Screens on AirPods cases seem a step closer – but is a direct line to Siri useful?

An Apple patent filing showing an AirPods case with screen
(Image credit: Apple / USPTO)

Apple is once again looking at ways to make your AirPods case do more than simply charge your AirPods (OK, alongside having a little speaker onboard that emits a noise to help you find it). 

You've heard of AirPods cases that can be worn like jewelry, now how about an AirPods case with a screen? It's the kind of smartwatch-esque touchscreen that might let you swipe to skip songs, click to hear voice messages (and hold to record your reply), check the weather, or alter the volume by making a swirling gesture with your finger on the case (one for the iPod Classic fans there).

If (like me) you like the idea, you could be in luck – Apple has just been granted a patent called "Devices, methods, and graphical user interfaces for interactions with a headphone case" detailing just that. 

Aside from noting the presence of a screen, the patent (first spotted by Apple Insider) also includes several images involving a hand around the case. These are labeled "squeeze to switch audio modes", which could suggest a user might squeeze the charging case (rather than their AirPods stems) to deploy various profiles – think spatial audio with head-tracking for movies, say. 

If Siri improves, a screen-toting AirPods case might actually be awesome 

An Apple patent showing a set of AirPods, a case with a screen and a hand squeezing the AirPods

Squeeze to switch audio profiles, eh?  (Image credit: Apple / USPTO)

It's important not to get too excited just yet; Apple files literally thousands of patent applications each year and only a fraction of the patents the tech behemoth is granted ever make it into the products we know and love. 

But even if Apple chooses to go ahead with smart screens on its AirPods cases (perhaps even for the as-yet-unannounced AirPods Pro 3 in 2025, maybe?), the Cupertino giant wouldn't be the first to release a screen-toting earbuds case. No, that mantle goes to the January 2023 issue JBL Tour Pro 2, which has now been tweaked, finessed, and made available at a lower price point, across JBL's three-strong 2024 earbuds rollout, including the splendid JBL Live Beam 3 I've been using for a little while now. 

That said, the functional benefits of the screen listed in Apple's patent do seem to exceed those currently offered by JBL (a direct line to Siri is one; accessing your messages is another; squeezing the case to switch audio profiles is yet another) and given Apple's strong reliance on ecosystem – think keeping its top-tier head-tracked Spatial Audio the sole preserve of your AirPods and your Apple device – Apple is admirably placed to make the most out of an AirPods case screen. 

Then again, access to Siri is only as good as, well, Siri… and we've made no secret of the fact that Siri is lagging way behind the class leaders in the virtual voice assistant stakes. As I said in April, when an Apple HomePod leak suggested a full touchscreen display model was coming, Apple's hardware in audio products is typically very good indeed – it's next-gen Siri we chiefly need. 

Then again, Apple's annual WWDC is fast approaching. If the rumored AI-enhanced Siri upgrades make an appearance at the revered conference as part of iOS 18, an AirPods screen upon which to harness and showcase them might be a fine thing indeed. 

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Becky Scarrott
Audio Editor

Becky became Audio Editor at TechRadar in 2024, but joined the team in 2022 as Senior Staff Writer, focusing on all things hi-fi. Before this, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.