Apple clears up how the power-saving modes for AirPods Max work

There isn’t an on/off switch on Apple’s $550 over-ear headphones. Instead, the AirPods Max switch between on and various stages of low-power mode to reduce the drain on battery when the headphones aren’t in use. And after plenty of head scratching, Apple has finally cleared the air on how those modes work.

Today, Apple released a dedicated support page for the AirPods Max, entitled, “How to charge your AirPods Max and learn about battery life“. The goal of the support document is to detail how to best manage the headphones’ battery life, while also getting plenty of listening time for good measure. The company notes that the only way to charge the AirPods Max is with the Lightning cable — so no wireless charging here.

But, the real point of the document is to talk about battery life and how those different stages of low-power mode work. The company says that the first stage of low-power mode is activated in two different ways: first, when you insert the AirPods Max into the specially designed Smart Case. And second, when you leave the AirPods Max stationary for five minutes. This will help preserve battery life.

However, the AirPods Max can go into an even lower-power mode, depending on the situation. For instance, if you leave your headphones alone (stationary) for 72 hours out of the Smart Case, they’ll turn off Find My and Bluetooth to help preserve battery life even more. And the headphones will enter this ultralow power mode if you leave them in the Smart Case for 18 hours or longer.

Here’s that again, but in bullet list, per Apple’s documentation:

  • If you set your AirPods Max down and leave them stationary for 5 minutes, they go into a low power mode to preserve battery charge. After 72 stationary hours out of the Smart Case, your AirPods Max go into a lower power mode that turns off Bluetooth and Find My to preserve battery charge further.
  • If you put your AirPods Max in the Smart Case when you’re not using them, they go into a low power mode immediately to preserve battery charge. After 18 hours in the Smart Case, your AirPods Max go into an ultralow power mode that turns off Bluetooth and Find My and maximizes battery life.

The timeframes are interesting, to be sure. However, the most noteworthy element of this is that the AirPods Max apparently don’t gain any real huge battery benefit if you stick them in the Smart Case for short durations of time. If you use your AirPods Max, then just set them down next to you when you’re not using them, it’ll enter that low power mode to preserve batter life after five minutes. Yes, it’ll enter the same state instantaneously if you put them in the Smart Case, but that shouldn’t have a huge negative impact on battery life overall if you don’t.

If you’ve picked up a pair of AirPods Max, how is the battery life for you so far?