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AirPods Max: Apple starts preorders for $549 over-ear headphones, arrives Dec. 15

AirPods Max: Apple starts preorders for $549 over-ear headphones, arrives Dec. 15

More than a week after Black Friday, Apple’s announced its AirPods Max over-ear headphones for $549. It’s available for preorder now, and will ship Dec. 15.

Apple said its AirPods Max are designed with similar features to its $249 in-ear AirPods Pro, but in an over-ear design. As a result, it offers many of the same features as its AirPods cousins, including simple setup and connections, active noise cancellation, transparency mode to pipe sound from the outside world into your ears along with whatever you’re listening to, and “spatial” simulated surround-sound audio. It also comes in five colors, including silver, green and pink.

The AirPods Max cost $549.


“With AirPods Max, we are bringing that magical AirPods experience to a stunning over-ear design with high-fidelity audio,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, in a statement Tuesday.

Apple said it also created new features for the AirPods Max, including a dial at the top of the right ear cup to control volume, phone calls, play, pause and skip. The dial, which the company calls a digital crown inspired by the same feature on its popular Apple Watch, can also activate the Siri voice assistant.

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Apple’s AirPods Max are part of the company’s latest push to expand its popular AirPods wireless headphone line of devices, which first released in 2017. Apple’s white color lollypop design, which leave small sticks hanging out of your ears to act as microphones, have helped its devices stand out. Apple followed a similar approach in 2001, when it released white headphones for its then-new iPod music player, helping it to stand out amidst other headphones which were typically black. The headphones themselves became so popular that Apple featured them in commercials for its iPods.

The AirPods popularity have helped turn them into one of the company’s biggest recent hits, representing 35% of all wireless earbud sales in the spring of this year, according to surveys by Counterpoint Research. Apple’s AirPods are also the most popular in the market, followed by earbuds by smartphone makers Xiaomi, Samsung and Jabra

By charging $549 for its new AirPods Max headphones, Apple’s also taking a bet that customers will be drawn in by its memory foam ear cups and fold-flat design to choose them over other popular devices including Bose’s noise cancelling headphones, which start at $380 and fell to $300 on Black Friday.


Apple’s lineup of iPhones, starting at $699 for the iPhone 12 Mini, up to $1,099 for the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Busy fall

Apple’s AirPods Max come during what analysts say could be a busy holiday shopping season for the tech giant, highlighted by its iPhone 12 series of headsets.

In October, the company announced the headsets, offering new features superfast 5G wireless networking, better cameras and a more boxy design than its predecessors. The new phones start at $699.


One of Apple’s key selling points for the iPhone 12 is its compatibility with 5G wireless.


Apple watchers believe these features may spark a “super cycle” of buying not seen since the iPhone 6 was released in 2014. Back then, it pushed Apple’s holiday sales to 74.5 million units, up more than 45% from the 51 million it sold during the same period in 2014. Apple’s holiday iPhone sales haven’t budged much ever since.

This year could be the time Apple breaks through, analysts at Loup Ventures say, with a little less than half the 1 billion active iPhones around the world estimated to be more than three years old. “The larger the upgrade pool, the bigger the potential tailwind,” they wrote Friday, using financial speak for increased sales.

A recent survey by electronics reseller Decluttr suggests they may be right. A “staggering” 53% of respondents plan to buy this year’s iPhone, according to the company.

The expected interest in the iPhone 12 may bleed over to the AirPods Max, despite their relatively high price. The headsets were rumored for some time, thanks in part to patents the company filed detailing some of its lay-flat and sensor designs

Look out for CNET’s review of the headset, coming soon.

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