AirPods teardown hints at reason for delay

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AirPods-teardown
AirPods get pulled apart!
Photo: iFixit

Apple’s swanky new AirPods are finally shipping, which means the teardown experts at iFixit have pulled them apart to give us a glimpse at their internals.

The AirPods themselves are filled with tiny components and copious amounts of glue, while an X-ray scan of their charging case could reveal the reason behind the lengthy shipping delay.

AirPods are some of the first headphones to contain Apple’s new W1 wireless chip, which means they’re the perfect companion for iPhone 7. They also offer incredibly simple one-tap setup, Siri controls, and decent battery life, with up to 5 hours of use in between charges.

That battery life is even more impressive when you consider that iFixit discovered each AirPod is powered by a tiny 93 milliwatt-hour battery. That’s the equivalent to a little over 1 percent of the charge capacity of an iPhone 7, and it should provide enough juice to last most of us a full day.

Also inside the AirPods is “the world’s cutest coaxial connector,” iFixit reports, plus proximity sensors that detect when each earphone is in your ear, and system and audio chips from Cypress and Maxim. There’s also an antenna cable that spans the length of the AirPods’ stem.

AirPods-internals
The tiny components inside your AirPods.
Photo: iFixit

Holding all of this in place is a copious amount of glue. “If jamming complex components into a small form factor and sealing it with a copious amount of glue were a game, Apple would be winning,” iFixit says. You’ll be surprised by just how much has been squeezed in there.

Even more interesting than the AirPods themselves is their case. There is no point of entry on this, so the iFixit experts had to force their way in using a knife and a small rotary saw. But it was worth the effort.

Inside the case there’s a 3.81 V, 1.52 Wh battery that has roughly 16 times the power capacity of the batteries inside each AirPod. That means you should get around 8 complete charges from the case before it needs topping up again.

The case also has its own chips from STMicroelectronics, NXP, and Texas Instruments. An X-ray image of these could provide us with the reason behind the AirPods shipping delay.

AirPods case chip voiding
“Voiding” found in the chip’s contact points.
Photo: iFixit

“Our X-ray imagery shows some quality issues in this chip’s solder joints,” iFixit explains. “Empty spaces, known as voiding, could be evidence of low quality standards, or a rushed product release. Could issues with the AirPod case be what delayed release?”

If this is the case, it could mean users will run into issues with their AirPods charging case later on down the line. Perhaps Apple is hoping that most adopters will have lost theirs by the time any problems arise.

If they do, Apple certainly won’t be repairing them. It’s near impossible to get into either the AirPods or the charging case without completely destroying them, so any defective units will need to be replaced rather than repaired.