Apples AirPods Max launched two years ago today, but rumors of a successor remain thin on the ground, so what exactly can we expect from the AirPods Max 2?
After months of rumours, the AirPods Max started arriving at customers two years ago today, but the device now seems to be showing its age, with the second generation AirPods Pro adding a range of technological innovations that the AirPods Max are missingsuch as adaptive transparency, IPX4 rated sweat and water resistance, skin detection sensors and U1 chip for precision searching with find my.
While it seems likely that the next-gen AirPods Max will get many of the features above, there have been surprisingly few rumors about the device. In May 2021, Bloombergit is Marc Gurman said Apple was not actively working on second-generation AirPods Maxand speak previously of a color options refresh for the first generation seems to have decreased.
The most recent mention of a second-gen model was Gurman’s claim in October that the next version of the AirPods Max will be USB-C functionality and launch “by 2024”. Beyond that single feature, we don’t have any concrete rumors from reliable sources about what the new model might offer – but there is some evidence that might provide some interesting pointers as to what to expect.
In 2020, gurman said that the AirPods Max, which at the time was thought to be called “AirPods Studio”, had suffered from several development issues, such as headband issues being too tight, leading to multiple delays and reduced functionality. It seems plausible that after several more years of iterating on the aspects that didn’t make it into the first version of the device, the second-generation AirPods Max might introduce some of those initially discontinued features.
It was originally thought that the AirPods Max would offer unique customization with interchangeable headbands and ear cups, much like Apple Watch bands. In the midst of these developmental delays and problems, Bloomberg predicted that Apple would abandon the concept of a replaceable headband to speed up production.
Proof of this concept can be seen in the final design of the AirPods Max. Users can easily remove the headband from the AirPods Max without any disassembly of the helmet. To do this, users simply need to remove the magnetic ear cushions, fold the earbuds flat, and insert a SIM card ejector tool into a small hole above the speaker.
Once the earbuds are removed, the spokes on either side of the headband reveal a small Lightning-style connector to transfer power, and potentially data, between the earbuds. It’s possible that this headband removal system is a holdover from the original, more modular approach of the AirPods Max. The ear cups are magnetically removable and can easily be changed to a different color.
Additionally, the AirPods Max was thought to have left and right ear detection so users could reverse the orientation of the earbuds, as well as touchpads on the earbuds for controls. This appears to have been replaced by the Apple Watch Digital Crown in the final product.
Rumors also suggested that the AirPods Max would come in two varieties, including a more affordable sports-focused model. Leak Jon Prosser said several times that AirPods Max would come in a “sporty variant” for $350 and a “deluxe variant” for $599. While Prosser’s $599 price wasn’t far off the eventual retail price of $549 AirPods Max, the cheaper $350 “sport variant” has yet to emerge. Apple may still release this low-end version of the AirPods Max in the future.
Based on the information above, the second-generation AirPods Max might eventually offer some of these features:
AirPods Max 2 specifically rumored
- USB-C port instead of Lightning
- New color options
Rumored for the original AirPods Max but omitted
- Interchangeable headband for more visual customization options
- Automatic detection of left and right ears
- Touchpads on the ear cups for audio controls
- Sport-oriented model at a lower cost
AirPods Pro features that the AirPods Max could adopt
- H2 chips
- Up to twice the active noise cancellation
- Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity
- Adaptive Transparency
- Stimulating conversations
- Skin detection sensors
- U1 chip for precision finding with Find My
- IPX4 rated sweat and water resistance
- Improved battery life
- MagSafe loading
At least one new AirPods product has been released every year since 2019. To date, Apple appears to be waiting two and a half to three years to update each AirPods device, and since 2019 a different AirPods product line is updated every year. According to this model, AirPods Max should be the next AirPods device to get a refresh, possibly somewhere between June and November 2023.
- AirPods (first generation): September 2016
- AirPods (second generation): March 2019 (two years and six months after the previous generation)
- AirPods Pro (first generation): October 2019
- AirPods Max: December 2020
- AirPods (third generation): October 2021 (two years and six months after the previous generation)
- AirPods Pro (second generation): September 2022 (two years and 11 months after the previous generation)
- AirPods Max (second generation): June to November 2023?
Apple could, of course, wait even longer to update the device. Past launch dates don’t always indicate Apple’s future plans, but they can give insight into trends to expect from the company. There’s even a slim chance there won’t be an AirPods Max update plan, with the product potentially meeting the same fate as the HomePod. It’s just too early in the rumor cycle to tell at this time.