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Engineer behind the USB-C iPhone repeated the trick with AirPods

MacBook next to AirPods Pro.

Ken Pillonel is the engineer who created the world’s first USB-C iPhone several months ago, selling the device for thousands of dollars on eBay. He’s now back with a similar project for AirPods. His new device hack achieves more than adding a USB-C port to Apple’s popular wireless earphones. It actually lets users replace the dying batteries inside the cases of their AirPods.

The best part is that anyone can take apart their AirPods case and use Pillonel’s files to replace the battery and the Lightning port.

Adding USB-C to AirPods is not impossible

As you’ll see in Pillonel’s new video, adding USB-C connectivity to AirPods is not impossible. It’s not easy either, as it took the Swiss engineer plenty of time to design a new housing for the charging case and discover how to replace the Lightning port with USB-C.

As the modder explains, the problem with the AirPods and any other type of wireless earphones is that they’re meant to be disposable after the battery dies. Apple won’t replace the AirPods battery, as it’s cheaper to just replace the whole thing. That’s not great for the environment, however. And that’s what Pillonel set out to do.

Replacing the battery on the AirPods is futile unless you have a 3D printer and his schematics. That’s because the AirPods case isn’t meant to be taken apart. Presumably, that’s what makes battery replacements impossible.

Only after figuring a way to build another case for the AirPods did the modder start work on replacing the Lightning connector with a USB-C port. This was an equally challenging job. Pillonel had to create a custom PCB board that would allow him to replace the Lightning connector.

Then he had to have that PCB custom-made and shipped to him. Finally, the engineer used Apple’s own tech to secure in place the connector inside the AirPods case. In the end, all he had to do was snap in the 3D-printed AirPods case.

AirPods Pro 2 case design render.
AirPods Pro 2 case design render. Image source: 52Audio

Why you shouldn’t do it

No matter how great the AirPods USB-C engineering trick might be, you should consider not doing it. For starters, you need some specialized equipment for some of the steps in the battery and Lightning port replacement. At the very least, you’ll need access to a 3D printer to manufacture your new case after you destroy the original.

The best reason not to make your own custom AirPods USB-C case right now is that Apple will soon move to USB-C. The European Union has forced Apple to adopt USB-C for wired battery charging. That means future iPhones and AirPods will get the new standard connector.

For the iPhone, it might start only next year. But the AirPods Pro 2 that are coming this fall should feature a USB-C connector. It’s very likely the next AirPods case will also come with a USB-C port.

That means you should not hurry to repair your existing AirPods just yet. But once you do get your hands on the first Apple-made AirPods with a USB-C case, you can consider replacing the battery yourself after a couple of years of use.

Pillonel’s schematics might come in handy, as you’ll probably need to break apart the original case to get to the battery.

The following video contains all the resources you might need to replace the AirPods battery. And add the USB-C connector if you must.

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 closely follows the events in 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.