hear what the Fairpods ahem, True Wireless Earbuds have to offer: In-ear detection and touch control Active noise cancellation with transparency mode
    • We only just tore down the stellar Fairphone 4, but we're not through yet. Let’s hear what the Fairpods ahem, True Wireless Earbuds have to offer:

    • In-ear detection and touch control

    • Active noise cancellation with transparency mode

    • Bluetooth 5.3, A2DP, HFP, AVRCP

    • 10 mm / 32 Ohm drivers

    • IPX4 splash resistance

    • These earbuds are not tied to an app—you can use them with any Bluetooth connection.

    • For comparison (left to right): one each of the Fairphone Earbuds, AirPods Pro, Nothing ear(1), Samsung Galaxy Beans Buds Live, and Galaxy Buds+.

    In the datasheet of the chip, they said: "Bluetooth 5.2 Qualified"!

    Arman Taherian - Reply

  2. We kick off disassembly with the most removable, and cleanable, bit: the flexible tips—much like you find on competing models, including AirPods Pro. With three different size options, you've got a good chance of finding a set that fits. Next: hoping to keep it nondestructive, we aim for a likely seam and get slicing with an opening wheel—luckily no heat required! The plate we peel up has the touch controls mounted to it, but your taps are communicated via spring contacts, so no booby trap cables in sight!
    • We kick off disassembly with the most removable, and cleanable, bit: the flexible tips—much like you find on competing models, including AirPods Pro. With three different size options, you've got a good chance of finding a set that fits.

    • Next: hoping to keep it nondestructive, we aim for a likely seam and get slicing with an opening wheel—luckily no heat required!

    • The plate we peel up has the touch controls mounted to it, but your taps are communicated via spring contacts, so no booby trap cables in sight!

    • Inside, we can already spot the glued-in motherboard. Forcing it out seems unwise, so we'll backtrack a bit—and try what has become our standard opening procedure for the generally not-so-repairable earbud category.

  3. Here we are putting the squeeze on the speaker portion of these buds, with help from our trusty bench vise. It deforms the buds' outer shell just enough to open up a seam—a chink in the armor, if you will. Pressure and heat makes diamonds, and also progress on our teardown. After some picking and prying,  we peep a tiny battery pouch deep inside—but it's mostly tiny cables and solder in there.
    • Here we are putting the squeeze on the speaker portion of these buds, with help from our trusty bench vise. It deforms the buds' outer shell just enough to open up a seam—a chink in the armor, if you will.

    • Pressure and heat makes diamonds, and also progress on our teardown.

    • After some picking and prying, we peep a tiny battery pouch deep inside—but it's mostly tiny cables and solder in there.

    • Now what?

    • Is it too early to say we already miss Fairphone's visual aids and standard screws?

    • We opt for battery removal—both because it gives more room to maneuver, and because this cell will someday need replacing anyway. (Fairphone says they're engineered to last "twice as long" as the competition, but that's not really saying much.)

    • The teeny tiny battery pouch measures only 10×9.8×5.6 mm, and delivers 0.1 Wh (50 mAh @ 3.7 V).

    • That's on par with the battery cells in the AirPods Pro. The new AirPods 3 bring 0.133 Wh to the table, while the Nothing ear(1) carry a 0.11 Wh battery.

    • On our way to the driver (which is glued down in a super tight recess), we see the ribbon cable held captive by brackets—which in turn are secured by plastic rivets. With heavy hearts, we break out the flush cutter—it's about to get destructive in here.

    • While we’re no fans of glue, we're even less fond of destructive fasteners. At least glue can be reapplied!

  4. Since at first we're not succeeding, we pry, pry again with some heat and a deft spudger. The buds finally give up their (decidedly non-modular) internals: motherboard, driver, and battery. On this side of the motherboard we find: Indicator LED
    • Since at first we're not succeeding, we pry, pry again with some heat and a deft spudger. The buds finally give up their (decidedly non-modular) internals: motherboard, driver, and battery.

    • On this side of the motherboard we find:

    • Indicator LED

    • Spring contacts for touch controls

    • Spring contacts for charging the buds in their case

  5. The silicon is a little more fun on the reverse side: Airoha AB 1562 Bluetooth audio SoC (single chip solution)
    • The silicon is a little more fun on the reverse side:

    • Airoha AB 1562 Bluetooth audio SoC (single chip solution)

    • Main microphone

    • Active noise cancellation microphones

    • Proximity sensor for in-ear detection

    • The earbuds were a bit of a disappointment, we'll admit. Hopefully at least the charging case will prove more cooperative than some of those other offerings.

