Apple introduced AirPods in 2016 alongside the iPhone 7 and 7 plus when they officially omitted the headphone jack from its products.
They claimed that they will provide a wireless future, free of tangled wires, and provide seamless connectivity among all Apple products which include iPhones, Apple watches, Macs and MacBook's.
Though the claim of seamless connectivity among apple products still stands, this mediocre product churned out by the world's first trillion-dollar corporation has an inferior sound quality for product of this price category, reports Vice.
At the same time, they are a non-disposable irreparable piece of tech that, according to user reviews, has only a product lifecycle of around 18 months since purchase.
The earbuds that cost about $160 has a lithium-ion battery that is tightly glued into its white chassis and is not user replaceable or reparable.
The way it is glued to the chassis makes repairing the battery risky because the average repairman may damage the battery while separating the glue from it. As a result the damaged battery might heat up and explode and become a hazard for the repairman and the people around him.
Thus, once its 18 months lifecycle ends, the AirPods will reside in someone's drawers as it is also not safe to throw out. Once thrown out, the battery inside might catch fire when it goes into an unprotected garbage compactor and the materials it is made up of will neither decay nor can be recycled, reports Vice.
The compact nature to the earbuds makes it easy to wear for a long time and use it. But it also makes them easy to lose if it falls out while a person's daily exercise or commute.
Despite all its lacking in the sound quality department, its short-lived product lifecycle and easy to lose form-factor, people all around the world are still buying it like hotcakes.
Every new iPhone purchased has a pair of newly purchased AirPods accompanying it inside the shopping bag carrying them.
This shows that like the iPhones that accompany it, the AirPods have also become a symbol of disposable wealth and a product a disposable labor, reports Vice.
Because people, despite all its flaws, want to but it as it is a status symbol and for its socially trendy stature.
Apple, which is now a luxury brand in its own right, uses slogans like "Wireless headphones. Finally untangled" and markets these products to the public to make them invest into their less user-friendly ecosystem, reports Vice.
But during all this, Apple never put the average 18-month battery longevity clause or the ratings that the independent testers gave to their sound quality on their plane white boxes.
Because they do not want us to know that they strategically engineered their product to fail and be not reparable in 18 months.
This is because this non-reparability and short product cycle is good for business. For its short product life-span, Apple can take people's money and shove new products at them every 18 months or so.
Long lasting and reparable products hurt the bottom line for these companies.
That is why Apple lobbied against right-to-repair efforts and collaborated with Amazon to boot iPhone and MacBook refurbishers off the Amazon marketplace, reports Vice.
Apple also does not want us to know the human cost behind every AirPod as well.
Every electronic product is the culmination of international labor from mines, refinery facilities, and assembly facilities, usually from underpaid workers.
Thousands and thousands of people work in dozens of countries around the world—including, but not limited to, Brazil, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Russia, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, Macedonia, Korea, Canada, and Netherlands—in order to extract and refine the materials used to make modern electronics.
Consider Foxconn—the Chinese company that assembles an estimated half of all iPhones, according to Business Insider, as well as other Apple products. (Luxshare and Investec assemble AirPods.)
Foxconn has a factory in Zhengzhou that's sometimes referred to as "iPhone City." According to reporting by Business Insider from May 2018, about 350,000 people work in these facilities. Salaries start at $300 per month, reports Vice.
And for years, Apple sourced cobalt and tantalum—which are used to power lithium-ion batteries and protect conductors on logic boards, respectively—from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Only after extensive reports of child labor, worker injuries, and worker deaths did Apple stop sourcing these materials from small mines in the DRC specifically.
Consumers aren't supposed to know or think about these stories. Apple doesn't want us to know the details of the supply chain.
So, in short if we look at AirPods as a product it is not a bang for the buck performer and rather performs inferior than its price to performance competitors in the one thing it is supposed to do, i.e sound good.
But if we look into the AirPods as a whole, it is a spitting image of an economic system predicated on a disregard for longevity, because it's more profitable for companies to make products that die than it is to make products that last.
They're physical manifestations of a global economic system that allows some people to buy and easily lose $160 headphones, and leaves other people at risk of death to produce those products. If AirPods are anything, they're future fossils of capitalism.