Fixing Some More Of Apple’s Design Mistakes

An exploded view of an AirPods Pro case. The outer case consists of two long, capsule-shaped sections that enclose several smaller parts including the wireless charging cable, contacts for charging the AirPods themselves, and the top rounded protective piece for the buds that nestles into the top capsule. This version includes screws to fasten everything together instead of adhesives.

Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Apple has strayed from the Woz’s original open platform ideal for the Apple II. [Ken Pillonel] is back for another round of fixing Apple’s repairability mistakes with a full complement of 3D printable replacement parts for the AirPods Pro case.

While modeling all of the parts would be handy enough for repairing a device with a 0/10 iFixit score, [Pillonel] modified the parts to go together with screws instead of adhesive so any future repairs don’t require cracking the plastic egg. He says, “By showcasing the potential for repairability, I hope to inspire both consumers and multi-billion dollar companies, like Apple, to embrace sustainable practices in their products.”

[Pillonel]’s repairability exploits may seem familiar to readers from his previous work on adding USB-C to the iPhone and the AirPods Pro case. If you just need to retrieve a lost AirPod, you might try an electromagnet, or you can make a Bluetooth receiver from a pair of knock-off buds.

26 thoughts on “Fixing Some More Of Apple’s Design Mistakes

  1. Every time one of Ken’s videos is posted here, there are three types of comments:
    1. Apple is so dumb for the poor repairability of [really any of their products, but especially Airpods].
    2. Apple users are dumb for buying these.
    3. Why don’t you just buy a different product?

    Point 1 is valid, and Ken here is taking the phrase “the best way to complain is to make things” to a whole new level. Great job Ken.

    But it’s hard to give an honest answer to 2 and 3 if you aren’t in the Apple ecosystem and haven’t used Airpods. It’s like explaining to someone who doesn’t have kids why you enjoy being a parent. It’s something about the combination of seamless pairing between devices, great active noise cancellation, great audio pass-through, and ergonomic design. Again, hard to communicate without experiencing it.

    With that said, can someone please share an accessory that is extremely great, but only if you’re using it in the [DSLR camera body/tool brand/car manufacturer/etc] ecosystem already?

    1. > 1. Apple is so dumb for the poor repairability of [really any of their products, but especially Airpods].

      Actually, from a business point of view, Apple is genius, not dumb; their goal is to make profits, not their customers happy.
      As most businesses out there, they want users to buy stuff multiple times, and non repairability is how they achieve earlier planned obsolescence. They would rent the AirPods just like they were a service if they could, but that isn’t quite possible with devices that people stick into their ears, so they make them fail sooner through non replaceable batteries and non repairability to force users to buy them again.

    2. You are absolutely correct.

      To add more: Apple seem to be under magnifying glass what comes to repairability or security.

      Nobody speaks about repairability of Samsung or security of Android. I just wonder why?

      When Apple released their self-repair kit, everyone (Android user) laughed. I was wondering where are similar effort being made for repair for Samsung, Huawei or other Android-device prducers? At least Apple is trying when others aren’t doing that much.

      And as Apple ecosystem user – I couldn’t care less if my Airpods case isn’t easy to repair. The thing is that it lasts so long that usually I’m more than happy to buy new one. Nothing lasts forever and repairing few hundred bucks product is probably much more expensive than just recycling and buying new one.

    3. Almost everybody can see the perks that Apple products offer over the competition. They’re beautiful, with well thought out UI, offering convenience and ease of use. At the same time though, you have to put up with some harsh limitations and restrictions and some less-than-ideal compromises in favor of spectacular design. If the latter don’t happen to bother you, you’re probably going to be very happy in Apple’s walled garden. If you are bothered by them, you’re likely to hate Apple. Not just because of how evil Apple is, but because it’s frustrating to witness how all the competition is often *technically* at the same level or even superior, but they never manage to make it *feel* that way. This borderline esoteric quality of Apples’ perceived superiority can get to even a rational person :-D

    4. Comparing DSLR/car brand/tool brand ecosystems to the Apple ecosystem is almost a nonstarter – DSLRs only have non-interoperable lenses, but they make adapters to switch between camera brand bodies. The closest you’d have to this is an Apple Monitor that only connects via lightning adapter being plugged into a PC via adapter. Otherwise, all the other ports in DSLRs (and cars and tools for that matter) are standard to the technology they employ (USB, SD cards, even batteries have open source/reverse engineered replacements). You might take issue with proprietary battery packs, but at least you can replace those. Apple is completely in-house and behind closed doors, suing to keep its technology complacent and on a definitive lifetime. Yes, it’s foolish for anyone to buy a Chromebook since they software-lock after 2 years, but do people still do it? Sure. There’s just no army of brand agents and marketing to shame you for NOT buying…

      1. I’m gonna have to ask you to a) explain, and b) prove/document that. I don’t know what you’re on about but nothing that fits the term “software-lock” has been my experience.

