back to article The HeirPod? Samsung Galaxy Buds teardown finds tiny wireless cans 'surprisingly repairable'

Having previously flung scorn at the Apple AirPods, the iFixit team has turned its spudgers on Samsung's wireless earpieces. Following the S10's disappointing 3 out of 10 for repairability and the frankly disastrous 0 out of 10 awarded to Apple's cable-free wonders back in the day, hopes were not high. However, the gang were …

  1. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Why bother?

    They might be easy to repair, but review of them as actual earbuds aren't great, citing mediocre sound and flaky Bluetooth connection.

    This isn't picking on Samsung; it seems nobody has quite nailed this form factor with the possible exception of Apple (which by design don't isolate ambient sound - a feature if you're walking down the street, a bug if you're on a train)

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Why bother?

      Because making every bit of technology disposable is choking the planet in plastic and dubious chemicals.

      Sound quality is important too, obv.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Why bother?

        > Because making every bit of technology disposable is choking the planet in plastic and dubious chemicals

        Exactly. That's why it's important for stuff to be well designed and engineered before it is mass produced. It doesn't matter how durable a device is if the user chucks it in a draw ( or 'recycling' bin) because some bug or flaw makes it irritating to use. Flakey Bluetooth in 2019? Not acceptable.

        Review found these worked well with some Galaxy phones, less so with an S10, and very poorly with a Pixel, though they noted Pixel phones have their own Bluetooth issues.

        1. Nial

          Re: Why bother?

          "It doesn't matter how durable a device is if the user chucks it in a draw"

          Dave, what's a "draw"?

          I've seen this in various forum posts over the years, I presume you mean 'drawer'?

          Not being cheeky but are you from the south of England where the 'er' of drawer is barely pronounced?

          1. dajames Silver badge

            Re: Why bother?

            "It doesn't matter how durable a device is if the user chucks it in a draw"

            Dave, what's a "draw"?

            [snip]

            I presume you mean 'drawer'?

            Methinks he must mean a raffle -- or "prize draw" as they're sometimes known -- probably for charity. There's no other way to make sense of what's written.

            It'd be a good way to get rid of kit that someone else might value ...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Why bother?

      As these things are designed to be lost as easily as possible, I think the repairability is indeed moot.

    3. Paul 195

      Re: Why bother?

      Isn't the point not that these particular earbuds are not great, but that with a little effort gadgets can be made repairable? If Apple's designers and engineers are so good, then why are they not able to create gadgets which are easier to repair? Built in obsolescence should not be a viable business strategy; governments should tax the crap out of devices that cannot meet a defined set of repairability criteria. I would suggest starting with replacement of batteries (batteries are consumables and should be seen as such), and screens (which are inherently fragile).

      1. jason 7

        Re: Why bother?

        I vote for that! I vote for that!!!!!

        If it doesn't have a certain level of user repair then a 50% sales tax is added.

      2. the hatter

        Re: Why bother?

        If apple have spent their effort making good earbuds and samsung have spent their on making repairable earbuds, then samsung have lost, and rightly so. Better to spend no money and cause no pollution and have no earbuds. Quite aside from that, 99.9% of owners won't get their buds repaired anyway, so why suffer the substantially worse product ? I can't even see there being a substantial refurb market; at least with a more repairable handset, in 2 years time someone may get a few quid, a refurb company stick a new battery in, and someone else gets a new-to-them phone. In first world countries, buying a refurb phone is still a niche activity, while most salvaged handsets are shipped elsewhere. Are premium wireless buds going to be that valuable in other markets ?

        1. Paul 195

          Re: Why bother?

          I don't want to buy a refurbished phone. I do want to be able to keep the phone I currently have beyond the lifespan of a single overworked LiOn battery. Apple, Samsung et al are relying on us buying new phones every couple of years even though at this point the gains for the consumer with each new generation of devices are fairly marginal. And in some cases negative as manufacturers vie with each other to remove things like headphone sockets.

        2. ChrisC

          Re: Why bother?

