If you stream video and audio online in 2022 you’re probably using OBS Studio. It’s free and open source software to stream to Twitch, YouTube and plenty of other services that have been created and gone out of business in the decade that OBS has been around. Today OBS Studio 28.0 came out with native Apple Silicon support on Macs since 2020 with M1 and M2 chips, the start of support for HDR (mainly on Windows, unfortunately), and lots more including a major update to the appearance of OBS.
I stream every day on Twitch and using an Intel version of OBS Studio on a Mac through Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation layer for running Intel binaries on Apple Silicon has been alright, but native support for the M1 hardware in my laptop I’m on will mean OBS runs more efficiently and is potentially less likely to kick on the fans. Unfortunately, one of the biggest features for Apple Silicon users, more support for hardware-based encoding, is still waiting for macOS Ventura which won’t be out until later in the year.
OBS Studio 28.0 is free directly from the developers for Windows, macOS, and Linux, at OBSProject.com. A lot of things changed in this release so I recommend reading the full release notes here and note that some plug-ins may need to be manually updated to support Apple Silicon. The OBS project has a guide for OBS Studio 28.0 plugin compatibility here and you may want to check for and backup installed plugins in these locations. Note that for the first few hours after this release the download link for macOS on OBSProject.com still points to the Intel (x86-64) version of OBS Studio. You may need to download the Apple Silicon (arm64) download directly from the bottom of the release notes page on GitHub.
Every year Apple starts their World Wide Developer’s Conference with a keynote, It’s been a pre-recorded infomercial with solely online sessions for the past two years. This year Apple changed it up and while most of the event was pre-recorded, some developers and journalists were invited to attend an in-person viewing of the pre-recorded video. Encouraging people to travel during a deadly pandemic is not a wise thing when hundreds of people are dying each week and thousands more are getting infected with a potentially deadly or long-term disease.
The way iPhones look when they’re on but the screen is locked is changing in iOS 16 according to Apple’s Craig Federighi. Federighi showed off the new functionality using a portrait mode photo where his children appeared in the foreground, in front and slightly above the time on the lock screen, and the blurred background of the photo remained in the background behind everything. Pressing and holding on the screen let Federighi go into an editing mode to choose a new style or pick out other customization options like a font for the time and date or adding and removing widgets. Like with Apple Watch faces, users can store their customized iPhone lock screens to pick between them later on. Federighi also said that developers could use the WidgetKit API to add information from their apps. Given the grousing I’ve heard from developers about limitations in the current widget system, I’m curious how well that ends up working out.
Federighi also highlighted changes to the way notifications appear on the lock screen, with new notifications fanning out from the bottom of the screen and a new API called Live Activities that lets developers put information into something that sure looks a lot like a widget instead of a constant stream of notifications. Examples included a basketball game with a scoreboard replacing endless notifications about the game’s score, Uber notifications replaced by a live progress tracker, a Nike workout meter, and a music player that can expand to let the album art take up more of the lock screen.
The Focus modes introduced last year are also getting updated to include lock screen and home screen selections, and focus filters that go into apps to filter out messages, websites, mail, and calendar events according to Federighi. He said that users would be able to swipe between the lock screens to choose their focus mode.
Messages in iOS 16
Messages updates were next from Federighi with the ability to edit and undo sending messages, as well as marking messages as unread. A press release from Apple clarified that messages can only be edited or undone for 15 minutes after they’re sent and they’re recoverable for 30 days after they’re deleted. Presumably only from the sender’s side of the conversation? This feature sounds like it would be easy for people who are making mistakes to abuse it.
Federighi also said that the Shared with You feature that surfaces photos and links and other things shared in messages would get an API for developers to hook into.
SharePlay Apps and Messages
The SharePlay feature that lets users watch videos and do other stuff together during video calls is also getting updated to let users get into a SharePlay app directly from the video call screen or find more apps that support SharePlay. It’s also getting added to Apple’s Messages app so it seems like users don’t need to be on a call to watch a show together, which would be an improvement. My family has enjoyed using SharePlay when it’s available, but we would usually mute the call and turn off the camera because it wasn’t necessary to be on a call at the same time.
