I recently had a fascinating chat with an audiophile about the AirPods Max. You can watch it here:
Although it didn’t make the final edit, we did begin our conversation talking about the case. Like most people.
Only, neither of us described it as suspiciously bra-like, or utterly pointless. We brushed over it a little, in that awkward yeah, I bought a pair of these headphones with the stupid case kinda way that AirPods Max owners do, but we didn’t berate it.
I’ve thought about this a little too much since that conversation, and I’ve decided that I need to come clean.
I’m starting to understand why the AirPods Max case exists.
Please don’t press the back button.
It’s all Ali Abdaal’s fault
For the uninitiated, Ali Abdaal is a YouTube star. He’s amassed over one million followers and offers advice on productivity, tech and how to make money online.
I think he’s great. We also appear to have rather similar tech tastes.
Ali regularly publishes ‘day in my life’ videos which peel back the curtain and reveal what he gets up to each day. In the most recent episode, he can be seen regularly using his AirPods Max.
That isn’t what caught my eye, though. No, it was the nonchalant, completely confident way in which he released them from their weird plastic case and placed it to one side.
When finished, he just as confidently picks up the case and slides his stupidly expensive Apple headphones back in.
It struck me: he’s using that stupid case and not the least bit embarrassed about it.
Ali is super-smart. What’s going on?
It’s all Apple’s fault, too
Whether it’s the way they marketed the case or how it’s positioned in product photography, I’m not sure, but ever since the AirPods Max hit the market, I’ve felt incredibly uncomfortable about its inclusion in the box.
In my initial impressions article, I even described the AirPods Max case as “biblically ridiculous”.
I also pointed to the countless memes, gifs and Reddit threads which were relentlessly taking the piss out of it.
I even made a video in which I berated and laughed at Apple’s plastic (or is it rubber – more on that later) case. It attracted a fair amount of commentary from all sides, but if I look back at my analysis of some of those comments, one stands out.
“It’s funny when people talk about apple’s design (air pods case). They always become the joke like air pods, air pods pro, iPhone and now ALL of those designs have become iconic and the norm”
Maybe this person has a point.
There are lots of things wrong with it
Before I embarrass myself, let’s address the flaws inherent within the AirPods Max case design.
Firstly, it feels cheap. The material used lies somewhere between Apple’s silicon iPhone cases and the outer side of their iPad keyboard covers. It’s genuinely unpleasant to touch; both slippery and somehow capable of leaving your hands feeling greasy after touching it.
It’s also a pretty terrible fit. The cut-out for the lightning port <sigh> looks like I created it with a pair of scissors, and the rest of the cut-outs leave the whole thing feeling flimsy and ill-fitting.
Much has been said about the inability for this case to protect the £550 headphones it’s tasked with covering, too. And I would never throw them into my bag with the same gay abandon I do the Sony XM4s while they’re in their hard case. This case doesn’t provide any form of protection for that sort of transportation.
However, perhaps the most frustrating thing about the AirPods Max case is that it doesn’t charge them.
Hear me out on this.
Just in case you weren’t aware, Apple doesn’t let you turn the AirPods Pro off. Instead, they suggest you slip them into the case and allow them to enter an ultra low-power state.
Every other pair of over-the-ear headphones I own can either be turned off or turn themselves off automatically after a period of time (or when folded). If Apple won’t let me turn my AirPods Max off, they should at least provide a case which charges them.
Every time I place mine in that case, I expect them to charge. And I fully appreciate the case would need a significant redesign (and additional bulk) to make that happen. But I’d be 100% fine with that.
I’m actually enjoying using it
Apple are sneaky so-and-sos. I’m not sure how they do it, but as that commenter on my video pointed out, their most iconic designs often begin life as the butt of everyone’s jokes.
Look at the AirPods. I remember referring to them as “ear bogies”. Now, they’re everywhere and relentlessly copied by the competition.
Whether other manufacturers follow Apple’s lead with this headphone case design, I’m not sure, but I’m starting to learn that there are elements of it which do make sense.
My headphones generally spend their lives either hanging from stands or nestled away within their respective cases. Given their price tags, I’m not a fan of simply leaving them lying naked on my desk. The thought of them getting scratched, dented or wet from tea spillage bothers me.
When I’m finished using the AirPods Max, I slip them into their case. And here’s the confession: the process of doing so is actually quite enjoyable; therapeutic, even. It also enables me to simply place them haphazardly on the desk without any of the aforementioned worries (and, trust me, these cans would scratch up if you looked at them for too long).
I even find myself carrying the AirPods Max around the house, case attached, like the handbag so many people have compared them to. I’ve not felt stupid once.
Although, maybe that’s because no one bar my dog and girlfriend are there to witness this, in fairness.
In a certain setting, the AirPods Max case actually makes sense. I will probably never take these headphones out to coffee shops or while dog walking. For me – and, I suspect, Ali Abdaal – they’re resolutely home headphones. Therefore, the case’s inability to protect them from the contents of my backpack is irrelevant, as is any embarrassment caused by onlookers.
At home, the case provides genuine function, and because of Apple’s ludicrous decision to not allow us to turn the cans off, it does ensure they last longer between charges.
This has felt like a bit of a confession, which in itself, says an awful lot about the AirPods Max case; I never feel like I have to confess about my love for the Sony XM4’s carry case, after all.
Apple – you are one very strange beast.