Water-resistance, U1 chip, swappable bands are just a few things MIA from AirPods Max


Internal components of AirPods Max spaced out horizontally.
AirPods Max pack in plenty of impressive tech, but some stuff didn't make it.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s U1 chip, allowing for devices to more accurately connect to others nearby using ultra-wideband technology, is MIA in Apple’s pricey new $549 AirPods Max headphones.

The chip, which Apple introduced in 2019 with the iPhone 11, was rumored to show up in the AirPods Max. But according to a tweet by Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, Apple had to scrap a number of big features it planned to include in the high-end headphones it launched Tuesday.

Gurman doesn’t mention the U1 chip specifically. However, he notes that in order to get the AirPods Max “out the door,” Apple had to make a few compromises. These include ditching plans for swappable bands, using an Apple Watch-style Digital Crown instead of touch panels, and abandoning reversible left and right sides.

It’s also interesting to note that Apple makes no claims about water-resistance for the new headphones. So avoid going jogging in the rain in AirPods Max unless you have a whole lot of money to waste. (Water damage isn’t covered by Apple’s warranty at the best of times.)

Are these AirPods Max dealbreakers?

Are any of these omissions a dealbreaker in and of themselves? Not necessarily. If Apple included a U1 chip in the AirPods Max, it would seem logical that it would work like the U1 chip in the HomePod. That lets users do quick handoff between HomePod and another device in a single tap. (It could have been pretty handy for helping you find your expensive new headphones if you mislaid them, too.)

As for the other features, they would have been nice — although they’re not necessarily game-changers. As Apple did with the original HomePod, it seems that the AirPods Max are all about high-end sound quality in a premium package. Like the HomePod, the new over-the-ear headphones also features an impressive microphone array for spatial audio (and, in this case, voice calls.)

AirPods Max pack nine mics in total, with four on each cup, and an additional one for phone call voice clarity. While there’s no U1 chip, there is an H1 chip for Bluetooth, “Hey Siri” voice commands and more.

Watching to see if the headphones succeed should prove fascinating. The HomePod, which is Apple’s other primary product for audiophiles, got great reviews but didn’t sell in big numbers. However, Apple’s current AirPods are some of the company’s most popular products. Going by early orders, customers aren’t put off by the high prices of the AirPods Max. (Then again, early orders were great for the HomePod, too.)

Are you planning to buy AirPods Max? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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