Federighi had Robby Walker introduce improvements to the dictation feature on the iOS keyboard with a demonstration that showed the on-screen software keyboard remaining in-use for edits during dictation instead of being covered up by the voice interface as it is today with iOS 15. Walker demonstrated selecting text and then using their voice to replace the selected text, and dictating with automatic punctuation. Currently you have to dictate the punctuation by verbally saying “period” or “exclamation mark” to get a . or !
Walker also said there would be a new API for developers to work with SiriKit and Shortcuts called App Intents.
Live Text scraping added to Videos, Translation Improvements, Other Detection Improvements
iOS 15 got the ability for the operating system to scrape text from images, iOS 16 is adding videos. Walker said you would have to pause the video to do this and showed it working on a code sample. I wonder how well that will work as video quality degrades over slower connections and with user interface elements blocking the text. Some apps also reject Apple’s video player and I suspect those just won’t work at all.
Walker also said that it would be easier to quickly do things with text in images and videos like translations and showed an updated Translate app from Apple that lets people translate using a camera in the app.
It is can be frustrating to try and select an image instead of the text in the image in iOS 15, so I hope that gets ironed out in iOS 16.
Speaking of image selection, Walker demonstrated selecting the subject of a photo with a long press and dragging just the part of the image that shows the subject out of the photo by selecting a dog and dragging the dog without the background into a message.
Walker implied that some or all of these features would also come to Apple’s other operating systems.
Wallet Stuff: ID & Keys, Tap to Pay, Apple Pay Later, Order Tracking
Corey Fugman talked about Apple’s work in putting drivers licenses and ID cards into the Wallet app, which is only in Maryland and Arizona for now but said that 11 other states are working on it. Fugman said that some apps would be able to access the ID to verify the user’s age for something like an alcohol purchase. It would only let the app know if the user was over 21 instead of their specific age.
Fugman said that Apple is trying to make digital keys a standard so that keys can be shared to other operating systems but they would be shareable between Apple users first.
Fugman talked about how iPhones can “…starting this Month…” do Apple Pay with a tap-to-pay feature without needing other hardware.
Apple Pay Later is a buy now pay later service that extends credit lending to every day purchases by spreading the cost out over a period of time with preset increments. These services are being pretty widely exploited and rightfully criticized for their usurious nature by advertising no interest but of course making their money on buyers who fail to meet the timeline of repayment and usually charging a fee to merchants for the availability of the service under the pretense of enabling customers to buy things they would otherwise be unable to afford. So instead of owing just a credit card bill every month you could owe money to dozens of lenders for smaller purchases through different apps and bills. Fugman said this feature would require no additional integration for developers.
Apple Pay Order Tracking was introduced by Fugman to track where orders are at. They’ve really got a shit sandwich here of stuffing usurious garbage into the middle of things that people might fall asleep through.
Federighi said that new map features are coming to 11 more countries later this year, I still can’t get bicycling directions on O?ahu.
Maps is getting multi-stop routing according to Meg Frost. MapQuest from 1996 probably had this but it does look like Apple has thought out the feature by setting up Siri to help and being able to plan and store these routes. The Maps app will integrate more with stored digital transit payment cards and let you know how much a ride will cost or remind users if they need to reload a card before a ride.
Frost also said that developers would get better map access through MapKit and more developer stuff later this year.
Rubie Edmondson was introduced to talk about sports stuff and reiterated previously mentioned features like the live activities scoreboard and said that the Apple TV app would display those scoreboards on the lockscreen.
Edmondson also boasted about Apple TV +’s Friday Night Baseball which isn’t great because it locks baseball games that would otherwise be broadcast for free locally behind yet another paywall. If you’ve already subscribed to Major League Baseball’s MLB TV service, too bad.
The News app is getting a My Sports section with sports-specific news from your chosen teams.
