With just 100 million points of hands-on ability, your AirPods can use the USB-C interface

The advent of the iPod transformed Apple and upended the traditional recording industry.

Apple also quickly grew into a technology company, and the traditional recording industry was eventually replaced by digital music.

In 2004, Apple produced a series of "Silhouette" ads for the burgeoning iPod.

Whether it's a dynamic TV commercial or a traditional outdoor commercial, the format is similar, with silhouetted figures dancing against a colorful background, with only two subjects highlighted.

White iPod and white headphones.

In Jony Ive's recollection , most of the consumer electronics products at that time were very casual in terms of materials and design. When the iPod was conceived, the headphones and the body were considered as a whole, and the same design language was adopted.

This unique design allowed the iPod to quickly become an "icon" to be remembered without the need for a huge logo and company name on the product. From a distance, the white earphones and white body are the iPod.

Times have changed. In May of this year, Apple announced that it would officially stop the iPod product line, and an era came to an end.

However, the way of listening to music by iPod + iTunes has been replaced by iPhone + Apple Music. To a certain extent, the road of "subverting" the traditional way of listening with iPod as the starting point has not stopped.

In the past, the white wired headphones as an icon were also replaced by the AirPods launched in 2016, becoming Apple's new street icon.

Similar to most of Apple's products with the "subversive" label, AirPods have also suffered a lot of criticism after their launch.

▲ The meme image of the imitation silhouette (Silhouette) advertisement comes from: tbs

Most of them revolve around the "weird" shape, high price, loud sound quality and weak battery life.

The final market feedback was similar to the original iPhone , which completely set off a wave of true wireless earphones and revitalized the true wireless earphone market by itself.

Today, AirPods have almost become synonymous with TWS and have a considerable amount of ownership.

Unlike smartphones, AirPods have a one-piece, closed design with low serviceability. With frequent use and charging and discharging, the batteries of the earphones and the box are very easy to age, resulting in the inability to use them normally.

Apple does not provide repairs for AirPods, but replaces them. Even in some private repair facilities, the AirPods headphone body can be extended by replacing the battery, but for the charging case that fits tightly, it can only be replaced as a whole.

It has been six years since the first generation of AirPods was released, and the number of them is very considerable. There will also be a considerable number of AirPods that need to be repaired. Even if they are upgraded or replaced, a considerable amount of electronic waste will be produced.

Ken Pillonel, who once replaced the Lightning interface of an iPhone X with a USB-C interface , when transforming AirPods (or the interface), explored a solution for the non-repairability of AirPods.

After transforming the iPhone, Ken Pillonel announced on his blog that the next target for the transformation is AirPods.

However, this time span is a bit long.

It took eight months for Ken to announce the progress and results of the project. Interestingly, he gave the project the somewhat ironic name "AirPods Dirty Secret".

Such a name is actually a metaphor for Apple's incompetence in environmental protection. In the face of interests, environmental protection must also make concessions.

▲ Rarely see destructive dismantling pictures in iFixit from: iFixit

If you want to replace the USB-C interface for the AirPods, you must first disassemble the charging box perfectly, but for the sake of "integrity", Apple did not make a redundant design for the AirPods. If you want to disassemble it, you must disassemble it destructively.

Not only Ken, but iFixit, a well-known disassembly and repair organization, also failed to find a way to disassemble the AirPods charging box perfectly, and gave 0 points for the repairability of AirPods.

The iPhone is almost always around 6 points, relatively speaking, its score is not low in the iFixit product library.

As mentioned above, the almost irreparable AirPods charging box will be abandoned after two years, becoming a high-risk electronic waste with its own lithium battery.

To this end, while replacing the USB-C interface, Ken is also considering how to make the AirPods more maintainable.

He first used a 3D printer to make a rough case to collect data on the corresponding case to get as close as possible to Apple's design and material.

In the end, Ken designed a custom flexible PCB and also used 3D printing to complete the reconstruction of the outer shell of the AirPods charging case.

Unlike the original one-off design, Ken made a snap on the outer shell to facilitate subsequent replacement of the internal components.

In the interface part, since it does not involve exchanging data, the PCB charging module of the USB-C interface can also be similar in size to Lightning.

After mapping the pins of the AirPods motherboard to USB-C one by one, Ken is almost done changing the interface.

In the video he released, the replacement of the USB-C interface only occupies a small part, and more is actually around how to reconstruct the AirPods' charging box.

In addition to the motherboard and lithium battery, Ken's project almost redesigned the AirPods charging box. The motherboard's fixation and the USB-C PCB circuit board are all detachable designs.

In order to make AirPods easy to repair, not replace the whole machine.

Likewise, similar to his iPhone X project, he has open-sourced the PCB schematic and the CAD files of the enclosure on GitHub.

And in the video, everyone can use this data to complete the reconstruction of AirPods.

Of course, what he didn't mention is that even with raw data, we still need 100 million points of hands-on ability.

Ken also put forward his own thinking in the video. He is just a student majoring in engineering and robotics. With a simple idea, he made AirPods maintainable.

This move may help many AirPods users simply replace components, reduce discards, reduce electronic waste, and ultimately achieve the goal of environmental protection.

The project of replacing the interface of AirPods is no longer just that USB-C has better versatility, but has risen to the design of sustainable maintenance.

Apple, which has always been committed to promoting its efforts in environmental protection, has become increasingly integrated and irreparable in the design of many products. Ken believes that these "one-off" product concepts run counter to Apple's original intention of environmental protection.

Just like the AirPods case, Apple does not have a corresponding repair program and recycling program.

In addition, the EU IMCO agency has introduced laws and regulations requiring Apple to switch to USB-C in AirPods and iPhones by the end of 2024.

This also means that if Apple wants to continue shipping in the EU, it must replace the iPhone's Lightning with a USB-C interface by the fall of 2024.

▲ Ken Pillonel Image from: YouTube

In this way, older devices based on the Lightning interface may become obsolete without subsequent upgrades, resulting in abandonment of older devices and environmental problems.

It is true that many consumer electronic products have introduced integrated design for the sake of design, but they are increasingly ignoring the maintainability. Compared with the publicity of the progress in environmental protection, it is better to turn to the sustainability and design of the product.

Let electronic products have a longer life cycle and a certain recycling plan, perhaps this is the most "environmental protection" that cannot be ignored.

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