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AirPods Max 2 could have this big design change

AirPods Max
(Image credit: Future)

The AirPods Max are a fantastic, albeit expensive, set of headphones, so it makes sense that Apple would have an upgraded pair in the works. But according to a new patent application (opens in new tab), the Airpods Max 2 may skip the digital crown controls in favor of touchpad gestures.

The patent application (spotted by Patently Apple (opens in new tab)) features a way to process gestures on a touch-sensitive surface. This means the AirPods Max 2 could end up with a feature already used by countless other headphones and earbuds, rather than a mechanical control mechanism.

The current iteration of the AirPods Max uses a similar digital crown to the one found on the Apple Watch. This dial can be used to adjust volume, control playback and summon Siri, as well as answering or ending calls.

The patent application doesn’t give us a great deal of information, other than the fact this hypothetical pair of headphones would have at least one touch-sensitive surface capable of registering gestures. But considering this is not an uncommon feature, especially among high-end headphones, it wouldn’t be farfetched to assume the digital crown would be completely replaced by gesture control.

patent diagram showing airpods max with touchpad and gesture control support

(Image credit: USPTO/Apple)

In fact, Apple had considered including a touchpad on the original AirPods Max, as revealed in an interview with Casa BRUTUS (opens in new tab). However, despite trialling the tech, Apple still went with the digital crown. It seems this was (at least in part) chosen for a combination of simplicity and to offer a tactile sensation when controlling the headphones.

The patent application is primarily focussed on touch controls, and doesn’t cover  anything beyond the touchpad mechanisms. So there’s no telling what else Apple may have in store for us when the AirPods Max 2 launch — whenever that may be.

This is, of course, assuming that the patent will actually be implemented in a future set of AirPods Max headphones. Simply having a patent doesn’t mean a company has plans to utilize it, and there’s no guarantee that we will get a touch-capable pair of AirPods Max in the near future.

Still, a patent application does mean there’s a chance. At the very least we hope that Apple offers support for high-quality audio, a proper power button, and a charging case that offers some actual protection. A lower price tag would also be nice to have, but that might be too much to ask for from a company like Apple. 

While we don't yet know much at all about the possible AirPods Max 2, we do have a wishlist of the One of the five upgrades we want to see in the AirPods Max 2. And, check out our AirPods Pro 2 hub for all the latest on that front. 

Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.