          "In first world countries, buying a refurb phone is still a niche activity"

          The number of businesses out there offering screen/battery/case etc. replacement services, as well as ones offering the parts/tools to allow DIY replacement, should be a clear indicator that there's a healthy market for devices which can be easily maintained by their current owners.

          So whilst you may be correct to say that *buying* a refurb phone is a niche activity, I suspect that if you also take into account the number of older phones that get passed onto other family members and which will then require the services mentioned above in order to keep them going for a few more years, you'd have a rather different opinion of the whole "design for maintainability" concept - it's not just to allow refurb companies to make some money out of fixing up and reselling older devices...

          And when it comes to wearable tech, don't underestimate the desire that some users will have to keep on using a device which they find fits their body really well - things like earbuds are particularly relevant here, as peoples tolerances to what they'll accept having stuck in/around their ears differs considerably, so when you find a set of buds that fits you like a glove then you'll want to stick with them for as long as possible - repairing it as many times as possible to keep it going, rather than just popping down to the local Apple/Samsung/etc store to buy the latest version.

    4. joed

      Re: Why bother?

      "it seems nobody has quite nailed this form factor with the possible exception of Apple" - sure, if one like the looks of retro teen with cigarette over ear(s). The reason Apple's device performs so well (likely with exception to job #1 that is the sound quality) is its form factor (allowing for better antenna placement), separate BT radio per each earbud and increased power levels at which they operate. Unfortunately none of these is free - they are pricey, look stupid, are likely prone to falling (depending on activity user participated in) and built in battery life is only acceptable.

      BTW, Samsung's design looks like a copy of original Jabra Elite Sport. These has proved great (as far as BT can deliver), especially for the refurbished price I've got them for.

  2. yoganmahew

    I fell into a burning ear of fire.

    Ooh-oh my ears on fire, ooh-oh they have no wire

    How can we sleep when our ears are burning

    Hopefully better than the pocket warmer batteries...

  3. Christian Berger Silver badge

    It's an unfair comparision

    One is a mass manufacturer trying to churn out mass wares as cheaply as possible, the other one is Samsung.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: It's an unfair comparision

      The inaccuracy in your post is that both are trying to get things made as cheaply as possible and get the highest selling price, because that's how you stay in business.

      One however is making disposables and the other isn't.

      Once upon a time Apple stuff was put together so that with a few special tools (to keep out numskulls, fair enough) you could replace practically anything easily. In those days I bought Apple.

      Now I don't.

      1. wayward4now

        Re: It's an unfair comparision

        "...you could replace practically anything easily. In those days I bought Apple. Now I don't."

        Amen to that!! My original garage built Apple ][ was easy to get into. It practically begged you to. The Woz designed that. Then Jobs messed with it. It was all over from then on.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: It's an unfair comparision

      The iPhone is and has for years been more repairable than Samsung phones. That the earpod isn't is too bad, but given a choice I'd rather the phone be more easily repairable because it is a larger investment and more likely to need a battery replaced sooner.

      It is simple to replace the battery yourself in an iPhone, at least for anyone typical of Reg readership. If you don't want to do it yourself you can have it done for you at one of about a million places from mall kiosks to cell phone shops. Yes, you will need a few special tools, but those can be easily found online, and the same is true for any phone (even if they don't have weird screws like Apple uses, opening pretty much any modern smartphone requires a few things most of us don't have laying around)

      1. doke

        Re: It's an unfair comparision

        Watch some of Louis Rossman's Youtube videos. Apple is actively trying to kill the repair market on their gear.

  4. defiler Silver badge

    Wireless?

    I'll stick with my Shure SE420s. Sound great, and I'll live with the outrageous indignity of a wire.

    Also, they never seem to need recharged.

    I honestly don't get the wireless earphone thing. Maybe it's my age...

    1. John 110

      Re: Wireless?

