Will the AirPods Max 2 ditch the Digital Crown in favour of touch controls?

Will the AirPods Max 2 ditch the Digital Crown in favour of touch controls?
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's next AirPods Max headphones could use a different control method than the current model. A patent uncovered by Patently Apple (opens in new tab) (via 9to5Mac (opens in new tab)) shows Apple has trademarked a way of implementing a touch-sensitive panel onto a pair of over-ear headphones.

The current AirPods Max use a Digital Crown as a control input, just like the Apple Watch. And a very good job it does, too. But Apple's design team has previously admitted exploring using touch controls for the original AirPods Max before plumping for the Digital Crown. Apple's other AirPods models (the AirPods (2019), AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro) also use touch-sensitive controls.

Implementing touch controls in the next AirPods Max would create consistency across Apple's headphones range. It could also open up the AirPods Max to new features, like the ability to reverse the headphones' orientation (something we've written about here).

Of course just because Apple has lodged a patent, that doesn't mean it will implement the technology contained within it. But as Patently Apple notes, Apple now has three patents regarding touch controls on over-ear headphones to its name...

Apple hasn't announced a second pair of AirPods Max yet, so there's really no telling when they might launch, or whether they'll support lossless audio. The company is said to be holding a spring event in the coming weeks (perhaps as early as 8th March), but new over-ear headphones aren't expected to feature.

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Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.