If this rumored AirPods Max upgrade list is true, it’s a disaster

AirPods Max
Original AirPods Max (Image credit: Apple)

The AirPods Max are Apple's best headphones, but they're also falling behind the rest of the best headphones pack with rivals such as the Sony WH-1000XM5 boasting a host of the latest audio advancements – and now that discounting has begun they're considerably cheaper too. 

But a new report suggests that Apple's response to its ever-improving competition is lukewarm to say the least. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who has a pretty good track record on Apple product predictions, the 2024 AirPods Max upgrades will include the replacement of Lightning with USB-C and the addition of some new colors. 

And, er, that's it for the best AirPods, which were released in 2020 and that haven't seen an upgrade since – well, at least that's all that's rumored so far.    

What can we expect from the 2024 AirPods Max?

Not very much, by the looks of it. The H2 chip from the current AirPods Pro 2 is not expected to make it into the Max next year, and that means features including Adaptive Audio, Conversation Awareness and Personalized Volume will still be reserved to Apple's earbuds, which are an awful lot cheaper than the Max.

However, it's important to point out here that the Apple leak factory's quality control isn't brilliant. In recent weeks, we've had multiple conflicting reports saying that M3 Macs were coming or not coming or maybe only coming in laptops but maybe coming in iMac unless the iMac isn't coming until 2024, except we'll see a whole bunch of M3 Macs tonight at the Scary Fast Apple event.  

In other words, just because tipsters aren't hearing about a particular feature now doesn't mean it isn't happening. So, while the H2 might not be mentioned by any of the pundits' sources, that doesn't mean Apple isn't planning to put it into the AirPods Max. 

I hope that is the case, because while it's not an issue for me – I rarely travel and my commute is from my coffee maker to my computer – the improved ANC and ambient audio features of the AirPods Pro 2 are well worth having. And Apple's most expensive headphones should be a showcase for Apple's best tech rather than an exercise in seeing how much Apple can persuade people to pay. The Max are still excellent headphones, but rivals are just as good and in some respects better – and they're more affordable too.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.