Practical Electronics – June 2022
English | 78 pages | pdf | 17.38 MB

How to annoy customers and lose them I recently had a chat with my friend Steve, who is in the market for a set of Hi-Fi-quality headphones with both wireless and noisecancelling capability. After considerable research he liked the look of a pair made by a well-known UK speaker manufacturer. He can be a little obsessive – in a good way – when it comes to researching expensive purchases, and was concerned that there seemed to be no obvious way to replace the headphone’s rechargeable lithium polymer battery. LIPO is a good technology – long lasting and energy dense – but like all rechargeable batteries they have a limited lifespan, certainly much more limited than a pair of headphones. This worried him and he dug a little deeper. Internet research showed this was a problem that others had faced, proving to be especially challenging if batteries died after the warranty had expired. They’d turned to the manufacturer for help, who offered to fi x the problem for £299… on a pair of headphones that currently cost around £310 (as per Amazon). You can imagine the frustration of those reporting this problem on the web.
Distinctly underwhelmed with the UK approach, my friend tried a well-known and respected US rival. He emailed them and they replied that in their headphones, ‘the battery is non replaceable’. At this point, my friend turned to me because I already owned the previous generation of wireless headphones from the UK fi rm he initially liked. He asked if I knew about this problem. It was news to me, and somewhat irritated I decided to do my own research – but this time from an engineer’s perspective. Had anyone on the Internet fi xed a broken set of ‘my’ headphones, and how could I undertake a DIY battery replacement?
Just to be clear, we are not talking about tiny in-ear ‘earbuds’, but large over-ear headphones with plenty of space for normal-sized parts and which should – in theory – be fi xable. Mine have soft leather pads that clip with magnets onto the speaker housing. Removing a pad reveals the thin speaker grill surrounded by even thinner stick-on fabric, but no way to get into the ‘speaker cabinet’. However, someone on the Internet had discovered that scraping off a little of the fabric reveals assembly screws that give you easy access to the innards. In other words, a totally pointless application of a cheap sticky-backed material was there to deliberately mask how to fi x a very expensive purchase.
It gets worse. The online repairer shared a photo of the battery in the headphones. It’s nothing special; Amazon sell it for a tenner. In other words, a respected UK audio manufacturer now thinks it’s good customer relations to charge £299 for fi ve minutes work and a £10 part – thereby ‘encouraging’ you to buy new headphones, which presumably join the others in landfi ll two or three years hence.
Electronic waste is a global problem. Is it too much to ask that manufacturers design products that last, are genuinely fi xable – and are honest about repair charges?
Matt Pulzer

Download from: