This guy modded his AirPods to use USB-C (and you can too)

This guy modded his AirPods to use USB-C
(Image credit: Ken Pillonel)

Apple's AirPods don't charge via USB-C, but that didn't stop one robotics engineering student. Fresh from creating the world's first USB-C iPhone, Ken Pillonel turned his attention to Apple's wireless earbuds. His results were just as successful.

His AirPods work just like a standard pair, but with a USB-C port in place of the Lightning port. It might sound like a relatively simple alteration, but Pillonel says it took up "pretty much all my weekends for a few months", The Verge reports.

Here's a quick look at how he did it.

If that's not nearly detailed enough for you, fear not. Pillonel plans to release a full-length video explaining how it works in-depth. And if you want your AirPods to charge via a USB-C cable, you're in luck – Pillonel will open source the project so anyone who's handy with a screwdriver can follow suit. But be warned: it will invalidate your warranty.

So how did he do it? In brief, Pillonel designed a custom flexible PCB containing the charging hardware, which he was able to cram inside the AirPods case. It's a mighty fine piece of handiwork – at first look, you wouldn't know it wasn't an official Apple-warranted port.

Apple uses USB-C in its larger devices, such as MacBook laptops and iPad tablets, but Lightning for its smaller, more portable devices like AirPods and iPhones. Which means more cables, adapters, and general mess and confusion for consumers. 

The EU has been trying to force companies like Apple to adopt standard charging ports like USB-C to curb electronic waste. Legislation has already made Apple bring in a DIY repair scheme for its devices – could a standard charging method be next? Or will all our devices be wireless by the time any legislation gets off the ground, rendering it null and void? In the meantime, you can always DIY, like Ken...


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Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.