When Apple pushes a product onto the market, especially something that is their kind of first attempt at, they usually bring out something that is difficult to compare to the other players. They don’t just make clones of the other products, they tend to just make something that’s slightly different and they tend to focus on characteristics and features that other people aren’t, and in this case they focused well.
AirPods Max do not look like your standard pair of headphones; they just don’t. They’re very Apple like and when you look at them, you compare them to other popular active noise cancellation headphones. AirPods Max just look distinctly different, and then you combo that with different colored, ear cups and the ability to customize the different colors of ear cushions, they are just built differently. This is a completely different type of headphone look compared to everything else on the market. Now that doesn’t make it worth 550 dollars?
If you love Apple products like I do, you’ll agree that product releases are like your own mini Super Bowl. The pomp and circumstance that accompanies each new entry in the ecosystem can be magical. From the production value of the release films to the whirlwind of influencer opinions, every release manages to be special in its own unique way. Unfortunately, something feels different about AirPods Max. Consequently, I don’t see myself being interested in these toys anytime soon.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been waiting on Apple headphones for some time now. As an avid AirPods Pro user, I was genuinely interested in seeing what The Cupertino-based company could do with a larger form factor. All of that interest was lost, however, when I saw a price tag of $549. Though the price isn’t the only reason that AirPods Max lost me, we can start there.
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$549 absolutely feels like a blatant attempt to grab as much cash from their loyal fan base as possible. Feeling very reminiscent of the original HomePod, the cost of the product just doesn’t seem to offer much benefit in return. At the time, HomePod couldn’t really do anything that Alexa and Google Home weren’t already doing. Actually, HomePod arguably did them worse at a higher cost. Likewise, AirPods Max doesn’t seem to offer much more than the AirPods Pro other than being able to sit on top of the ear rather than in it. They also don’t offer much more than the other outstanding choices in the already saturated over-ear audio market. I do realize that the Pro’s were $249 at their time of release, but even that didn’t seem as outrageous because of the increased capabilities compared to the original AirPods. I also realize that AirPods Max will offer Spatial Audio unlike the rest of their over-ear competitors, but even the newest over-ear options in the Beats by Dre lineup have the ever sought after Apple integration. I’m sure there are people out there who see the value for the price, but I would be willing to bet that most people will look at these and pass. Personally, I fall into the second category.
Do They Even Care?
It’s also safe to say this is a product release that Apple doesn’t actually care about. Yes, they have the typical high production value release video, the carefully thought out product page on their website, and the influencer reviews to boot. However, one would think that if they expected this to be the next big entry in their product lineup, Apple would have at least given it a few minutes of stage time during their One More Thing keynote. Heck, even the $700 Mac Pro Wheels made an appearance in the background a few times. It all just makes the AirPods Max release… uninspiring.
We won’t even start on the design of the carrying “case”
Faulty Release Strategy
I know I’m probably being more pessimistic than I should, but it’s disappointing from a company like Apple. The AirPods lineup has become something of a household name in previous years. In part, that is because they released the original AirPods with many awe-inspiring features at a somewhat affordable price. They followed it with an even better product at an understandable price hike. If they wanted to create a similar buzz in the over-ear market, they should have released an initial set that was closer to $399. Then, after creating a fan base, they could have released a premium set at $549 or even $600 at that point.
Instead, they opted for the method of the HomePod. Release a high-end product that not many people will buy because it doesn’t offer much more than what is already available. Then, they will probably release a more affordable unit, like HomePod Mini, that more people will purchase. I do see the HomePod mini being substantially more successful than its older brother, but don’t you think it would have done better if it was the one released first? Would HomePod be more successful if it came out after Mini created a dedicated fan base? Likewise, do you think Apple would have done better if they released a more affordable over-ear headset before offering a top of the line unit?
Maybe I’m off base here, but I trust that the AirPods/AirPods Pro releases should have set a precedent moving forward. Please feel free to combat my opinion on this one. I’m genuinely interested in knowing what others in the Apple community think on the matter. Regardless, thank you for taking the time to read this article!