Family Sharing Updates
Craig Federighi said that Apple will be making it easier to create children’s Apple ID accounts, manage their parental controls and screen time, and set up new devices.
iCloud Shared Photo Library is a new feature that Federighi said would make it easier for families to share photos. There are so many flaws with the current photo sharing systems so this could be great, especially if the photos remain at their full quality. The camera app is also getting a toggle to immediately share photos to a shared library and there’s a feature to automatically share images taken when someone else who is in the shared photo library is nearby. That seems like a potentially broken feature but sure.
Federighi said everyone who has access to the shared library can edit, remove, and add photos so get ready for a relative who thinks they’re funny to edit in cartoon faces to your important family photos. Federighi even showed an edit going from color to black and white which is a perfect example of how destructive changes like this can be.
Katie Skinner introduced the Safety Check feature specifically with the idea that it would be useful for revoking access to some functionality like privacy permissions and location data when people are escaping abusive situations. It looks useful but it’s especially important to remain skeptical about Apple’s motivations and what they’re providing when they’re talking about functionality like this that is ostensibly to help people in terrible situations. I hope Safety Check does exactly what it promises.
Home & CarPlay
Corey Wang talked about Smart Home garbage like the Matter standard for home stuff to communicate with each other and showed a redesigned Home app that categorizes devices or just lets you browse through the entire list of devices in one long list separated by rooms.
Emily Schubert introduced new changes to CarPlay to add support for more screens, customizable gauge clusters, calendars, music, and widgets to the new screens, bringing truly distracted driving to a whole new level. Vehicles running this next generation version of CarPlay are to be announced late in 2023 which feels like a long way away for Apple to be announcing anything but I suppose they need the developer components in sooner which means they might have been impossible to avoid talking about.
iOS 16 Odds & Ends
Federighi returned to talk about Spatial Audio improvements that would scan your ears to tune Spatial Audio features for you. I turn off Spatial Audio immediately because it sounds like garbage simulated surround sound to me.
Quick Note is also coming to iOS. when it was previously only available on macOS and iPadOS. It still works very differently in both operating systems and is pretty inconsistent. I am glad to see Quick Note getting improved instead of being dumped into the pile of “marketing named feature we once talked about and then never updated.”
Kevin Lynch appeared in a fitness studio to talk about new features coming to WatchOS 9. Lynch brought up “…four new watch faces” and then showed off a remade Astronomy watch face (are remakes new?), a Lunar calendar watch face, a bizarre watch face called Play Time by an artist named Joi Fulton that has odd characters for numerals, and Metropolitan another weird watch face with a font for the numerals that stretches if you turn the crown. Why is it version 9 of WatchOS and developers still cannot ship their own watch faces? Lynch went on to say that more of the older watch faces are getting “rich complications” which is Apple speak for updating the older software to match current functionality.
Using Siri will no-longer takes up the whole Watch screen with that interface, there will be banner notifications, and active apps get pinned in the app switcher.
The Podcasts app on WatchOS 9 is getting discoverability functionality to find and subscribe to new podcasts as well as letting kids use the app when their parents permit it.
Developers are getting new APIs for the share sheet (the thing that pops up when you tap on a box with an arrow pointing up and out of it) and the photo picker that lets users select images. Callkit will let developers manage VoIP calls on the Apple Watch.
Craig Bolton showed off new metrics and custom workout modes on the Apple Watch to help runners and other exercise types. Routes will be automatically saved for repeat comparisons and there are new workout types for automatically switching between cycling, swimming, and running for example.
Remarkably, Apple’s Fitness app has been locked out for everyone who doesn’t have an Apple Watch, Bolton said that with iOS 16 users could finally use the Fitness app without an Apple Watch to see stuff that iPhones can track without other hardware accessories and the results from other fitness apps. I’ve been pretty annoyed that the health benefits of the Apple Watch are unavailable to anyone who can’t afford it. I know that sounds ridiculous, but health should not be a luxury and it’s good more people could benefit from some of these features.
Dr. Sumbol Ahmad Desai announced updates to Apple’s Sleep app in watchOS 9. Desai said that the updated app would monitor which stage of sleep users are in and said users could optionally plug this data into a research study that Apple is running to help better understand sleep.
Desai also talked about heart health and atrial fibrillation and said that watchOS 9 would track that data over time.