    5. Apple is a business, they don’t care that people can repair their goods. Apple will sacrifice repairability for profit margin any day of the week. The first mistake people make when analyzing these things is that they assume that Apple is trying to make a perfect product when they have done a lot of homework into maximizing profit and marketability.

    6. Yeah I agree. The actual functionality of the airpods is really good. Also, there are always going to be tradeoffs vs repairability when you start getting super small or have tight design parameters. Also, Apple hardware like the laptops tends to actually be pretty damn reliable, like the not-bad-keyboard macbook air, etc.

      I’d rather spend more time using my tools than repairing them, which is definitely more than I can say for something like my last ASUS laptop. Not looking for a heritage laptop I can pass down to my kids exactly….

  2. “Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Apple has strayed from the Woz’s original open platform ideal for the Apple II. ”

    I think we’re several decades late on that complaint. e.g. Lisa for starters.

  3. Apple doesn’t make “mistakes.” Every aspect of the product is intentional and profit-focused.
    They’re well aware they will loose a few customers due to lack of repairability, but they’ll gain others because it’s “sleek and smooth”. They’ll piss off a few people because of the disposable nature of it, but they’ll make some additional sales for replacements.
    They have polished this equation to the nth degree and they know exactly what they’re doing.

    1. You can actually replace “Apple” to any other modern electronic manufacturer. And Apple isn’t the worst one of all.

      Name even one electronics company that aren’t like you described.

      Apple is a company. Their target is to make profit. This might come as surprise. I see Apple as the less evil company of all – but it is still a company and business.

  4. Fact of the matter is, automated screwdriving is a difficult (read: expensive) process, especially so when you get down to eensy weensy little guys.

    Now, this isn’t to say that I think any electronics should be slapped together with glue just because it’s cheaper, easier to implement, easier on the supply chain, and takes up less space on the manufacturing floor. I bring it up because, given a choice, electronics manufacturers will favor this solution, especially for small, tightly packaged products, because profit margins will push them towards it. Adhesives are the solution chose for the case on the $15 BT earbuds in my pocket and the airpods case for a reason. Cost is externalized in the form of lack of repariability.

    If we want this incentive structure to change, regulation is the only real choice. We see time and time again that products that focus on repairability only ever garner, at best, small niches of markets in the current environment.

    1. “If we want this incentive structure to change, regulation is the only real choice. We see time and time again that products that focus on repairability only ever garner, at best, small niches of markets in the current environment.”

      Farm equipment. Niche, but when one doesn’t have it, the rest of the chain will know about it.

  5. Apple claims to be a “green” company but glues most of their products together with non-replaceable batteries, and solders in the RAM, CPU, and storage.

    You get a “black box” brick that you can’t do anything with to upgrade or repair the hardware without sending it to someone who has invested a lot of time and money into figuring out how to carefully pry the things open so they can use an expensive hot air rework station to replace components.

    So to thwart that, Apple locks more and more components together with embedded serial numbers or keys, and holds close the technology to “marry” replacement parts. When someone does legally obtain parts from one of Apple’s suppliers, Apple makes false claims to US Customs that the parts were “stolen” or are “counterfeit”.

    If Apple was truly a “green” company everything they make would be held together with screws and have TPU gaskets bonded to the housings so they will be watertight. They wouldn’t be soldering RAM and storage to the boards, nor would they do things like serialize and lock removable storage to the computer.

    They’d also quit their decades long obstinance in making Macintosh difficult to integrate into networks with other platforms.

  6. Whew for a minute I thought the entire thread would be hijacked by an Apple fanboi lol
    Ken is doing the Lord’s work here, people. Thank you! I am sitting here epoxying a laptop hinge to my MILs keyboard because screws don’t exist anymore lol. It used to be a smoke and a screwdriver for me but now it is more of a youtube to find magic tabs and hidden ribbon cables and what kind of glue kinda thing. I miss the old days… I hope the companies listen to Ken and am thankful for the printable alternatives with screws.

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