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AirPods Max may cost $549 — but it's missing a key feature

Airpods Max
(Image credit: Apple)

After what seems like a lifetime of rumors and leaks, Apple has finally announced the new AirPods Max — the first over-ear headphones to bear the AirPods name. They also have an eye-watering $549 price tag.

For that price you’d expect the very best of Apple’s audio technology, but that might not be the case. Despite rumors to the contrary, the AirPods Max doesn’t come with Apple’s U1 chip.

For those that don’t know, the U1 chip is designed for precise positioning of the Ultra Wideband radio. That means devices with the chip can detect their exact position relative to each other in the same room. 

It also has a number of uses including quick handoff between the HomePod mini and iPhones, faster AirDrop sharing, and the ability to unlock a car while your iPhone is still in your pocket.

In the AirPods Max, the U1 chip could have been used to work out how the headphones are being worn, so it would know which side is left or right without needing separate drivers. It would also have been able to connect to the upcoming AirTags, which would help you locate the AirPods Max if they ever went missing.

And if there's one thing you'd think you would want to find in a hurry, it would be a pair of $550 headphones.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and it looks like the AirPods Max have the same H1 chip as the AirPods Pro. That isn’t such a bad thing, since H1 enables important features like the instant connection with iPhones and Hey Siri support. In fact, there are two H1 chips inside the AirPods Max, which are designed to help deliver pristine audio quality and power everything from the adaptive EQ and active noise cancelling to spatial audio.

There are also plenty of other great features, including sensors that tell whether they’re being worn (and pausing playback when they’re not), and dynamic head tracking for improved spatial audio.

So while this isn’t a major loss, it is a shame that Apple doesn’t have its latest and greatest tech in the AirPods Max given the price tag. 

Tom Pritchard

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.