Fairbuds take the Fairphone’s repairability down to seemingly impossible size

Fairbuds with all their components laid out on a blue background
Enlarge / The Fairbuds and their replaceable components, including the notably hand-friendly, non-soldered batteries.


Fairphone has spent years showing us that it could do what major phone manufacturers suggest is impossible: make a modern-looking phone, make it brazenly easy to open up, design it so battery swaps are something you could do on lunch break, and also provide software support for an unbelievable eight to 10 years.

Bluetooth headphones, specifically wireless earbuds, seemed destined to never receive this kind of eco-friendly, ownership-oriented upgrade, in large part because of how small they are. But the Fairbuds have arrived, and Fairphone has made them in its phones’ image. They’re only available in the EU at the moment, for 149 euro (or roughly $160 USD). Like the Fairphone 4, there’s a chance interest could bring them to the US.

The highlights include:

  • Seven replaceable parts from the buds and charging case, all sold by Fairphone
  • A two-year warranty, expanded to three if you register them
  • Batteries in both the case and buds that are replaceable
  • IP54 sweat and water resistance
  • Individual left or right buds and a charging case that Fairphone will sell to you
  • Made with “fair and recycled materials,” in “fair factories,” and “climate conscious and electronic waste neutral,” (as explained by Fairphone).

Of course, the buds also, you know, produce sound, with 11 mm titanium drivers. The Fairbuds sport active noise-canceling and ambient sound modes, Bluetooth 5.3 with “dual point connectivity” for quick-switching between devices, and a Fairbuds app for customizing EQ and preset settings. The buds’ 455 mAh batteries carry about six hours of listening per charge, and their 500 mAh case adds another 20 hours.

It’s not Fairphone’s first foray into fair, repairable sound devices. The firm previously made the since-discontinued True Wireless Stereo Earbuds and still offers Fairbuds XL, which are not buds at all but full over-ear headphones (and also EU-only).

The best that major-brand earbuds have ever done in repairability is “maybe you can do it, if you’re careful, and you don’t mind losing water resistance.” Taylor Dixon took apart six buds for iFixit back in 2020, and only Sony’s WF-1000XM3 didn’t require soldering, cutting and re-applying glue, and a steady hand working in very small spaces.

AirPods? AirPods are something else. One firm, The Swap Club, has figured out some means of getting the battery out of AirPods and selling them refurbished. But they only accept regular AirPods, not AirPods Pro. Alternatively, Apple will send you a pre-paid label to send in your spent AirPods for recycling, though with no trade-in credit. Even if Apple gets some kind of material out of the AirPods, a lot of them (and nearly every other wireless earbud) end up as waste after 18 months or however long their batteries last.

Fairbuds may or may not take a big chunk out of the market for AirPods, Beats, Pixel Buds, or other use-and-toss airbuds. But at a minimum, they give people something to point to as proof this category could be a lot better.

Disclosure: Kevin Purdy used to work for iFixit. He has no financial ties to the company.

Listing image by Fairphone

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