In a future AirPods Max update, Apple could introduce touch controls to replace the Digital Crown

A new patent granted to Apple by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office this month, reveals that the tech giant is still working on introducing touch control capabilities for AirPods Max to replace the currently used Digital Crown. 

Apple launched its first over-the-head Bluetooth headphones “AirPods Max” in 2020. Available in five color options, the headphones have a beautiful sleek design with (matching) mesh headband and aluminum ear cups and offer features like Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive EQ, Transparency Mode, and spatial audio. To control the volume, play or pause music, use Siri, change tracks or answer calls, AirPods Max is equipped with a Digital Crown. 

Pink AirPods Max

AirPods Max could be equipped with touch sensors to detect gestures 

Titled “Wireless Headphone Interactions”, the filing explains a new method to control audio on wireless headphones via the touch-sensitive surface of the ear cups. The sensors will be programmed to detect specific gestures to perform different operations like play, or pause audio. 

A method includes: at an electronic device including at least a first touch-sensitive surface: detecting, at the at least a first touch-sensitive surface, a first gesture, including detecting an orientation of the first gesture with respect to the touch-sensitive surface; and in response to detecting the first gesture: in accordance with a determination that the electronic device is in a first device orientation and that the orientation of the first gesture corresponds to a first predetermined orientation, performing a first action.

A non-transitory computer-readable storage medium stores one or more programs configured to be executed by one or more processors of an electronic device with at least a first touch-sensitive surface, the one or more programs including instructions for: detecting, at the at least a first touch-sensitive surface, a first gesture, including detecting an orientation of the first gesture with respect to the touch-sensitive surface;

AirPods Max

According to Patently Apple, the tech giant has been exploring the touch control feature for AirPods Max since 2019. 

In July 2019 Apple was granted a patent for smart fabrics with touch sensor controls for over ear headphones. Apple won two additional patents relating to their future over ear headphones in 2020 focused on providing touch gesture input on the exterior of the earcups (01 and 02) to control volume and more. One of the 2020 patent figures is presented below.

Next-generation AirPods Max are not listed in the 2022 new products lineup, that is why there is no information on its next-generation model. But it can be assumed, in the future, Apple might upgrade the wireless headphones with touch control features. 

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Addicted to social media and in love with iPhone, started blogging as a hobby. And now it's my passion for every day is a new learning experience. Hopefully, manufacturers will continue to use innovative solutions and we will keep on letting you know about them.

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