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Apple AirPods: Friends or Foes?

todayOctober 9, 2022 24

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By Sofia Psolka
Web Content Contributor

When Apple released their first wire-free headset, everyone went crazy—AirPods became the new best friend. If you ever wanted to tune out a particularly boring conversation, you could simply pop in the pods; discrete and effective! It was a source of comfort and protection from dreaded social interaction. No one cared about the subpar sound quality, compared to competitors like Beats by Dre or Samsung. It was all about the image: social ranks sky-rocketed if you got your hands on a pair.

However, users found that after two years the battery life of the pods depleted. Not only that, but AirPods are notoriously easy to lose. Many times, riding the shuttle to and from campus, I’ve been bumped by students, disgruntled from the day—in no mood for courtesy after employing it all day—mid-installation of an AirPod. The force, just enough to loosen my grip as I re-stabilized, sent the pod flying down the aisle. I did recover it, but it was in a sorry state with black smudges from dirty shoes and grooves from where the ground bore into it. To my dismay, the pod no longer functioned. I began to withdrawal— I had become dependent on my musical companion. How could I possibly navigate the world now if I couldn’t block it out!?

Once this episode passed, my heart skipped at the realization that I would need to dump nearly $200 for a new pair– an expense I could not afford as a student.

Eventually, after a lot of saving, I upgraded to the AirPod Pros only to find out that you can replace each individual pod through Apple’s store! But that still costs about $49 per AirPod. And that’s for a replacement– not a repair. In fact, Apple doesn’t offer repairs for the device because the batteries are too small to extract without destroying its structure. This results in the product being cast to the streets, or the nether regions of our miscellaneous kitchen drawer.

Since 2020, Apple has boasted of its accomplishment in becoming a carbon-neutral manufacturer. Today, the company is aiming for its products to be made with a net zero carbon impact by 2030. Claims of “low-carbon design”, renewable energy operating systems and a decrease—if not removal—in greenhouse emissions are listed on Apple’s Environment web page. So, what does Apple do with irreparable headphones? Simple: recycle.

 A father worm (left) looks down at his son (right) that has gotten stuck in an AirPod’s shell. The AirPod was inherited from the father worm’s own father, during his time in a fictitious war. (The joke refers to the slow decomposition rate of AirPods and the difficulty of removing its batteries.)
The post-war worm’s world: AirPod Armor.

Throwing AirPods away adds to the environmental crisis; their breakdown rate isn’t exactly quick. Caroline Haskins writes in an article for Vice that the “plastic shell of AirPods” would take “at least a millennium” to decompose. We certainly don’t want a future where AirPod bones pave our paths. We should all do our part, when upgrading our products.

A Wirecutter article mentions a small start-up company, advertising AirPod battery services at cheaper prices than Apple’s. Since the company’s launch in 2021, The Swap Club has offered repair and recycling services for AirPods. Due to its success, the company expanded to include iPhones earlier this year.

The “Recyle My Device” page is opened on a MacBook Pro(left), as I (right) stare at the sreen. Image icons for AirPods and iPhones are on the left hand side of the screen.
Search the web for tech recycling companies!

For those of you looking to get rid of an Apple device, check out The Swap Club’s website for eligibility requirements and mailing instructions. If you want to support a local service, Green Guy Recycling accepts select electronic devices. Be sure to ask about your specific device before presenting your product—you may be able to make some money. (Of course, if nothing else, Apple will accept your device.)

Written by: Hannah Walls

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