My Favorite AirPods Max Feature Please Don’t Be Deleted by Apple

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Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo – According to a recently discovered patent, the Digital Crown is running out of time. If you’ll excuse me while I don some noise-canceling headphones, a new rumor says that Apple may be planning to eliminate one of the finest features of the AirPods Max.

Over-ear headphones from Apple are too pricey for most people (consider Bose or Sony instead), but they do have some unique features not seen in other sets. With the Digital Crown, you can change volume and playback settings using a dial inspired by the Apple Watch. It turns effortlessly, provides tactile input for finer adjustments, and looks great doing it.

That’s why Patently Apple has discovered a patent that shows how touch-sensitive surfaces may be used to manage an AirPods Max-like set of headphones. Touch controls on fabric and gesture inputs on headphone earcups have previously been given patents by Apple, which is likely to be used in subsequent HomePods.

There is no doubt that this new filing mentions “processing motions on a touch-sensitive surface” of what could only be over-ear AirPods. Sensors, CPUs, and memory would all work together to recognize and perform movements, according to a patent that explains how it would function. This isn’t much of a surprise given the prevalence of touch controls on other Bluetooth headphones like Apple’s own AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro.

While the Digital Crown may be replaced with touch controls, this patent just serves as a hint that Apple may do so. Ideally, this patent application will be one of the many that are submitted, raise a few eyebrows, and then go unnoticed.

One of the nicest features of the AirPods Max is the Digital Crown, which is not found on any other model. You may use the dial on top of one of the earcups to adjust the volume, or you can push it for playback functions like pausing or skipping tracks, as well as to summon Siri. Instead, touch controls featured on many modern headphones function well once you get the hang of them, although even these trustworthy implementations sometimes register incorrect inputs and misunderstand swipes. In addition, trying touch motions in subzero temperatures is a waste of time.

Apple may remove the Digital Crown if it lowers the price by a significant margin (though the company should lower the price regardless). These headphones are among of the priciest on the market, excluding those made by premium businesses that produce audiophile-grade equipment, at $549 each. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo anticipated that Apple’s newest product, the iPhone XS Max, would provide a “limited aid” to the company’s audio lineup in 2021, with sales of “approximately 1 million units.” However, on an Apple scale, that’s just approximately 1% of all AirPods sold.

Adding touch controls would be great if it meant a significant reduction in price, but taking away the Digital Crown would deprive the AirPods Max of a really distinctive feature‚ÄĒsomething these cans sorely need to justify their exorbitant price tag.