The AirPods Max are the height of Bluetooth headphone luxury, made from stainless steel and offering incredible audio performance, but despite the on-board smarts and premium capabilities, there’s a missing feature available on practically every piece of powered tech around right now: the humble power button.
Reading that, it sounds odd, but examine the AirPods Max and you’ll realise that I’m telling the truth. You’ve got buttons to change noise cancellation modes and an XL digital crown to control media playback or summon Siri, but there’s nothing to turn the headphones off when you’re done.
Apple says that the AirPods Max are smart – so smart, in fact, that the high-end cans intuitively know when they’re not needed and power down automatically – but the reality is much more frustrating.
Per Apple’s support page, which outlines the charging and battery of the AirPods Max, the headphones will go into a low-power mode when placed on a surface – completely stationary – after 5 minutes.
The problem is that even when in low-power mode, functions like Find My and Bluetooth connectivity continue to operate (how else do you explain the incredibly fast auto-connect), and that means the battery will continue to drain when not in use.
Besides, it means that you can’t simply turn your AirPods Max off and let them rest around your neck when you’re on your travels. The cans will stay on and connected because movement is being detected.
Apple’s solution to this isn't allowing the noise control button to also function as a power button, oh no. It's the not-so-elegant Smart Case that has been compared to a handbag, a bra, a pair of sunglasses and much more on Twitter. The oddly designed case automatically puts your headphones into low power mode when inside, meaning you need to carry the case with you everywhere just to be able to turn the headphones off, and that seems more like a catch than a well-thought-out feature.
The worst part is that, like when left stationary on a table, the Smart Case only puts the AirPods Max into a low power mode with Bluetooth and Find My still functional, and it’ll remain that way for a whopping 18 hours before finally shutting down to maximise battery life.
It means that the battery is constantly draining, and I’ve had several occasions where I’ve tried to listen to music with my AirPods Max and found they’ve been completely dead, despite having charge the previous day. It’s easily one of the biggest pain points of the AirPods Max, and to be honest, it could’ve all been avoided by just including a power button.
Apple is one of very few companies with the brand recognition to be able to tell people that have spent £549/$549 on a pair of high-end headphones that they are the ones that know when you do and don’t want to listen to music, especially when the execution is flawed, and yet, people still love the headphones. What’s next, an always-on MacBook Pro without a power button?
Include smart standby functionality by all means – the AirPods Max offer instant connectivity and can be found via Find My, a valuable resource for such high-end cans – but I want the choice between performance and maxing out the battery life.
Please Apple, don’t take away my power button.