Fairphone, the Dutch ethical electronics manufacturer, announced its new active noise-cancelling (ANC) earbuds called ‘Fairbuds’ on April 9, 2024.

Fairphone has carved a niche for itself in Europe with its sustainable products and is a profitable company. The €149 ($165) Fairbuds are the latest in a line of sustainable consumer devices. The buds come with replaceable batteries in both the earbuds and the modular charging case. A total of seven spare parts on the Fairbuds can be easily exchanged.

Earbuds are extremely difficult to repair, and replacing them is not easy either. The result is masses of earbuds in landfills, as it is more convenient for a consumer to replace than repair. And though self-repair and sustainability are the need of the hour, any kind of DIY repair remains limited to a niche audience.

However, an earbud with an easily swappable battery will find a ready audience in Europe – and the US, when it eventually shows up in the region (and it will). Only some over-the-head headphones offer swappable batteries, but it is an arduous process to swap one.

The ability to replace the battery on earbuds is a sustainability coup. Not only will it increase device longevity, but it will also give consumers exactly what they sought at purchase – a long-lasting consumer electronic, an anomaly in this age of fast tech. No other earbud can claim an easily replaceable battery, giving Fairbuds a sharp competitive advantage over rivals. Wearables are not high on sustainability, with consumers and regulators alike focusing on pricier electronics.

Fairphone promotes self-repair on earbuds

Fairphone is showing big tech like Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi that self-repair on earbuds is easily doable if they so wish. However, earbuds are largely OS- and OEM-agnostic. Consumers are more willing to consider sustainable ancillary devices like earbuds from a new OEM than an essential and premium device such as a phone. Moreover, self-repair is a movement that is gaining precedence in the EU and the US.

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The EU passed its own ‘Right to Repair’ law in February 2024, and various repair bills have passed in four US states, with more right-to-repair bills being debated in legislatures across 28 other US states.

Unlike OEMs such as HMD, which use repairability as a marketing gimmick, Fairphone’s Fairbuds allow for not only the battery to be replaced in the earbuds, but also the charging case, adding to the sustained life of the device. The buds are currently available only in Europe.