Apple Inc. (AAPL) announced the release of AirPods Max on Dec. 8, 2020, calling them "innovative wireless headphones that bring the magic of AirPods to an over-ear design with high-fidelity sound." Key features of this product, per the company, are "high-fidelity audio, Adaptive EQ [i.e., equalizer], Active Noise Cancellation, and spatial audio [i.e., surround sound]."
Apple's press release, issued at 5:30 a.m. Pacific time, 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, puts an end to a week of speculation. Earlier, a leaked internal memo indicated that Apple would make an unspecified announcement at this time.
- Apple has announced AirPods Max, advanced wireless headphones.
- Priced at $549, shipments begin on Dec. 15, 2020.
- AirPods Max work with various Apple devices.
- However, these devices must run the latest operating systems.
Key Features of AirPods Max
According to the company's press release, "AirPods Max combine a custom acoustic design, H1 chips, and advanced software to power computational audio for a breakthrough listening experience with Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio. AirPods Max come in five gorgeous colors, including space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink, and are available to order starting today, with availability beginning Tuesday, Dec. 15."
AirPods Max are designed to work with various other Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod touch, and Apple TV 4K. However, these devices must be running "iOS 14.3 or later, iPadOS 14.3 or later, macOS Big Sur 11.1 or later, watchOS 7.2 or later, or tvOS 14.3 or later." Since these are the latest operating systems released by Apple, devices running earlier versions effectively are incompatible with AirPods Max.
Apple touts battery life of 20 hours but warns in a footnote that "battery life varies with use." AirPods Max are priced at $549. Customers in the United States and more than 25 other countries and regions can submit orders now, with the first shipments to follow on Dec. 15, 2020.
Significance for Investors
It is curious that Apple would announce AirPods Max so late in the holiday shopping season, just 17 days before Christmas. One possible explanation is that the company experienced production delays. In any case, Apple may be betting that its relatively late release may grab the attention of shoppers who are still mulling over gift ideas or potential recipients who have been tardy in compiling wish lists.
On the other hand, the $549 price tag may be a bit steep for last-minute gift ideas. Moreover, while a flood of orders may be a welcome development for Apple, it can turn into a negative if the company fails to fulfill those orders within the tight 10-day time frame between Dec. 15 and Christmas.
Given that AirPods Max are designed to operate in conjunction with Apple devices that are running the latest operating systems, this may precipitate a rush to upgrade older devices, if such devices can be upgraded. Alternatively, users who can upgrade but who are wary of doing so for various reasons (such as the possibility that older applications may cease to run afterwards) may be lost as potential buyers of AirPods Max.
Meanwhile, it is possible that customers who are really excited by AirPods Max but who have older Apple devices that do not support the latest operating systems may be spurred to buy new devices. Such a sales boost in other product categories would be a plus for Apple.
Caveat for Gift Givers
Given that AirPods Max work only with other Apple devices that are running the latest operating systems, it is risky to purchase them as a gift unless you know that this is the case with the intended recipient's devices. This uncertainty represents another potential brake on sales.