Finally, Desai said that watchOS 9 and the Health app in iOS 16 would include medication tracking and warn users about potential drug interactions through manual medication entry and scanning labels.
Johny Srouji introduced the M2 second generation of Apple’s processors, re-emphasized Apple’s focus on energy efficiency alongside performance and went over the specs of the base M2 chip. A “second-generation 5 nanometer” process, 20 billion transistors 25% more transistors than the base model of M1, a memory controller that supposedly has 100 gigs per second of bandwidth (50% more than the M1) and up to 24 GB of memory alongside the M2 chip when the M1 was limited to 16 GB. Surprisingly, Srouji admits that the M2 base chip still has less performance than the biggest mobile chips from Intel (without mentioning them by name) but promises “almost 90%” (the chart shows 87%) of the peak performance at less power. The graphs Apple are showing are ridiculous with “Relative performance” on the vertical y axis and “Power consumption” on the x axis. What is “Relative performance”? Who knows! I don’t doubt that these are powerful, efficient chips, but they need better graphs. The one good part of this graph is that Apple says what the competitor’s laptop is in the fine print, it’s the MSI Laptop Prestige 14Evo with Core i7-1260P and 16 GB of memory.
Srouji said that the base model of M2 could have two more GPU cores to make 10, two more than the M1, for a claimed 35% more GPU performance. Once again we got a silly “Relative performance” chart comparing GPU performance against Intel’s integrated graphics processing, very strange.
New versions of the secure enclave and neural engine, and more video performance for 8K rounds out the M2 package.
2022 MacBook Air
Kristin White introduced a redesigned M2-based MacBook Air for 2022 which dumps the wedge shape in favor for thinness and the big round feet from last year’s MacBook Pro lineup, gets a MagSafe plug that is interestingly color-matched to the four colors of MacBook Air (last year’s MacBook Pro’s MagSafe plugs are all silver), only has two thunderbolt ports, but keeps the audio jack. White claims the new 13.6” display to be Liquid Retina and it has a notch for the webcam which is 1080p and Apple says it has twice the resolution and twice the performance in low light as the previous Air. The performance Apple demonstrates with this webcam is literally unbelievable because it is a professionally lit shot with natural seeming light that does not at all match what I’ve seen from the same camera on the 2021 MacBook Pro. These webcams Apple ships aren’t terrible for laptop webcams but they are garbage compared to the cameras on the iPhone lineup.
White also said that speaker quality is improved and this I am willing to believe, Apple’s audio quality from their recent laptops has been surprisingly good. The microphone, well there are limits to how good they can get but at least fan noise won’t be a problem because there are no fans in the 2022 MacBook Air.
White showed off a smaller power adapter that has two USB-C ports, a separately available 67 watt power adapter could also fast-charge the new MacBook Air. White claimed this would bring the Air up to 50% capacity in thirty minutes.
$1200 for the lowest priced MacBook Air with 256 GB of disk space, 8 cores of CPU and GPU, 8 GB of RAM and a 30 watt USB-C power adapter.
$1500 for the step up that has 512 GB of disk space, 2 bonus unbroken GPU cores for 10 total and a 35 watt dual USB-C port charger.
Interestingly, the M1 MacBook Air is still hanging on with the old design and 256 GB of disk space at $1000 on Apple’s website, for now.
2022 MacBook Pro 13″
No redesign for the 13” MacBook Pro which differentiates itself from the Air by costing a little more, having fans and the old Touch Bar OLED replacing the F-Row, and a little more battery life.
$1300 for the base model of 13” MacBook Pro that has 256 GB of disk space, 8 Cores of CPU and 10 Cores of GPU, 8 GB of RAM, and nothing else to write home about.
$1500 for the step up model that just ups the disk space to 512 GB.
I have no idea why this 13” model of MacBook Pro exists, except to make up for the fact that the 14” MacBook Pro models start at $2000.
