Apple's AirPods Max launched two years ago today, but rumors about a successor remain thin on the ground, so what exactly can we expect from AirPods Max 2?
After months of rumors, the AirPods Max began arriving with 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 lack, such as Adaptive Transparency, IPX4-rated sweat and water resistance, skin-detect sensors, and the U1 chip for Precision Finding with Find My.
While it seems likely that the next-generation AirPods Max will gain many of the above features, there have been surprisingly few rumors about the device. In May 2021, Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman said that Apple was not actively working on second-generation AirPods Max, and previous talk of a color options refresh for the first-generation seems to have diminished.
The most recent mention of a second-generation model was Gurman's claim in October that the next version of AirPods Max will feature USB-C and launch “by 2024.” Beyond this single feature, we do not have any concrete rumors from reliable sources about what the new model could offer – but there is some evidence that could provide some interesting indications about what to expect.
In 2020, Gurman said that the AirPods Max, thought at the time to be called “AirPods Studio,” had suffered from several development challenges, such as problems with the headband being too tight, leading to multiple delays and scaling back of functionality. It seems plausible that after several more years to iterate on the aspects that did not make it into the first version of the device, the second-generation AirPods Max could introduce some of these initially scrapped features.
It was originally believed that AirPods Max would offer unique customizability with interchangeable headbands and earcups, much like Apple Watch bands. Amid these delays and development issues, Bloomberg predicted that Apple would drop the concept of a replaceable headband to accelerate production.
Evidence of this concept can be seen in the final AirPods Max design. Users can easily remove the headband from AirPods Max without any disassembly of the headphones. To do this, users simply need to remove the magnetic ear cushions, fold the earcups flat, and insert a SIM card ejector tool into a small hole above the speaker.
Once the earcups are removed, the spokes on either side of the headband reveal a small Lightning-style connector for transferring power, and potentially data, between the earcups. It is possible that this system for removing the headband is a remnant of the original, more modular approach to AirPods Max. The earcups are magnetically removable and can easily be swapped out for a different color.
Moreover, it was believed that AirPods Max would have left and right ear detection so users could reverse the headphones' orientation, as well as touch pads on the earcups for controls. This appears to have been replaced by the Digital Crown from the Apple Watch in the final product.
Rumors also suggested that the AirPods Max would be available in two varieties, including a more affordable sports-oriented model. Leaker Jon Prosser repeatedly said that AirPods Max would come in a “sport-like variant” for $350 and a “luxury variant” for $599. While Prosser's $599 price tag was not far off the eventual $549 AirPods Max retail price, the cheaper $350 “sport variant” has yet to emerge. Apple could still launch this lower-end version of the AirPods Max some time in the future.
Based on the above information, the second-generation AirPods Max could conceivably offer some of these features:
Rumored for AirPods Max 2 Specifically
- USB-C port instead of Lightning
- New color options
Rumored for Original AirPods Max But Omitted
- Interchangeable headband for more visual customization options
- Automatic left and right ear detection
- Touch pads on the earcups for audio controls
- Lower-cost sports-oriented model
AirPods Pro Features That AirPods Max Could Adopt
- H2 chips
- Up to two times better Active Noise Cancellation
- Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity
- Adaptive Transparency
- Conversation Boost
- Skin-detect sensors
- U1 chip for Precision Finding with Find My
- IPX4-rated sweat and water resistance
- Improved battery life
- MagSafe charging
At least one new AirPods product has launched every year since 2019. To date, Apple seems to wait two and a half to three years to update each AirPods device and, since 2019, a different AirPods product line has been updated each year. According to this pattern, AirPods Max should be the next AirPods device to receive a refresh, perhaps somewhere between June and November 2023.
- AirPods (first-generation): September 2016
- AirPods (second-generation): March 2019 (two years and six months after previous generation)
- AirPods Pro (first-generation): October 2019
- AirPods Max: December 2020
- AirPods (third-generation): October 2021 (two years and six months after previous generation)
- AirPods Pro (second-generation): September 2022 (two years and 11 months after previous generation)
- AirPods Max (second-generation): June to November 2023?
Apple could, of course, wait even longer to update the device. Past launch dates do not always indicate Apple's future plans, but they can provide insights into the patterns to be expected from the company. There is even the slim chance that there are no plans to update the AirPods Max, with the product potentially meeting the same fate as the HomePod. It is simply too early in the rumor cycle to say at the current time.