      I'm with you. I keep going back to my Sony ones that I got with something years ago. The cable is still intact (usually the first point of failure) and the sound is better (for my old ears) than anything I've tried to replace them with. (I would tell you the model, but all that info has long since worn off. If it wasn't for a little blip on the left bud, I wouldn't know which was which)

      I do keep getting them tangled in my scarf though...

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Wireless?

        "I do keep getting them tangled in my scarf though..."

        You are Tom Baker, and I claim my £5 and a bag of jelly babies!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wireless?

        while I'm "with you" in principle, I have recently tried a pair of wireless and I did find them superior in wirelessness. Those wired (sturdy, better sound) earphones always have this (...) ability to get in the way of home duties. That said, being a cheapskate, I could only afford (wireless) taotronics headphones. Comfy, but not for long. I'd say, half an hour and I feel me temples goin' ;) But then, it's headphones v. earphones too, not exactly one-to-one comparison.

        1. defiler Silver badge

          Re: Wireless?

          Well, that depends on whether your playback device is portable. I still have my old iPod Video kicking about, but I tend to use my phone. Shove it in my back pocket and drop the wire down the back of my top. Done. Cable's out the way, and I turn off notifications on my phone because I'm dead inside and hate everyone.

          I don't have to communicate with the outside world and they don't have to put up with my moaning. Everyone's a winner! :)

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Wireless?

            You make a good point - wired headphones are less of a hassle with a dedicated and small MP3 player than they are with a phone which a, I might want to use for reading TheRegister or taking a photo and b, is a bugger to clip to my shirt pocket.

            I have a physical job and I have come to hate my earphone wire getting caught in things when it is plugged into my phone. Back when I used a Sansa Clip the cable didn't get caught in things nearly as often.

    2. Kane Silver badge

      Re: Wireless?

      "I honestly don't get the wireless earphone thing. Maybe it's my age..."

      Nope, it's the removal of the headphone jack on current models of phones (thanks Apple) that have caused the rise of the wireless earphone/bud.

      Not that it bothers me as I don't use my phone to listen to music, I have a separate MP3 player for that, old school.

      1. jason 7

        Re: Wireless?

        Still rocking a black MK1 Zune here!

        11 years old and the battery still going strong. Keep thinking about swapping the 30GB HDD Ziff for a 60GB+ flash unit sometime. Might pop a new battery in too.

        Choice choices....wow remember when you had those?

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Wireless?

      Bluetooth headsets are great not least because you can't get tangled in wires, the phone can be in a pocket or bag or, in my case, mounted on my bike for navigating. And many of them have excellent battery life. The bud-only ones are just asking to get lost.

      1. Roopee
        Stop

        Re: Wireless?

        Listening to music through head/earphones while cycling - suicidal! And in the UK it's illegal too, for obvious reasons.

        1. the hatter

          Re: Wireless?

          Obvious ? Because cycling with headphones in means you certainly can't hear what's going on, whereas being sat in an metal box purposefully designed to be soundproofed is fine ? Or am I missing something. And no, I'm not even a cyclist these days, but even as a pedestrian with passively isolating headphones I'm sure I can hear more than I can as a driver.

          1. Duffy Moon

            Re: Wireless?

            I think what you're missing is that as a car driver, being hit from behind isn't as likely to result in your untimely exit from this plane of existence. As a cyclist, your ears are a useful safety feature. Actually, the same applies to pedestrians. I don't feel safe walking down the street with headphones on, as I am unable to hear approaching muggers or out-of-control vehicles (or people shouting at me to get out of the way of such hazards).

            1. defiler Silver badge

              Re: Wireless?

              being hit from behind isn't as likely to result in your untimely exit from this plane of existence

              The fuck?! If you're getting hit from behind it's because some arsehole has driven into you, whilst you've gradually filled more and more of their windscreen as they took aim. I appreciate that this argument isn't really going to change things at your inquest, but still - if that's what you're hanging your reasoning on it's pretty tenuous.

              1) Sometimes I wear my isolating earphones on my motorbike. I can still hear more than I can in the car unless I turn them up too loud.