What a strange situation.
macOS Ventura Stage Manager & Spotlight
Craig Federighi demonstrated new features coming to macOS Ventura like Stage Manager that seems to replace fullscreen windows with a centered window and puts other windows off to the side. Federighi said this would help manage situations where there are a lot of applications with open windows. Apps could also be grouped together in the demo with a few visible windows stacked and overlapping in the center of the screen. Finally, Fererighi demonstrated accessing files by clicking on the desktop to hide the currently active application and dragging the files into one of the open app windows on the left side.
Spotlight on the Mac is also getting updates to quickly glance at the contents of search results by using the quick look feature of macOS with the space key, and search for images in the photo library, files, and on the web or search the contents of images using the live text feature. Federighi showed off starting a timer and running Apple’s Shortcuts scripts from Spotlight and showed how informational search results about shows, music, and other topics, would be improved in Ventura with more detail. Federighi said that these new Spotlight features were also coming to iOS and iPadOS with Spotlight on iOS 16 being accessible by tapping on the dots at the bottom of the home screen.
Mail in macOS Ventura, iOS 16, iPadOS 16
Mail is mercifully, finally, getting an undo send option for a few “moments” after hitting send when your brain finally processes the typo it made, according to Darin Adler who also introduced other new features in Mail. Scheduled sending. Follow-up suggestions looks awesome, it suggests replying to emails if you haven’t gotten a response. Remind me does what it should do and reminds you to check in on a thread later on. Adler also said that search is improved in basic ways by checking for typos in the search query, search suggestions, and other improvements.
Safari on macOS Ventura
Shared Tab Groups will let friends and family share groups of browser tabs and collaborate on them. I love tab groups but they are one of the least reliable features in the current versions of macOS. I routinely have trouble opening new tabs where they are instantly closed and renaming tab groups is often impossible. There seem to be a lot of others with the same issues online.
Adler introduced the Passkeys feature that replaces passwords with crytpographic data that is encoded with Touch ID or Face ID and synchronized across Apple devices. There has been a bit of talk about this lately under the “Fido alliance” that Adler said includes Google and Microsoft so that Passkeys work on Android and Windows. Adler admitted that the “…transition away from passwords will be a journey.” which is an understatement but I hope it works because passwords are impossible for most people to manage safely and there are so many situations where passworded accounts are the ideal method right now due to sharing logins among teams or family members. 2 factor seemed great, until so many companies went towards text messages as the second factor which are easy to compromise due to telecom companies being completely garbage at security.
Craig Federighi boasted about Apple’s gaming performance which is incredible because from the perspective of myself and other game developers I speak with, Apple does just about everything they can to push away game developers.
Jeremy Sandmel introduced new features to Apple’s Metal rendering API in Metal 3. Did you know that Nvidia and AMD both have upscaling pipelines that are becoming more widely adopted? Apple has heard about that too and Sandmel introduced MetalFX Upscaling. No Man’s Sky was demonstrated and Sandmel said it is coming to the Mac “later this year.”
Sandmel then introduced a Fast resource loading API that Apple didn’t waste any time creating a marketing name for. “This really is a new day for gaming on the Mac.” says Sandmel. The Apple Silicon transition started two years ago and Steam still doesn’t have a native version of the desktop client. Why hasn’t a dump truck full of money and engineers backed up to Valve’s headquarters to make it happen? Why isn’t there a reasonable gaming computer available from Apple? Apple doesn’t care about gaming on the Mac.
The next game Sandmel said was coming to the Mac is Resident Evil Village. It’s great but it came out last year. No Man’s Sky is six years old. A Capcom representative took over to say that the MacBook Air manages at 1080p and the Mac Studio does well at 4K.
Federighi returned to talk about the Continuity features of Apple’s operating systems handing off FaceTime calls between devices, which is good, before introducing Continuity Camera to let Macs use the iPhone’s better camera systems. Federighi demonstrated the feature with Johnnie Manzari and Manzari showed how Continuity Camera includes a bunch of features to blur the background and do other tricks but the one that was the most impressive was a desk view that added in a second camera perspective using the ultra-wide camera on the iPhone to give an overhead view of Manzari’s desk. I use software from Elgato called Epoc Cam to use my iPhone’s cameras with the Mac and it is terrible software that crashes and only runs at 30fps. There are a bunch of other competitors out there that also do this and I honestly hope Apple’s version works well because some of the popular competitors have impressive business models like Reincubate’s Camo that’s either $5 a month, $40 a year, or $80 for a “Lifetime license” all of those prices are ridiculous.
