It’s safe to assume that Apple is going to release a second version of its excellent AirPods Max wireless headphones at some point, but we’re hoping that the company will include a better carrying case the second time around. Our prayers might be answered, as a new patent awarded to Apple may provide a sneak peek at an improved design.
Some things in life are a given. If you order a soft drink, you’re going to get a straw, if you buy a new car, it’s going to be delivered with four tires, and if you buy an expensive pair of wireless headphones, the company’s going to include a carrying case that protects your investment when it’s not perched atop your head. But when Apple revealed its $550 AirPods Max over-ear wireless headphones back in 2020, many were disappointed and/or confused by its included Smart Case.
The case puts the AirPods Max into a low-power sleep mode when inserted (the headphones can’t actually be turned off) but provide minimal protection. Yep, the entire headband and parts of each ear cup are exposed while inside. The Smart Case has been described as a bra and a purse, and feels like Apple re-designing and over-engineering something that really didn’t need it. The cases that companies like Sony include with their wireless headphones are boring but functional, and that’s all they need to be.
In recent years, in a post-Jony Ive Apple, the company has started to step back from some of its more controversial, problematic, and questionably useful design decisions. Its infamous butterfly laptop keyboards are long gone, supposed innovations like the Touch Bar are slowly disappearing, and beloved features like MagSafe power plugs are returning. Could the AirPods Max case be next?
As spotted by Patently Apple, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple a new patent yesterday for “Enclosures with flexible magnetic closures and clasps.” The patent describes a fully-enclosed case with a seam that’s held shut through the use of “flexible magnetic members,” which more or less means that the case will remain securely shut when closed without the need for a zipper.
Apple has long been a big fan of magnets, using them to secure the covers on iPhone and iPad cases and for MagSafe: a safe and convenient way to connect Apple’s smartphones and laptops to charging cables. The original AirPods Max Smart Case also leverages magnets to put the headphones into its sleep mode, but hopefully when the next version is released, the next Smart Case will do much more than that.