Apple looks to replace AirPods Max digital crown with touch controls

Apple looks to replace AirPods Max digital crown with touch controls
Apple supposedly is working on the AirPods Pro 2 for a release later this year. We could see a new stemless design along with sensors that will help you track your workouts. TF International's highly accurate analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects Apple to upgrade the H1 chip that is responsible for the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), audio reproduction, and also allows the AirPods Pro to pair quickly with other Apple devices.

A sequel to the over-ear AirPods Max could replace the digital crown with touch controls

The H1 debuted on the AirPods 2 replacing the W1 chip used with the OG AirPods. The H1 improved latency and added the "Hey Siri" feature allowing for the hands-free use of Siri. A further upgrade to a new chip for the AirPods Pro 2 should make the earbuds even more seamless when switching devices. A newer chip replacing the H1 might also be able to increase battery life on the AirPods Pro 2.

Right now, if you have spatial audio off and include power from the charging case, the AirPods 3 delivers roughly 30 hours of battery life vs. just 24 for the premium-priced AirPods Pro. That injustice is bound to get corrected with the release of the AirPods Pro 2.

Another premium AirPods device that Apple is reportedly working on is the over-ear AirPods Max 2. The headphones were released in December 2020 and priced at $549, they are the most expensive AirPods branded device available. For that price, you get some of the same features found on the AirPods Pro earbuds such as Active Noise Cancellation which allows you to eliminate ambient noise in the background.

Transparency mode is another feature shared by the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max. With this feature enabled, background noise can be heard even while streaming content or on a call. This mode is helpful when walking in a city where cars might be honking at you or police and ambulance sirens could be trying to signal you to get out of the way.

We briefly touched on what to expect for the AirPods Pro 2. What can we expect for the AirPods Max 2? Well, a patent that Apple received in 2019 for smart fabrics with touch sensor controls has technology that deliversthese controls for over-ear headphones. Two additional patents awarded to Apple in 2020 focused on providing users with touch gesture input on the outside of the ear cups.

But a new patent application filed by Apple and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (via Patently Apple) on Thursday shows how a future version of the AirPods Max (such as the AirPods Max 2) would replace the digital crown with a touch-sensitive surface. The patent application, filed on October 15th, is titled "Wireless Headphone Interaction."

Headphones rarely feature input capabilities

The patent notes that headphones usually have few if any, input capabilities. As a result, actions like raising the volume, changing the tracks, and pausing the audio are usually handled through the device that the headphones are plugged into.

As Apple notes in the patent application, "Some techniques for interacting with electronic audio devices such as wireless headphones, however, are generally cumbersome and inefficient. For example, some existing techniques use a complex and time-consuming user interface, which may include multiple key presses or keystrokes."

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Apple goes on to say, "Existing techniques require more time than necessary, wasting user time and device energy. This latter consideration is particularly important in battery-operated devices."

Currently, audio controls on the AirPods Max are adjusted by using a digital crown similar to the digital crown found on the Apple Watch. The digital crown on AirPods Max controls volume, skip between tracks, answer calls, and activates digital assistant Siri.

There is no guarantee that Apple will be awarded the patent. Even if it is, there is no promise that the technology laid out in the application will be used on the AirPods Max 2. Still, it makes sense to give users touch controls that might be easier to use to control their audio experience than using a digital crown.

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