The Apple AirPods Max have two curious quirks: their ugly Smart Case, and the fact that they can never truly be switched off.
The closest you can get a low power mode activated by slipping the headphones into the Smart Case, but enterprising YouTubers Emergent Technology (opens in new tab) have found a way to recreate the effect using common magnets.
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Basically, low power mode is engaged when magnetic sensors within the AirPods Max come close the magnets fitted inside the Smart Case – move the headphones away from the magnets, and they power on fully. Emergent Technology’s hack simply involves sticking a pair of small fridge magnets onto the earcups where the sensors are positioned, tricking the headphones into thinking they’re snug inside the case and switching them to low power mode.
Obviously the easiest thing would just be to let the AirPods Max turn on and off like any other pair of headphones, but Apple apparently wants them always-on to cut down the time it takes to connect them wirelessly to a source device. Saving battery by leaving them in the Smart Case isn’t the perfect solution either, because frankly, it looks dreadful and doesn’t protect the AirPods Max beyond the earcups.
Is having to carry around a set of little magnets any more convenient? Not particularly, though knowing how exactly the ‘Smart’ part of the Smart Case work could potentially lead to some better solutions, especially when the underlying system is relatively low-tech.
Either way, at least the AirPods Max offer up to 20 hours of playback with noise cancellation, so you shouldn’t have to recharge too often anyway. We’ll have our full review soon to see if they can make it into the best wireless headphones of 2020.