    • A spudger is all we need to move the insides outside—no glue, and no screws! We feel the optimism building.

    • Our compact Minnow driver kit is perfect for the Phillips screws in this compact case—the first screws we've seen so far.

    • Alas, separating the bits reveals a whole bunch of soldered cables. This case seems to be allergic to connectors—unless that battery pack is hiding some surprise?

  6. No adhesive for its protective sleeve, but this battery is certainly securely soldered. It provides 1.85 Wh (500 mAh @ 3.7 V) which ought to re-juice those twin 0.1 Wh earbud batteries a handful of times.
    • No adhesive for its protective sleeve, but this battery is certainly securely soldered.

    • It provides 1.85 Wh (500 mAh @ 3.7 V) which ought to re-juice those twin 0.1 Wh earbud batteries a handful of times.

    • The rest of the cables are similarly soldered, we also spot a simple hall effect sensor up top to track the lid state (open/closed).

    • This charging case seems to have enough room for no-fuss ribbon cables and power connectors, without much risk of disconnection. Fairphone may have fair reasons, but repairs—and device life—will certainly suffer without these aids.

  7. Before we go, let's snack on some charging case chips: ETA Solutions ETA9697 linear charger BJL2025
    • Before we go, let's snack on some charging case chips:

    • ETA Solutions ETA9697 linear charger

    • BJL2025

    • USB Type-C charging connector

    • Pairing button

    • Pogo pins for charging earbuds

    • Prisemi P14C1N OVP Load Switch

    • Charge indicator LEDs

  8. Admittedly, we may have had inflated hopes for Fairphone's first earbud offerings—earbuds are tough! But we're still a little bummed these aren't easier-than-average to service.
    • Admittedly, we may have had inflated hopes for Fairphone's first earbud offerings—earbuds are tough! But we're still a little bummed these aren't easier-than-average to service.

    • That said, even the Fairphone 1 had a lot to improve upon! Let's hope for a similar evolution.

    • Fairphone is doing some things right with their earbuds' materials (Fairtrade Gold, and some recycled plastics)—and we're all for it! It just won't lengthen device life like repair does.

    • But don't despair, their phones are still topping our wishlists—check out their latest Fairphone 4.

    • Read on to check out the repairability score, but we'll say right now, it's gonna be tough to beat Galaxy Buds.

  9. Final Thoughts
    • The charging case is held together only by clips and standard Phillips screws.
    • While the earbuds can be opened with gentle prying, nothing inside is easily repairable.
    • The critical charging case and earbud components—including batteries and port—are soldered together.
    • Reliance on solder, plastic rivets, and clips make repair harder than the use of screws and connectors.
    Repairability Score
    1
    Repairability 1 out of 10
    (10 is easiest to repair)

3 Comments

Fairphone making a hard-to-repair device…this is strange. While I understand that these are tiny wireless earbuds, even the Samsung Beans did better than this.

Ethan Zuo - Reply

Quel dommage pour Fairphone d’avoir vendu un produit non réparable qui de plus est vendu sans pièce détachée… il fait tache une série d’appareils à la réparabilité quasi parfaite.

C’est d’autant plus dommage que les possibilités de rendre mieux réparables les écouteurs sans fils sont nombreuses, voici quelques propositions :

- La batterie des écouteurs peut être rendue réparable, Sony l’a démontré avec certains de ses écouteurs sans fils (voir les WF-1000XM3) depuis 2 séries maintenant (mais Sony ne vend pas de pièces détachées, c’est dommage…).

- Les écouteurs pourraient être achetés individuellement avec la possibilité de les appairer entre eux à nouveau afin de conserver le boitier d’origine.

- La batterie du boitier peut être rendue réparable très facilement par l’utilisation de pile bouton rechargeable au lithium de 500mAh qui pourrait être facilement remplaçable en ouvrant une sorte de tiroir sur le boitier.

- Le boitier peut être rendu facilement démontable en utilisant des vis à la place des clips.

Brendan - Reply

No headphone jack on the FP4, forcing you to grab wireless headphones, which even FairPhone can’t make repairable….

Please, just pretty please, put a headphone jack in the phone, and I can keep using my headphones that don’t have a battery in them, and sound better, and cost less.

I’m genuinelly unsure as to what the reason is for removing the headphone jack from FP4. Either, they needed a more profitable avenue to make some money somewhere, or no OEM who would partner with them still had a headphone jack ? Both options scare me. Maybe it’s something else though..

Pierre de Brosses - Reply

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