Two Faculty Roommates and Some Robots: How Podswap Replaces AirPod Batteries

Two Faculty Roommates and Some Robots: How Podswap Replaces AirPod Batteries 16

Like most AirPod house owners, Emily Alpert discovered that, after 18 months, her wi-fi buds didn’t final, not even for one full run. Not like most AirPod house owners, Alpert, alongside along with her greatest buddy, obtained a robotic to repair her downside.

That’s what began Podswap, a startup that replaces your AirPods, first or second-generation, for $60. First you get a completely cleaned and refurbished pair despatched to you, then you definately mail Podswap your lifeless pods. It’s like a SodaStream canister change, however for headphones that may in any other case be headed to a landfill.

Again in early 2020, when Alpert and buddy Emma Stritzinger had been sharing their low-battery ache and researching options, the accepted reply was that AirPods had been disposable. We tore down the first-generation, second-generation, and Professional pods, and said they weren’t designed to be mounted by any human. However the pair wouldn’t quit. “We knew this was a widespread subject and had been persistent to find the answer,” Strizinger stated.

Alpert was working as an occasion planner on the time, Stritzinger a CPA at a significant agency. They each knew, again after they had been UCLA roommates, that they’d begin a enterprise collectively, simply not which sort. Introduced with this problem, they labored their networks, discovered individuals who knew folks in the precise trades and provide chains, and ended up founding Podswap.

AirPods standing in a rack of tubes
Refurbished AirPods through the cleansing course of. Supply: Podswap.

How do they commerce out batteries, at decrease costs than Apple’s personal “battery service” (learn: whole alternative)? Alpert and Stritzinger solely let on a lot in an interview. Alpert stated their battery swapping entails “specialised gear and precision robotics,” in a “considerably automated course of.” Each a part of the AirPod, besides the battery, is re-used, after being completely brushed and disinfected with UVC mild. And the alternative AirPods clients obtain look equivalent to straightforward AirPods, minus “positive scratches and different minor imperfections,” as detailed on the product web page.

Scalpel prying up the bottom end of an AirPod
Two Faculty Roommates and Some Robots: How Podswap Replaces AirPod Batteries 17

There are some human-powered methods to interchange AirPod batteries, however they’re not essentially sensible. An iFixit member posted an AirPod battery alternative information in late 2019, involving 24 steps, lots of work in tight areas, and a ranking of Very Troublesome. A Baidu put up exhibits a lower-tech hair dryer technique. Restore enterprise supplier REWA demonstrates their urged technique on YouTube.

In response to REWA, you want a rework gun to blast an AirPods’ steel backside cap with 100 Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) air, whereas repeatedly prying adhesive and dodging a tiny flex cable. Then, utilizing a well-cushioned clamp or a specialty jig, you employ a micro-tip soldering iron to free the battery anode plate, after which pry the battery unfastened with tiny hooked tweezers. Not not possible, however not the sort of delicate experiment you’d need to strive in your $160 headphones, twice. If Podswap’s machines can pull this off with worthwhile predictability, it’s spectacular.

AirPods in their case, next to iPhone showing their paired status
Our Podswap-ed AirPods, paired with an iPhone.

To confirm they had been really repairing the items, we requested Podswap if we might ship some first-generation Airpods and get the identical pods again. Podswap agreed, so we despatched them one in all our member of the family’s dying AirPods. 12 days later, PodSwap shipped them from Miami. Podswap’s founders informed us their turn-around varies, which is why they ship refurbished pods first. For a product that doesn’t retailer knowledge, this strategy makes good sense. It wouldn’t work as properly with an iPad.

Prying the last bits of adhesive out of an AirPod
Getting the final little bit of adhesive out.

The returned pods (verified by serial quantity) seemed, felt, and operated like new AirPods. They offered greater than 4 hours of music whereas paired, much like what Apple claims for a brand-new pair.

Pulling the battery out of a clamped AirPod
Ta-da! (We’re glad we don’t should seamlessly reassemble this).

However you understand us—we don’t cease at “they work.” Eradicating the battery, we managed to keep away from destroying them. However the mixture of 100-Celsius warmth and clamping left seen harm on the plastic housing. The battery we pulled was an Aucopo model, with the identical half quantity as the unique (although we will’t say if it’s the identical producer). Our second-chance AirPods got here again with a 95 milliWatt hour battery, which is a tiny bit higher than the 93 mWh battery we present in each the unique and second-generation AirPods. 

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Evaluating the battery faraway from a Podswap pod (prime) with an authentic AirPod battery.

This can be a fairly candy service, combining swift alternative, a good low cost, and the great feeling that you just gave a busted pair of AirPods a second life. Only a few restore retailers are more likely to supply AirPod battery replacements, because it’s a labor-intensive course of involving very tiny, easy-to-snap elements. Podswap, which prominently shows its assist for the Proper to Restore, has inserted itself right into a useful cycle. The founders say they’re trying to develop to different international locations, in addition to ultimately tackle Professional pods.

Not that this lets Apple off the hook. Even when a intelligent, singularly targeted firm has discovered a means, with the assistance of tooling and robotics, to increase their lifespans, AirPods’ design wants main enhancements. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds have simply swappable batteries, proving {that a} long-lasting design is appropriate with a glossy type issue. We, as people, ought to construct merchandise that fellow people can repair.

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