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Gadget graveyard: We found the hidden death dates on popular devices

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 8/2/2022 Geoffrey Fowler, Linda Chong

When are your gadgets going to no longer hold a charge — and what happens when they do?

Unfortunately, many are simply designed to die.

We analyzed the potential life span of 14 popular consumer electronic products by digging up the often-hidden specifications of their built-in rechargeable batteries.

All manufacturers have to deal with the same constraints of lithium batteries that hold less charge with repeat use. Each is designed for a typical number of complete recharges, known as cycles, and can die quickly after it falls below 80 percent capacity.

Electronics are built with death dates. Let’s not keep them a secret.

Some devices are designed for their batteries to be repaired or replaced — while others must just be thrown away.

Of course, how long your batteries will last depends on how often you use them and even how you recharge them. Our estimates are for heavy users, the kinds of people who use a product regularly for work or play.

For more information on how we calculated our estimated life spans, see the methodology section at the bottom of the page.

Let us know what your experience has been with these products — we’ll continue to update this page if we get more information.

1. Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet

Designed to die

Our estimate for how soon it could die: Inconclusive, though some users report it lasts as little as 2 to 3 years.

How many recharges it can take: Amazon wouldn’t disclose.

What happens when the battery dies: Amazon offers no battery-replacement service.

Any workaround? Attempting to replace the battery yourself is moderately difficult.

Amazon says: The battery is designed to continue to perform close to its original total capacity for “up to 5 years.”

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but we review all technology with the same critical eye.)

2. Apple AirPods

Designed to die

Apple AirPods. (The Washington Post illustration; iStock) © The Washington Post illustration; iStock/The Washington Post illustration; iStock Apple AirPods. (The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 2 years.

How many recharges it can take: Apple won’t say.

What happens when the battery dies: Apple’s “battery service” will only sell you a new one, for $49 per ear bud.

Any workaround? Replacing the battery yourself is extremely difficult, but the Swap Club will send you a refurbished set of buds for $60 (if you send them your old ones).

3. Apple iPhone

Designed to be repaired

Our estimate for how soon the battery could fail: 3 years.

How many recharges can it take: 500 charge cycles for 80 percent capacity.

What happens when the battery dies: Apple’s official battery service costs $69.

Apple says: With normal use, its batteries typically exceed this cycle count.

4. Apple MacBook Air

Designed to be repaired

© The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock/The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 4 years.

How many recharges it can take: 1,000 charge cycles for 80% capacity. (You can see how many cycles yours has used by going to About This Mac > System Report > Power and then you’ll see a Cycle Count number.)

What happens when the battery dies? Apple’s official battery service costs $129.

Apple says: With normal use, its batteries typically exceed this cycle count.

5. Bose QC35 noise-cancelling headphones

Designed to die

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 5 years.

How many recharges it can take: 500 cycles for 80 percent capacity.

What happens when the battery dies: Bose offers no out-of-warranty battery replacement service.

Any workaround? Attempting to replace the battery yourself is difficult.

Bose says: A typical user would see the 20 percent degradation between 5 and 9 years.

6. Dyson Cordless V8 vacuum


Video: Your gadgets will die one day. We found out when. (The Washington Post)

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Designed to be repaired

Our estimate for how soon it could die: Inconclusive, though one report suggests 6 years.

How many recharges can it take: Dyson wouldn’t say.

What happens when the battery dies: Dyson sells a replacement battery for $130.

7. Fitbit Charge 5

Designed to die

Fitbit Charge 5. (The Washington Post illustration; iStock) © The Washington Post illustration; iStock/The Washington Post illustration; iStock Fitbit Charge 5. (The Washington Post illustration; iStock)

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 4 years.

How many recharges it can take: Fitbit would only say “a device may need to be charged more often after several hundred charge cycles.”

What happens when the battery dies: No repair service; Fitbit says they should be recycled.

Any workaround? Attempting to replace the battery yourself is moderately difficult.

8. Meta Quest 2 VR headset

Designed to die

© The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock/The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 4 years.

How many recharges it can take: 500 charge cycles for 80 percent capacity.

What happens when the battery dies: Meta doesn’t offer a battery-repair service, but says it will provide a replacement headset at no cost “if the battery is defective.”

Any workaround? Attempting to replace the battery yourself is very difficult.

Meta says: Its VR devices are meant to be used “for years.” Experiencing a permanently depleted battery is “extremely rare.”

9. Nintendo Switch

Designed to die

Nintendo Switch. (The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock) © The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock/The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock Nintendo Switch. (The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock)

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 3 years.

How many recharges it can take: 800 charge cycles for 80 percent capacity.

What happens when the battery dies: Nintendo didn’t answer questions about battery service.

Any workaround? Replacing the battery yourself is moderately difficult.

10. Oura Ring

Designed to die

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 2 years.

How many recharges it can take: 500 charge cycles for 80 percent capacity

What happens when the battery dies: No battery replacement service offered.

Any workaround? No.

Oura says: There are hundreds of thousands of Gen-2 Oura Rings in active use after 3 years.

11. Philips Sonicare 9500 toothbrush

Designed to die

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 5 years

How many recharges it can take: 200 charge cycles for 80 percent capacity.

What happens when the battery dies: It has to be disposed of.

Any workaround? Replacing Sonicare batteries yourself is very difficult.

Philips says: The battery could last 12 years if fully charged once every three weeks.

12. Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-cancelling headphones

Designed to die

© The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock/The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock

Our estimate for how soon it could die: Inconclusive, but owners of earlier-model versions have reported battery failure within 4 or 5 years.

How many recharges it can take: Sony wouldn’t answer the question.

What happens when the battery dies: Sony didn’t offer any battery replacement service, but mentioned “customers have the option to exchange.”

Any workaround? Attempting to replace the battery yourself is moderately difficult.

10. Tesla Model Y

Designed to be repaired

© The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock/The Washington Post illustration; Shutterstock

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 15 years, but driving range could degrade sooner.

How many recharges it can take: 1,500 cycles — or 300,000 to 500,000 miles — according to Elon Musk.

What happens when the battery dies: Tesla didn’t respond to a question about the cost of replacement battery packs. Some Tesla owners have reported new packs costing between $16,000 and $22,500.

14. VanMoof S3 e-bike

Designed to be repaired

Our estimate for how soon it could die: 5 years

How many recharges it can take: 800 charge cycles for 70 percent capacity.

What happens when the battery dies: A new battery from VanMoof costs $350 plus at least $50 for service.

MMethodology

To estimate a potential death date for these devices, we scoured each manufacturer’s website, and then put two key questions to the companies: First, how many empty-to-full recharges — or “cycles” — can the product’s battery take until its capacity drops to 80 percent? (After that point, batteries usually degrade quickly.) Second, what options does an owner have to repair or replace the battery in their device once it is no longer under warranty?

For example, Bose said popular QC noise-canceling headphones last 20 hours per charge and can take 500 full recharges. So for someone who used the headphones 5 days per week, we estimated its headphones could start to die in 5 years — without any official service option to replace the battery.

Several manufacturers refused to share battery cycle counts. We also took into account our own experience with products, and published reports by other reviewers and users.

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