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Dude who made a USB-C iPhone is back with an AirPods case that has a replaceable battery

Published Jul 27th, 2023 1:19PM EDT
Apple AirPods Pro 2 In Case
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

When Apple unveils the iPhone 15 series in September, it’ll be the second entity in the known universe to make iPhones with USB-C connectors. The first was Swiss engineer Ken Pillonel, who gave the world the first USB-C iPhone long before the EU forced Apple to replace its Lightning connector. The same person then gave us AirPods with a USB-C case before Apple. Again, Apple will have to pull off the same switch once the iPhone 15 arrives.

Fast-forward to late July 2023, and Pillonel outdid himself. He created an AirPods Pro case design that lets you replace the battery without destroying the case. That’s the kind of change I’d love to see from Apple.

My biggest problem with AirPods is that they’re not meant to be repaired. Specifically, once the health of the battery is ruined, you can’t have the AirPods earbuds or case serviced. They become useless waste.

Not even Apple can swap out the batteries. What the company will do is throw a discount your way for a new pair of AirPods, which will have to suffer the same fate in a few years.

You can replace the battery of iPhones, iPads, and Macs when the original pack can’t hold a charge. That way, you effectively extend the life of your gadget, save money, and help the environment in the process. But you cannot do that with AirPods.

That’s where Pillonel’s AirPods Pro case comes in. The engineer managed to disassemble a first-gen AirPods Pro case and then recreate it from scratch using a 3D printer and other gadgets.

Ken Pillonel's design for repairable AirPods Pro.
Ken Pillonel’s design for repairable AirPods Pro. Image source: YouTube

“Building on the success of my previous projects, which included 3D-printed cases for various AirPods models and custom USB-C parts, I am now addressing the demand for more eco-friendly solutions. Instead of offering just outer shells for the AirPods Pro, I took on the challenge of meticulously modeling every single part of the device, essentially ‘stealing’ the design, and sharing them freely with everyone,” Pillonel said on YouTube.

As you’ll see in the video, his design is better than Apple’s as it doesn’t use glue. Instead, he placed screws and nuts that let you disassemble the case yourself and replace the battery once it runs out.

Like Pillonel’s previous endeavors, you can get your hands on his designs for free and make your own AirPods case at home. While I advised against trying to replicate his successes with the USB-C iPhone and AirPods case, this is something else entirely. It’s the kind of project that might help some people create AirPods Pro cases that can be serviced for life.

But the AirPods battery problem remains. The batteries inside each earbud will eventually degrade. And Pillonel doesn’t have a DIY design for the earbuds themselves. Moreover, the engineer’s impressive work only applies to the first-gen model. If you have AirPods Pro 2, you’re out of luck.

Hopefully, Apple will find ways to make battery replacement possible on all AirPods models. Until then, you can check out Pillonel’s clip below.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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