Apple's AirPods Max, which are one of the best noise-canceling headphones you can buy, are a bit controversial. Not only is their $549 price tag very expensive — although you can buy them discounted on Amazon for significantly less (sometimes as low as $429) — but they also lack a dedicated power button. That's right, it's not that straightforward to turn them on and off.
How do AirPods Max work?
The AirPods Max automatically turn on — or "wake up" — when you place them on your head. When you take them off and leave them stationary for 5 minutes, they enter a low-power mode. This way the headphones can quickly turn back on if you start wearing them again.
The AirPods Max come with a not-so-protective case, called the Smart Case, and its main job is to help the headphones conserve battery life even better. When placed in their Smart Case, the AirPods Max enter an even lower-power mode that turns off Bluetooth and Find My. If not in the Smart Case, the AirPods Max will enter this same "extra" low-power mode after 72 hours of not be stationary.
As for what's the difference between the AirPods Max's three different power modes — on, low-power and lowest-power— as well as when each mode actually kicks in, it can be a little bit confusing. Here are some answers to the most pressing questions, as explained by Apple.
How long before they go into low-power mode?
Five minutes. When you just place the headphones down on a surface, like your desk, they'll go into a low power mode after being stationary for five minutes to preserve battery charge. This is the same low-power mode that the AirPods Max goes into if you place them into the Smart Case.
How long before they go into the lower-power hibernation mode?
After 72 hours stationary out of case, 18 hours in the case. This mode turns off Bluetooth and the Find My feature to preserve battery charge further. If you place the AirPods Max in their Smart Case, they'll enter this lowest-power mode after 18 hours.
It's still not exactly clear how much the AirPods Max's battery life will be extended from entering this lowest-power mode sooner, but the case gives you 54 extra hours of that hibernation time.
Why can't I just turn them off?
The always-on nature of the AirPods Max lets them quickly connect to devices and be located with Apple's Find My feature. So unless you're constantly running out of battery, it's probably not worth it to worry about its battery too much.
What do the different LED light colors mean?
When you press the AirPods Max's "noise-control button," its LED light will turn one of two colors: green or amber. Depending on if your headphones are plugged into power or not, those indicated lights mean different things.
When connected to power: If you press the noise-control button and the light turns green, that means the AirPods Max are almost fully charged (they are 95% or higher). If the light turns amber, then they currently hold a lower than 95% charge.
When not connected to power: If you press the noise-control button and the light turns green, this means that they currently hold more than a 15% charge. If the light turns amber, then they have a 15% (or less) charge and you probably want to think about charging them.
Can I force lower power modes without the case?
Yes, but it's a little messy as you need a pair of magnets. The magnets need to stay in contact with the headphones in order for this to work though, so if you don't want to use the case, you might want to make your own.