Belkin is supposed to be offering stands to hold iPhones above Macs later this year.
Federighi reiterated all of the previously announced features in iPadOS 16 before mentioning that Apple is finally shipping their stock Weather app on iPad OS. It took them 12 years.
After acquiring and starting to sunset the fantastic DarkSky weather app and it’s API, Federighi also mentioned an API for developers called WeatherKit.
Federighi demonstrated new collaboration features with a team working on a document at the same time and discussing it with shared tabs over a video call. The features are also promised to come to Apple’s other platforms.
Freeform for iPadOS, macOS, and iOS
Elizabeth Reid showed off an upcoming app called Freeform that looks a lot like Apple’s Notes app and the semi-defunct Paper app from Fiftythree, except focused on collaboration and creative thinking for diagramming and sharing ideas on an ever-expanding canvas.
The Return of the Return of Game Center
Federighi talked about gaming features again like a revamped Game Center interface which has been stuck inside of the Settings app for a long time now and SharePlay gaming to let you play with friends with something that looks a little bit like streaming the game. It wasn’t clear what was going on in the short background video.
Desktop-class apps on iPadOS 16
Federighi said that apps on iPadOS are getting more features from their macOS counterparts like customizable toolbars and new APIs for developers.
Display Scaling on iPadOS 16
A higher resolution option for apps to show more stuff? Great.
Stage Manager & External Display Support on iPadOS 16
Fedrerighi demonstrated iPadOS 16 with overlapping windows managed by Stage Manager on an iPad and on an external monitor. Federighi said that with an iPad and an external monitor there can be eight apps running simultaneously on the iPad.
I’m pretty happy with most of these updates. It’s great that the iPad might finally be a little closer to a real computer with overlapping windows but that improvement is as impressive as the usurious work to add buy now pay later functionality to Apple Pay is disgusting. I cannot imagine any good outcomes that could come from setting up people for failure like that except for potentially doing it in a less evil way than companies like Klarna and Afterpay and that isn’t worth doing. Buy now pay later services should be regulated out of existence.
MacOS has changed in the past few major versions to start requiring that applications be signed and notarized in order for them to launch at all. Mac Source Ports’ developer Tom Kidd noticed that some source ports for games weren’t updated to pass through Apple’s system and put together a project to provide signed and notarized builds of these source ports for modern Macs running Intel processors and Apple’s M1 system on a chip lineup so that the games aren’t lost to time.
There are already over 40 games on Mac Source Ports from more than 20 source ports, I recommended checking it out if you’re on a Mac and looking for classic games to play.
But… connecting and disconnecting AirPods on the Mac is so much more frustrating than on iOS. While iOS 14 brought more intelligent connection and disconnection of AirPods, Big Sur can’t get with the program. It can take a long time to connect the AirPods, and they seem to disconnect at the drop of the hat.
Typically I use a pair of Sony MDR-7506 headphones with my Mac, connected through a USB audio mixer and both those devices are a little more than a decade old, but when I need to make a video call on my Mac I use my one working Powerbeats Pro (it’s the left one, the right one turns off after about 10 minutes of usage) and trying to determine that it is connected, the default microphone, and the microphone whichever app I’m using actually selects is a nightmare.
I don’t want to go back to switching which device (my Mac or my Windows computer) has a physical microphone attached and my experiences otherwise match Snell’s in this article. My wired Sony headphones are more than a decade old and work great even if they have some signs of wear at this point — I’ve replaced the ear pads four times now — nothing beats the reliability and consistency of actual headphones. In that same time I’ve gone through several pairs of AirPods with warranty servicing, and now these PowerBeats Pro that don’t have an extended warranty and I wasn’t able to get serviced during their first year. You can’t beat the convenience of AirPods and their cousins from Apple’s Beats brand, but they do not last at all and are not convenient to use with a Mac.