              2) Sometimes I do turn them up too loud. Yeah - sorry about that.

              3) The last time somebody nearly drove into the back of me I was on the M42 and had to wring the throttle to rapidly vacate the space that the tool was racing into. Mirrors (and paying attention to them) saved my arse that day. Even without music on, I'd never have heard that white van.

          2. Tikimon Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Wireless?

            "an metal box purposefully designed to be soundproofed is fine".

            What car was EVER designed to be soundproof? None, and none are! They will reduce sound levels, yes, but you can still hear what's going on. Unless you're a wanker with your entertainment system set to eleven and the windows pulsing in and out. But that's not "soundproof" at fault.

            Also, ya moron, in a car you're traveling WITH vehicular traffic at the same speed, belted into a big metal machine that few drivers can easily ignore. Much safer and less conflict. On a bike, the rider is slower, smaller, and vastly more vulnerable. The Danger Factor skyrockets, and so it's STUPID to block one's hearing with headphones!

            1. kyndair

              Re: Wireless?

              All cars have soundproofing, some a lot more than others. High end luxury cars barely let any noise in as it would annoy the people being driven around by their chauffeur.

              Most roads have vehicles driving in two directions not all going in the same direction. Cyclists are banned from motorways and no sane cyclist goes on dual carriageways.

              If your headphones block your hearing then you've got it turned up to loud and will be damaging your hearing. I can listen to music, podcasts etc. and still have a quiet conversation with others.

            2. DiViDeD Silver badge

              Re: Wireless?

              "...belted into a big metal machine that few drivers can easily ignore"

              Try driving an MX5 around Sydney for a few hours if you want to see just how easily they can ignore you.

              The number if times some bloody big SUV has overtaken the car behind me and then tried to pull into the lane I'm currently driving in....

          3. doke

            Re: Wireless?

            In some places it's also illegal to wear headphones while driving a car. I understand El Reg is a UK news site, but I could only find a link for the US. https://phiaton.com/blogs/audio/are-headphones-illegal-while-driving

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Wireless?

          Hm, how about reading what I wrote: for navigating. I have one ear bud in so that I hear the directions. This means I can concentrate more on the road and the other traffic.

          1. ChrisC

            Re: Wireless?

            Hm, what you actually wrote, and what you seem to think you wrote, are two different things... Nowhere in your earlier comment did you say you only wore one bud whilst riding, nor even that it was buds you were wearing (you referred to a BT headset) so it's unreasonable to expect anyone else to assume that's what you actually meant.

    4. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Wireless?

      I recently bought myself some wireless earphones ( Soundpeats Q12+, £25 on Amazon, decent reviews and I like them ).

      Anyway, I found them to be far better than wired headphones when running - no wire to get snagged and on a treadmill I don't have to have my phone bouncing around in my pocket.

    5. Tony Jarvie

      Re: Wireless?

      For day-to-day use, on the train or plane or whatever I agree. However, a small and cheap set of Anker wireless BT buds are pretty good for when you're out for a run and don't want a cable dangling down to your phone. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Headphones-Anker-Lightweight-Sweatproof-Refurbished-Black/dp/B0753D3372

    6. Earache

      Re: Wireless?

      You're wired headphones might not need charging but you phone will need to be charged more often.

  5. TopCat62

    The anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers will be along shortly...

    ... to tell us that we're all going to get cancer from wireless earphones, so who cares about recycling anyway.

  6. doke

    I don't like wireless earphones.

    They're very expensive. The Samsung Galaxy Buds are $140 USD on Amazon.

    They're easily lost. Wired headphones have a harder time falling down the sewer, because they're attached. If they do, I can get a new pair for less than $10.

    Many bluetooth devices have poor audio fidelity. https://www.lifewire.com/what-to-know-about-bluetooth-3134591

    I have to enable bluetooth on my phone. That increases the power consumption, and decreases battery life. There have also been several security issues with bluetooth, https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/bluetooth_vulne.html I could save power by disabling bluetooth after listening, but I will probably forget.

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