Apple released its excellent over-ear headphones, AirPods Max, in December 2020. A new report claims that an updated pair is on its way. Here’s what we know and what’s likely to happen. Spoiler: I think the new report is right on the money.
The iOS evidence
Omar Moharram at Supercharged says that an AirPods Max refresh could be imminent. This makes sense to me because in the last few days, Apple released a beta version of iPhone software, iOS 16.4, which mentioned two intriguing details in the code—and it’s not just AirPods Max.
The essence of the iOS reveal is that two new model numbers appeared, one for headphones, one for an AirPods case. Normally, Apple has two model numbers for AIrPods, one for the left earbud, one for the right. So, how come there’s only one number here, A3048? Well, AirPods Max only have one number because, of course, the two earpieces are in one unit, and there’s no charging case. As I said last week, I think that makes AirPods Max the shoo-in favorite. But there’s more.
Apple is genius when it comes to managing stock levels. When a product availability is slipping from available now to a couple of weeks away, it usually indicates something is changing.
Supercharged points out that stock availability for AirPods Max on its U.S. online store shows a wait of two to three weeks. Similarly, if you choose to pick up in store, the Space Gray and blue models are out of stock in some Apple Store locations, for instance.
So, what’s happening?
Apple is slowly moving many of its products from Lightning connectors to USB-C. It’s expected that the iPhone 15 will be the first iPhone to switch, later this year. But the remote for the Apple TV 4K now uses USB-C, for a start, as well as all Mac laptops and all iPads except the ninth-generation iPad.
A move to swap the Lightning socket for USB-C makes complete sense, and I’m sure this is what’s happening here for AirPods Max.
Well, there could be new colors to coincide with the newer model. I’d bet that the Space Gray and Silver versions in the current range will continue, though it’s possible that some of the other colors may be refreshed.
What about the chip?
Glad you asked. AirPods second-generation, AirPods third-generation and AirPods Max all use the H1 processor, whereas the AirPods Pro second-generation has the newer H2 chip, and this contributes to improved audio and noise-cancellation.
AirPods Max are the most expensive AirPods, by some distance, so maybe this change will be the moment AirPods Max will switch to H2 as well. This is possible, but don’t hold your breath. First, Apple will only include the new chip if it feels it improves the performance in some way. Second, if it decides that switching the chip requires a deeper design change, it may stick with H1.
Whether the chip changes or not will determine whether the new headphones continue to be called AirPods Max or AirPods Max second generation.
If the rumors are right, we’ll find out in the coming days or weeks.