One of the big things people have focused on with the new AirPods Max is it’s laughable ‘bra’ case. So much so that it’s taken most of the spotlight away from what is in fact a great product.
The conversation seems to be more focused on the price, the omission of an audio cable and the terrible case than the best-in-class Transparency mode, brilliant Active Noise Cancellation and superb sound quality with Computational Audio.
I believe the question of the price would have been less of an issue if Apple had included the audio cable in the box, and the case had anything in the way of complete protection. This is because when you focus just on the headphones, the superior quality of them is something to be admired, if not perfect.
Waterfield has already released a nice, complete coverage case. But at $99 it’s not cheap! So, wanting to find a simple, solid case that protects the AirPods Max, I went searching. What I found proves how weird the decision for the bra case was. (Yes, weird. I honestly don’t know how this made it out of the company. It’s just so terrible.)
The case I found was on eBay, cost £16, shipped from who knows where but provides solid protection for all of the AirPods Max, not just the ear-cups.
First, the essential part for me was having a rigid, outer shell, seeing as I’d mainly just be using it to transport the AirPods Max outside of my home rather than storing them when not in use. This case is perfect for that; a fabric covered, plastic outer that would easily stand up to heavy knocks, moulded to the shape of the AirPods Max. It’s also sealed shut with a good quality zip that pulls the two halves together firmly. What’s also fantastic is that the moulding is really close. This means that you’re barely adding any more size to the AirPods Max, something that Apple claimed was one of the key reasons for the case they included. Oh, and it’s got a nice carry handle.
Inside there is a soft lining that holds the AirPods Max in a flat position but separates the two aluminium ear-cups, so they aren’t clashing together. It’s a snug fit, so much so that when you open the case, you need to make sure that you open it from the top to keep the headband still.
The main downside is the lack of magnets that line up with the earcups' sides, putting the AirPods Max into full low power mode. These are present in the included case as well as the Waterfield case, but not here. This is not a significant concern as it turns out this doesn’t massively affect battery life. However, it would be nice to have. Maybe a DIY project for me in the future when I start travelling again...
Included in the case is a small mesh pouch for storing a charging cable and the audio jack, should you wish to. It’s basic, and the Velcro on the back is pretty terrible, but it serves it’s a purpose and wouldn’t move around once the case is closed.
that’s it. simple
To sum up: this a great case. It fully protects the AirPods Max, adds very minimal size to the product and even has a pouch for carrying cables. The only thing to fault it for is the lack of magnets for putting the AirPods Max into full low power mode. It's also maybe not the most stylish, aiming more for functionaility, but it's not bad. It's certainly, at least, much better than the Apple's 'Smart' Case.
But most of all, the main takeaway from this is it shows how bad and, ultimately, bizarre Apple’s choice of including the ‘bra’ case was. It doesn’t provide full protection; this case does. They claim the design choice was to add minimal bulk; this case doesn’t either. There’s the question of the additional cost of a full case; this case cost £16 and probably pennies to manufacture.
As someone who loves trying to break down Apple’s design decisions (why was it designed like this, how does it fit in with Apple’s aesthetic, what purpose does it serve, etc.) the ‘bra’ case is possibly the most fascinating thing they’ve ever done. Visually it’s terrible. The form factor doesn’t serve a purpose other than covering the ear-cups, which is strange when the most vulnerable area is the headband. The gaps at the bottom seem to serve no purpose whatsoever, and the gap for the charging cable doesn’t even line up. The ONLY thing it achieves is in using magnets to turn off the AirPods Max. Apparently, that qualifies it as a ‘Smart’ case.
It’s honestly bizarre. This case gives us a glimpse of what we could have had. Easily.