How much can a product change in five years? Well, in tech years, this is more like a decade. AirPods, first announced alongside the iPhone 7, have gone through a few different variations over the years. Now, the publication Scan of the Month is offering us an in-depth look at how much Apple’s wireless earbuds have changed from AirPods 1 to the Pro model, and now to AirPods 3.
Scan of the Month, as the name suggests, scans the products to show how they look from the inside. For December, the publication gives us a detailed look at AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods 3. Although the second-generation and AirPods Max were left behind, it’s possible to say that one didn’t change much and the other one is a totally different product.
Starting with Apple’s original wireless earbuds, here’s how Scan of the Month describes them:
Packed into the area behind the speaker is a cluster of rigid-flex electronics. The construction would make an origamist blush. Holding the folds without creasing the flexible substrate during assembly is vital and tricky.
A microphone in the stem base is rotated slightly toward the wearer’s mouth, measuring just 2.1mm x 1.2mm. It hides behind the pair of contacts used to charge the battery.
Infrared sensors on the surface of the enclosure just behind the earpiece enable one of AirPods’ key magic features: remove the earbud to pause your music, and replace it to play.
Then, when you move three years forward, how much did the original AirPods change when compared to the AirPods Pro? A lot. Or as Scan of the Month says, Apple “completely redesigned the internals of the earbuds.”
The battery has moved from the stem to the head; the electronics cluster also stayed in the head. A very dense PCB simplifies the assembly by concentrating the electronics into a single component.
The Pro ditched the down-facing microphone in favor of two stem-based microphones. The microphones are substantially larger than the first-gen mics (3.4×2.4mm), but we wonder if voice pickup would have been better with the microphones pointed out of the bottom of the stems.
AirPods Pro introduced a new user interface affordance: squeezing the stem can pause music, change noise cancellation settings, or summon Siri. Force sensors are visible in the stem along with an antenna.
Last but not least, two years later, Apple released the third-generation AirPods. The publication notes that these earbuds are not marketed as “pro” but “they sure look the part.”
The electronics and batteries fully switched positions from the first-generation AirPods, electronics to the stems, and batteries to the head. A single PCBA contains most components leaving a few distributed sensors.
The downward-facing microphone has made its return, situated between the charging contacts at the bottom of the stem. At 2.9×1.8mm, these microphones are a size between the Pro and G1.
You can check all the AirPods scanned here.
How do you feel about all of these changes? Are you collecting all AirPods available? Which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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