AirPods Max case and battery. How does it work? Do you need the case?

You don't need to carry that AirPods Max case everywhere
So, the AirPods Max hit the market with mixed opinions. One of the most controversial features of Apple’s new set of cans is the AirPods Max Smart Case.

People have two issues with it. One, the way it looks and functions — it’s not really a case, it’s basically just a wrap for the earcups, which doesn’t even provide that much protection.

Secondly, there’s the whole “The AirPods Max are never really off” thing.

See, the AirPods Max don’t have an on/off switch. In order to turn them into a low-power state, you actually need to insert them into the aforementioned case. Which creates a bit of a carfuffle — “Do I need to put the AirPods Max back into the case every time I take them off?”.

Some people around the Web insist that the AirPods Max will drain battery if left just lying about, without the case. Apple came out and said “No worries, the AirPods Max go into a power-saving standby mode instead”.

So, what’s true?

Do the AirPods Max drain battery if left outside the case?

I went to specifically test this over the past weekend. The AirPods Max were left outside of their case for the two days and I tried to put my finger on exactly how the low-power mode works. So, here goes.

Once you take the AirPods Max off and set them down, your iDevices will immediately recognize that you are not wearing them anymore, so any sound will be played through the specific device’s speaker. After about 5 minutes, the AirPods Max go into a low-power mode — I can’t really say what that means, since they still do stay connected to the iDevices and keep transmitting information such as current battery level.

When you pick up the AirPods Max to put them on, their tiny connectivity LED on the bottom will blink green to let you know that they’ve been “woken up”.

So yes, they respond to movement, but the movement needs to be really deliberate — they don’t seem to wake up by small rocking motions. I actually had them hanging on my gaming chair during a few-hour session (don’t judge me, OK?) and they didn’t seem to wake up from all the chair rocking.

How do I know? Well, they stayed at 100% all the way from 7 PM until 1 AM (Hey, what did I say about that judging me thing?).

So, the next day, I just left them to lay around while out and about doing my thing. At 7 PM on the second day, the AirPods Max were down to 95% battery.

That’s a 5% battery loss in 24 hours of staying outside of their case. With that said, let’s bring it all in:

Do you need the AirPods Max case?

Yes, you do. But you don’t need to worry about it during your busy day. You can freely pick up and set down your AirPods Max during the day without worrying about battery drain. Only when you are completely done with them (like in the evening) should you wrap them in their diaper case and let them rest.

This seems like how Apple actually intended them to be used. Here’s a breakdown of the information from the Apple support page on the AirPods Max:

When you put the AirPods Max in the Smart Case

  • They go into low power mode immediately
  • They go into ultralow power mode after 18 hours

When you leave the AirPods Max resting outside

  • They go into low power mode after 5 minutes
  • They go into ultralow power mode after 72 hours

Translated — there isn’t much difference whether you put them in the case or not. Low power mode will come eventually. You can leave the "case" at home and go to the office with the headphones. You don't need to micro-manage them and have them in the case absolutely every time they are off your head.

And yes, there’s no way to turn the AirPods Max completely “off” — at least not in the conventional way that we know and love. Basically, the AirPods Max are “off” when they hit that ultralow power mode — it turns Bluetooth and Find My off. So, technically, that’s when there should be nothing draining the battery.

Why don’t the AirPods Max have a power button?

Well… that’s the Apple Way. “Everything just works” is the age-old mantra. If Apple can do away with a power button on a device, it will. And, I do have to say, it’s kind of nice to always be able to just put on the AirPods Max and have them immediately pick up the sound from your device.

Having a bit of extra battery drain on them when not in use is not as nice. But, eh… c’est la vie.

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