Many of Apple’s products get criticized for their fragility — after all, it’s hard to avoid putting glass screens on the front of iPhones, and Apple’s design aesthetic often sees them adding glass backs also. However, it seems that the company has made far fewer compromises on its AirPods, as the recent experience of a Taiwanese man shows.
According to The Daily Mail, a man named Ben Hsu accidentally swallowed an AirPod (yeah, we’re not sure how that happens either), only to discover that the earbud not only worked in his stomach, but was still working after it had finished passing through his system.
As the story goes, Hsu fell asleep while wearing his AirPods, and when he awoke, he couldn’t find one of them. Baffled by where it could have gone, he fired up the Find My AirPods feature on his iPhone, discovering it was still somewhere in his room, but as he continued looking for it, and the sound kept following him around, he eventually came to realize it was coming from inside of him.
I checked under my blanket and looked around but couldn’t find it – then I realised the sound was coming from my stomach.
Hsu, who is a navy recruiter who lives in the south-western Taiwan city of Kaohsiung, said he felt fine, but went to the hospital to have it checked out anyway, at which point medics took an x-ray and confirmed that he had in fact swallowed the AirPod. They noted that it was passing through his digestive system, and suggested that it was best to wait and see if it came out naturally, although they said surgery could be necessary if it got stuck in there. Doctors gave him a laxative and told him to keep an eye on his toilet for any sign of the device.
The following day, Hsu was able to recover the missing AirPod after what must have been a particularly unpleasant search through a railway station toilet, and after washing it off and letting it dry, Hsu was amazed to find that not only did it still work, but the battery life was still at 41 percent. Hsu described the Apple product as “magical” and while we don’t envy his experience, we’d certainly be inclined to agree with his conclusions.
It’s worth noting that swallowing a battery is normally very dangerous — the corrosive chemicals can cause internal burns and even serious ruptures in the intestines. However Dr. Chen Chieh-fan, who works in the emergency room at the Kaohsiung Municipal United Hospital where Hsu sought treatment, noted that the sealed plastic shell around the AirPod is likely what protected Hsu, preventing the battery from coming into contact with his internal organs.
What’s particularly interesting here is that Apple makes no promises about its AirPods being waterproof or sweat-resistant — many were expecting Apple’s second-generation AirPods to add this feature, but there’s been no change in that area from the first-generation model (the story also doesn’t indicate which version of the AirPods Hsu was using). In fact, one of the selling points of Apple’s new Beats-branded Powerbeats Pro is that they will feature the kind of water- and sweat-resistance that’s important to users with more active lifestyles.
Still, the fact that an AirPod can pass through an entire digestive system and survive — with not only water but stomach acid and other chemicals in the mix — suggests that it’s considerably more waterproof than Apple is letting on. It also sort of backs up some of Apple’s design choices — iFixit has criticized the AirPods for being “disappointingly disposable” as they’re virtually impossible to repair, but as Apple itself has pointed out in its fight against “Right to Repair” laws, it’s difficult to balance creating a product that’s durable and long-lasting while also making it accessible for repairs. Although we don’t agree that this is a justification for Apple’s fight against Right to Repair legislation, taken by itself the point is certainly valid.
All of that having been said, however, since Apple makes no guarantees of water-resistance for its AirPods, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to get an AirPod replaced under warranty if it does end up experiencing water damage, so we’d still recommend caution when using AirPods near pools, and while we’re happy that things turned out so well for Ben Hsu, eating your AirPods is definitely not recommended.