Of course they didn’t. But I have a feeling they’ve been paying close attention to everyone else.

I am fascinated by Apple’s over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones. They’re such an odd product.

A beautiful, superb-sounding and meticulously designed product, but a really odd one.

So, what has Apple done recently to ‘save the day’ as one big tech publication put it?

The massive problem with AirPods Max

I recently published a six-month review of AirPods Max and answered the big question: would I buy them again if I knew back then what I know now?

If you can’t be bothered to read the review, I’ll save you some time: the answer was ‘no’.

AirPods Max are too expensive. It’s that simple. You can buy headphones that are just as capable for less than half the price. Sure, they won’t look quite as nice or be made from the same materials, but the value of that stuff is entirely subjective (as is the design itself).

The other downfall I cited was the battery performance. In use, it’s fine, but place AirPods Max into their stupid case, and you’re at the mercy of their standby time, which is just as stupid.

I had come to the conclusion that this was because you couldn’t turn the damn things off. No, really – for some unfathomable reason, Apple will not let you flick an ‘off’ switch to preserve battery life. You know, like you can on every other battery-powered device ever produced in the history of the universe.

Only, this doesn’t appear to be a problem anymore.

Firmware update saves the day

I completely missed this.

Back in March, AirPods Max received a firmware update. Known affectionately as ‘3C39’, it didn’t come with any release notes, but, then, AirPods Max firmware never does. It’s also installed automatically while the cans are on charge and placed near your iPhone, therefore you’ll never know the update has taken place – unless there appears to be a big improvement in performance.

That’s exactly what happened with 3C39. As seemingly confirmed during tests undertaken by 9to5Mac’s Guilherme Rambo, it looks like the new firmware has improved the AirPods Max standby time by quite a margin.

I can confirm this. It is noticeably better.

During my review, I noted that I had to charge AirPods Max far more regularly than my beloved Sony WH-1000XM4s. I put this down to the stand-by time, at which the XM4s beat AirPods Max into the ground. Mainly because you can turn them off.

It’s a different story now. Over the last few weeks, I’d started to notice that my AirPods Max weren’t as thirsty for a lightning cable as they once were. I even began to question the battery report on my iPhone.

Fifty-six per cent remaining? That can’t be right!

Alas, it is. I’ve just popped the AirPods Max on my head now, and the battery is sitting at 49%. I cannot remember the last time I charged them. This never used to happen before.

Reports suggest that the firmware update has changed how quickly AirPods Max enter their low power mode when placed into that stupid Smart Case. Previously, this was 18 hours (why?!), whereas now it’s apparently just 30 minutes. Clearly, this is one of the biggest reasons for the massive improvement in standby time.

The change in battery life should be a huge benefit to AirPods Max owners. I’d got to the point with mine where I fully expected to always find them in a near-death state, and that resulted in using them far less than anyone should, given their price.

They now feel like a proper pair of noise-cancelling headphones, without any form of daft limitations or convenience-sapping ‘features’. It no longer matters that you can’t turn them off, which I’m sure is what Apple was angling for right from the start.

Cheers, Tim.

So, would I buy them again now?


They’re still too expensive.