The employee said there were lots of people like me, with $159 AirPods purchased in 2016 and 2017 that now can’t hold a charge. But even though Apple promises “battery service,” the store had no way to fix my AirPods. It didn’t even have a way to test them.
Cupertino, we have a problem: AirPods are comfortable and convenient headphones that have attracted tens of millions of customers. But each one of those white sticks contains a rechargeable battery marching toward an untimely death in as little as two years. Apple’s plan to deal with that reality is just to sell us new ear buds. When your AirPods’ day comes, the only option is to ask Apple for discounted replacements — but you’ll need to know its code word to even get that.In case you are looking for AirPods Pro battery replacement, you can use this website.
Not long ago, headphones were among the most universal, long-lasting electronics. We shouldn’t let Apple turn them into expensive, disposable electronics. It’s hurting our wallets — and the environment.
Apple doesn’t dispute that the lithium-ion batteries inside AirPods wear out. “All rechargeable batteries have a limited life span and may eventually need to be serviced or recycled,” Apple says on its website. Replacing batteries is very common on phones and laptops. In 2018, Apple stores got deluged when the company offered to replace the batteries in older iPhones for $29.
But with AirPods, Apple offers far less help. First, there’s no way to determine the health of the batteries in the ear buds or their charging case. Apple won’t even share guidelines on their life expectancy. “AirPods are built to be long-lasting,” said Apple spokeswoman Lori Lodes, without specifics. Mine went for 34 months; others have reported they die in as little as 18 months.
When your AirPod batteries finally go, even Apple’s employees are confused about your options. Across three separate support encounters in the store and online, they told me I had to buy a replacement pair for $138, nearly the price of a whole new set. But I remembered Apple had once told me it would service depleted batteries for $49. I reported that in The Post, along with my recommendation to buy AirPods. So what gives?
After weeks of back-and-forth with Apple — and refusing to take no for an answer at the store — I finally got answers:
- If your AirPods are less than a year old and the battery is not performing up to the promised five hours of listening time, an Apple store will replace them at no cost.
- Apple recently began selling its AppleCare+ warranty for $29, which covers the battery, too. But this extended warranty lasts only two years — which wouldn’t have been long enough to save my AirPods.
- If your AirPods are out of warranty, Apple will replace them for $49 per stick — so in reality, $98 total. A replacement for the charging case, which doesn’t wear out as quickly, is also $49. The key phrase to say is “battery service.” (Apple is providing additional training to customer service representatives on that point, but if you still have trouble, show them this link — or this column.)
A $98 battery fix is still mighty expensive. Apple will replace the battery on an iPhone for as little as $49. An Apple Watch battery costs just $79. What makes AirPods so different? Because Apple’s “battery service” for AirPods is code for “throwing it away.” Apple isn’t repairing AirPods — it’s just replacing the ear buds and recycling your old ones.
To understand why, I performed an autopsy on a dearly departed pair. Inside, I found the design of AirPods makes them inevitably obsolete.