After some initial confusion around how the AirPods Max handle power management, Apple has tried to clarify the issue with an updated support page outlining how and when its new $550 headphones automatically conserve battery life.
Originally, the company said that “when stored in their soft, slim smart case, AirPods Max enter an ultra‑low‑power state that preserves charge.” But there was uncertainty about what happens when they’re left outside the case. In my review, I found that the headphones lost only a few battery percentage points when left out overnight with no case — nothing close to a worrying level of drain. But not everyone had that experience; Marques Brownlee observed a greater amount of battery loss when the AirPods Max were idle.
According to Apple, the AirPods Max enter a “low power mode” when removed from your head and left stationary for five minutes outside of the case. If they’re left in that state for 72 hours, they go into a lower power mode that switches off Bluetooth and features like Apple’s Find My location tracking. This, essentially, sounds like when they actually turn “off.”
But somewhat surprisingly, the smart case doesn’t immediately trigger this deeper sleep mode as quickly as I would’ve thought. Inserting the AirPods Max into the case puts them into that lighter low power mode right away. But it takes 18 hours of the headphones being in the smart case for them to enter the ultra-low power mode. When the case is factored in, Apple never mentions that the headphones have to be “stationary” to enter these modes. But the fact that it takes almost an entire 24 hours for the AirPods Max to hit that point where they maximize battery — even in the case — is a bit surprising to me.
Clearly, the company is prioritizing quick device reconnections and convenience over eking every last bit of battery out of the AirPods Max. One big question is what happens if the headphones are left worn around your neck when removed; since they’re not stationary in that scenario, my guess is that they remain fully active until taken off and put on a table or stand. It’s possible that Apple could adjust these default behaviors through firmware updates, but for now, this is how the AirPods Max work.
Even if I’ve seen minimal battery drain, and just as I say in our video review, I still wish they had a power button. For simplicity’s sake.