The Apple AirPods Max might be dizzyingly expensive at $549 / £549 / AU$899, but when we reviewed Apple's new over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones we did feel they brought fantastic audio performance into a stylish, comfortable design. But, price tag aside, there's one big, weird-shaped problem with the AirPods Max: the Smart Case that comes with them.
When the Apple AirPods Max were first announced the accompanying Smart Case was panned on Twitter, with many saying it looked a bit like a handbag, bra or just plain useless because the most vulnerable bit of the headphones (the band) sticks out. This is unlike many of the other best headphones on the market, which come with durable cases that headphones fold up into for maximum protection.
However, despite its looks, the case is able to put the headphones in an 'ultralow-power state', preserving the battery while the headphones aren't in use. We can only speculate, but it seems as if Apple favored these battery conserving benefits over anything else. When in actual fact there's a lot more it should do – namely protecting your eye-wateringly expensive pair of headphones and enable you to carry them.
This is why it's no surprise that a third-party case option has already been created by tech accessory company Waterfield Designs. Called the AirPods Max Shield Case ($99), it's a simple and streamlined case with a leather exterior and plush interior to keep your headphones safe from scratches. That means this case is already way better than Apple's offering. What's more, it has a built-in feature that also triggers a low-power mode, just like the Smart Case does.
This makes the huge investment in the new Apple AirPods Max feel a little more justified – there's now a better way to protect those pricey cans. Although it might also make you feel a little more cheated too – for that price, shouldn't the case have covered all bases?
It'd be safe to assume that more alternatives to the Smart Case will be on the way from other brands, so if you're patiently waiting for your Apple AirPods Max to arrive in 2021, it's worth keeping your eyes peeled for a case to keep them safe in the meantime. But act fast, the waiting list for the case from Waterfield Designs is already as long as the wait for the headphones themselves.
- The battle of the best over-ear headphones: Apple AirPods Max vs Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
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Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.