Apple also recently released a pair of over the ear headphones called AirPods Max and they are completely ridiculous. $550 just for the headphones and the included “Smart Case” doesn’t cover the entire headphones but at least they have replaceable ear pads… oh wait those are $70! The most expensive ear pads I’ve ever gotten for my Sony MDR-7506 headphones are $20. The Apple AirPods Max ear pads look like they will be much easier to replace, but they also look like they are more wasteful, there is a hard plastic part in the replacement, not just the foam mesh ear pad I replace on the Sony headphones.
The AirPods Max headphones also do not include any kind of wire for connecting directly to a device, just a Lightning to USB-C Cable for charging and no charging brick. Without a direct wired connection here will be audio latency that makes the AirPods Max unsuitable for editing video or audio, or doing any other kind of low-latency work like playing video games. Apple does sell a cable that will directly connect the AirPods Max for $35, but you can’t charge while you’re using that adapter. There are plenty of other lightning to 3.5mm cables but they apparently won’t work.
From the Apple Watch series of devices, the AirPods Max have a digital crown in order to change the volume, access Siri, and so-on.
The AirPods Max headband does seem to distribute the weight as comfortably as it can, but the weight is all in the ear cups, and heavy ear cups are, well, heavy. When you remain motionless, you can forget they’re there. But when you move around, the AirPods Max have inertia. They move a bit when you shake your head side-to-side, and they move a lot when you nod your head up and down. Look down at your feet and look back up and you’re instantly reminded, Oh yeah, I’ve got heavy cans on my ears. You feel a bit bobble-headed with them on. The heaviness of the AirPods Max doesn’t make them uncomfortable, per se, but it definitely feels like they’re intended for stationary use. Their lack of water resistance aside, the weight keeps them from being the sort of headphones you’d want to use while exercising any more vigorously than a brisk walk.
There are plenty of headphones that cost $550 or more, but after my experiences with the regular AirPods and the Powerbeats Pro I would definitely not recommend anyone spend this much on these. When my Sony MDR 7506’s eventually become irreparably broken, I will get another pair of them. A decade is plenty of life for headphones that cost less than $100. For my iPhone,iPad, and video call use I’m going to get the cheapest pair of regular AIrPods I can. The other features of the AirPods Max sound great, 20 hours of battery life, active noise cancellation and a transparency mode that let you hear what is going on around you… but the inconsistent experience of using AirPods with a Mac, the ridiculous Smart Case, and the high price of both the AirPods Max and their replacement parts make it both out of reach for me now and completely unserviceable over time. Replacing the ear pads on my Sony headphones has cost about $60 over ten years for four replacements. Replacing the same AirPods Max earpads four times over a decade would have cost $276. Hopefully those Apple ear pads are more durable and last longer.
As a complete counter to their most expensive headphones, Apples’s Beats brand now has a $50 pair of headphones called Beats Flex that are Bluetooth earbuds connected to each other by a wire that is meant to go around the back of your neck when worn and the earbuds magnetically connect when you’re done with them. They don’t have a case, and at 12 hours they last longer than typical AirPods on a single charge which get 5 hours until you put them back in their charging case. The Flex are also available in a variety of colors (black, yellow, blue, gray) compared to the white AirPods and AirPods Pro. But the $50 price tag only gets you the first generation of AirPods chip, the W1, instead of the newer H1 in the 2nd generation of AirPods and AirPods Pro. The aforementioned AirPods Max have an H1 for each ear. The older H1 chip has more latency between the device making noise and the headphones receiving them, hands-free Siri access (which is almost entirely terrible if you call anyone in your life “Sweetie” preceeded by “Hey”). The H1 is also incredibly slow to pair to a device. The only thing the Flex have that AirPods don’t is that you won’t be as likely to drop one into water, due to the cable connecting the two earbuds together, and they charge via USB-C. The Flex also won’t sense they’re out of your ears and don’t pause podcasts or music until you magnetically link the earbuds. Apple also has an Android app for updating the Beats Flex firmware, something they don’t make available for their AirPods line of products.