June 15 2021
When Apple released their AirPods Max headset last December, many complained they were way over priced. I can’t disagree, even though I did buy a pair with the help of some birthday and Christmas money. Now after 6 months, I have to say I have never regretted buying them. No, they aren’t as awesome sounding as high-end wired headphones like Sennheiser through a preamp, but for using with an iOS device or MacBook they are probably about as good as anything else could be. . They are also extremely convenient in a way probably 99% of sighted owners may never realize.
I was probably one of the last to the party of using BlueTooth headsets with their smartphones. Until October 2020 I was still using wired headsets at home, but was finally pushed to consider making the switch.
I’d used the first generation AirPods, and also the AirPods pro, but have never liked ear-bus. My ears don’t like anything in them at all, even if they aren’t playing any audio, and AirPods haven’t ever stayed in my ears very well, so buds aren’t much of an option for me.
One thing about BlueTooth headsets that has often annoyed me is that for any brand other than Apple, when you turn them on, you get a long message about that they’re booting up, connecting to a device, and battery level. If I tried to grab them in the middle of a phone call, I’d have to ask the other person to wait 10-15 seconds. and then there’s the annoyance of turning them off.
When I would take them off, if I didn’t also turn them off, they would continue to play VoiceOver through them for the next 5 minutes even if sitting on my desk.
This is where the super convenience of the AirPods Max come in.
First, all AirPods models just have a nice succinct connect sound when they turn on, and I never have to physically turn them on or off. If I take them off, VoiceOver immediately switches to the speaker in my phone. For a VoiceOver user this is a game changer, and makes switching between AirPods Max and an internal speaker extremely efficient for me.
Combine that with how quickly and easily one can put on or take off over-the-ear headphones rather than earbuds, makes the AirPods Max way more efficient than any other brand or model for Apple VoiceOver users.
I don’t include the AirPods or AirPods pro here, because having to put 1 or 2 AirPods in to your ears and also dealing with the case, takes several more seconds.
If I were sighted, it wouldn’t matter which brand or model I used, since I wouldn’t need VoiceOver to read the screen to me, I’d probably never even think about this situation. I’m very happy someone at Apple did though; even if it was a coincidence, it’s still really cool. Another instance where a small accessibility improvement makes a huge impact for the user.
And now for completeness, my brain imagines the person in the back of the class who would say “how do I know if the headset battery is low if it doesn’t tell me?’ I would totally agree that was a valid question and explain.
If you put the AirPods Max on and their battery dropped below 10% since the last time you used them, they would immediately play the low battery sound when you next put them back on; and if you then took them off and then put them back on again, they would not play the connect sound anymore. Subtle, but they do try to tell you that it is in fact time to plug them in.