Apple Didn’t Want to Confuse People With The AirPods Max — Tech YouTubers Did

Let’s talk about the Power modes in the $550 headset

AirPods Max — Source:

Apple’s new over-ear headphones did not have a smooth start. The company announced its newest addition to the Apple-branded wireless headphones, and the internet exploded. People and tech reviewers alike complained about the high price of the premium headphones.

The AirPods Max is expensive for sure, but it comes with a metal design and amazing features. With $550, it is clear that the headphones are not for everybody.

Apple now has three wireless headphones in its arsenal (without considering Beats’ headsets as part of Apple line-up):

  • The AirPods ($159),
  • The Airpods Pro ($249), and
  • The AirPod Max ($550).

The AirPods Pro and AirPods Max come with noise cancelation and spatial audio, a feature announced in mid-2020 for the AirPods Pro, and now the AirPods Max has this amazing feature too.

In an old-fashioned Apple standard, the Cupertino company aimed for a seamless user experience. The AirPods Max, like their predecessors, do not include a power button. Instead, the Headphones go into power-saving mode if not being used.

However, Apple did not bother to mention the different power-modes of the AirPods Max when they were announced on December 8th, 2020. They just showcased the headphones and the weirdly designed Smart Case. Apple only mentioned that the AirPods Max would go into an ultra-low power state whenever they are in the Smart Case.

“When stored in their soft, slim Smart Case, AirPods Max enter an ultra‑low‑power state that preserves charge.” — Apple

And the tech YouTubers took it from there and started releasing their “reviews” without understanding the different power modes for the AirPods Max. They only heard the above quote from Apple, and they assumed that this is the only power-saving mode in the AirPods Max.

The negative reviews regarding the lack of a power-saving mode and a power button pushed the Cupertino company to issue a press release last week to explain the different power-modes already included in the newest headphones.

The negative reviews

The reviews did not have an overall negative tone. But, the lack of a power button or allegedly the lack of power-saving mode outside of the Smart Case were seen as “bad design choices.” These aspects, combined with the high price tag and the lack of water and sweat resistance, made these headphones unpurchasable for most people.

The AirPods Max in the Smart Case — Source:

The reviewers made it feel like we need to carry the Smart Case everywhere with us if we want to turn the AirPods Max off. It came off as if Apple was this greedy company who designed the headphones this way so that people can’t use third-party cases for the AirPods Max — they only go into power-saving mode if they are put away in the Smart Case.

But, Apple's latest press release proved the reviewers wrong. However, the press release was a little bit too late.

The power modes

The confusion about the power saving mode in the AirPods Max came from Apple announcement when they released the new headphones:

AirPods Max come with a soft, slim Smart Case that puts AirPods Max in an ultralow power state that helps to preserve battery charge when not in use.

YouTube tech reviewers understood this as being the only case and opportunity to put the AirPods Max in this low power state. But last week, Apple said this:

If you set your ‌AirPods Max‌ down and leave them stationary for 5 minutes, they go into a low power mode to preserve battery charge. After 72 stationary hours out of the Smart Case, your ‌AirPods Max‌ go into a lower power mode that turns off Bluetooth and ‌Find My‌ to preserve battery charge further.

This means that resting the headphones on your shoulder for 5 minutes is enough for the AirPods Max to go into low power mode. The Smart Case is not necessary for the low power mode. But it goes even further:

If you put your AirPods Max in the Smart Case when you’re not using them, they go into a low power mode immediately to preserve battery charge. After 18 hours in the Smart Case, your AirPods Max go into an ultralow power mode that turns off Bluetooth and ‌Find My‌ and maximizes battery life.

Here we notice the smart design choices by Apple and the attention to users’ experience.

If you leave the AirPods Max somewhere outside of the Smart Case, the ultralow-power mode kicks in after 72 hours. But, if they are stored in the Smart Case, this ultralow-power mode will kick in after 18 hours. This means that the Find My feature will be active for 54 extra hours if the AirPods Max are outside of the Smart Case. Which is typically the state they will be in if you misplaced them somewhere.

Actually, these are brilliant choices done by the tech giant.

Why didn’t Apple mention this in their original release?

I have to agree with the tech YouTubers here. Apple's original announcement when they released the AirPods Max made it feel like you needed the Smart Case to activate the low power mode. A week later, Apple updated its support page for the AirPods Max to tell us the entire picture.

So, why did Apple do this?

I think Apple didn’t want to confuse the users by throwing a lot of numbers at them. More than 75% of all AirPods Max users will not really care about when and how the headphones go into power-saving mode. They typically care for the awesome design, amazing sound quality, and the seamless integration within the Apple Ecosystem — Or this is what Apple thought.

If there were no tech reviewers, Apple's original posts about the AirPods Max would have been sufficient, and everybody would have understood how to use them — mainly use them normally as the other AirPods on the market.

However, it is the job of tech reviewers to review new gadgets critically and to put them in improbable situations to test the manufacturers’ claims. In this case, however, tech YouTubers took Apple’s words exactly from their context and didn't bother to think further. They interpreted the lack of communication by Apple as a sign of bad design choices. Their videos pushed Apple to update its support page for the AirPods Max.

The aftermath

I’ve written before that tech YouTubers are changing and affecting the industry.

The situation with the AirPods Max is another example of bad reviews and lack of communication from tech manufacturers.

Apple, most probably, didn't want to throw different numbers at consumers. They wanted to keep it simple. They only mentioned low power mode with the Smart Case; because they wanted to show off their “amazing” Smart Case.

This is typical for Apple; they never mention the size of the new batteries in the iPhones; they only mention up to this many hours of battery life. This is the company’s policy; it is in no way disrespectful to the consumers. It is just easier to communicate.

However, moving forward, I think Apple will change their policies, and they will start publishing all the numbers on their support page just for tech enthusiasts to read and review. The release of the AirPods Max showed Apple exactly how tech YouTubers are living off the minor details. Tech YouTubers aren’t typical consumers, but they can affect the consumers’ behavior, and their reviews can even kill some products.

We will see how Apple will communicate the specs of their upcoming release. Rumors suggest new AirPods, AirTags, and new M1X Macs are already coming in the near future — Let’s wait and see.

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