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Apple has allegedly started to roll out a tool to Apple Stores that can perform an initial test on AirPods before being fully serviced, one that can determine if a loss of sound quality is a genuine fault or caused by dirt buildup.
A common problem endured by users of personal audio devices is a loss of sound quality or volume over time. While it is possible that the hardware has developed a fault, there's also the chance that the earphones could be affected by dirt blocking the airway, which could feasibly be rectified with a clean.
In a tweet by serial leaker "@choco_bit" on Twitter, Apple is said to be providing a new audio testing tool for AirPods that will quickly work out whether the issue is related to too much gunk in the accessories or a real fault. The tool takes the form of a tray that's slightly larger than an iPhone, and designed to seat an iPhone supplied by the store.
Apple is rolling out a proper audio test tool for AirPods 1 and 2. New phone holder with AirPod attachments pointing AirPods at phones mic. No more guessing if it's a gunked up disgusting AirPod or customers bad hearing. Works similar to existing iPhone Audio test in principle pic.twitter.com/AKiSILH9AK— Fudge (@choco_bit) October 22, 2020
To the base of the tray is a section positioned near where the microphone of the iPhone is located, designed to seat the AirPods in a specific way, pointing the speakers at the microphone. A test sound is played through the AirPods and is picked up by the nearby iPhone microphone, which can then determine the likely cause of sound problems.
The Twitter post claims the tray works similar to the "existing iPhone Audio test in principle," and can be used with both AirPods and AirPods Pro.
While the tool seems simply constructed with a possibly 3D-printed AirPods holder, it seems quite plausible for it to be genuinely used to detect faults. As a non-consumer diagnostic tool, it doesn't matter how it appears or is constructed, while the relatively low production number makes it a considerable candidate for making a repair tool using a 3D printer.
The Twitter account also has a good track record with regards to Apple rumors and leaks, further suggesting the tool is real.