Apple typically lets its designs speak for themselves, not spending a whole lot of time detailing the process that goes into making them.
However, in the wake of the launch of Apple’s new AirPods Max wireless headphones, three Apple execs—VP of industrial design Evans Hankey, industrial designer Eugene Whang, and VP of product marketing Bob Borchers—gave just such a rare interview with Japanese language publication Casa BRUTUS.
As part of it, they shared some information about the AirPods Max design process and—more controversially—the AirPods Max Smart Case.
Hundreds of Prototypes to Make AirPods Max
Evans Hankey noted that getting the AirPods Max right took a whole lot of prototyping. There were hundreds of different design iterations prior to Apple selecting the one that ultimately became the finished product. Eugene Whang said that Apple selected to work with materials that it knew well like aluminum.
“We are quite familiar with aluminum and its oxidation process, and we also have a good understanding of the light and shadows that float on it,” Whang said, in comments originally printed in Japanese and translated into English. “The ear cups came into that shape because they were made of aluminum. The other materials probably had different shapes. There is an inseparable relationship between the material and the shape.”
The Controversial Smart Case
While the AirPods Max has been greeted with extremely positive early reviews, the same can’t necessarily be said for the Smart Case. It’s not just the unusual shape that has garnered feedback, either. In an initial thoughts review, TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino wrote that the case, “feels cheap, and like it will dirty easily, not exactly what you want from a ‘travel case.'”
Whang said that Apple elected to use this design because it is space-efficient. He also said that, while the Smart Case results in the AirPods Max headband being exposed, this isn’t a problem because the mesh material on the headband is designed to be durable. He noted:
“Today, most headphones come with large, cumbersome cases, but we travel a lot, so we know how important it is to fit in a bag. So it’s extremely storage efficient. I wanted to make a good case. Our case has a structure in which one sheet is cut out and fastened in several places so that it becomes three-dimensional…Also, thanks to the exposed band, it is possible to have a function whereby you can easily grasp it with your hand and take it out of the bag.”
AirPods Max Are Out Now
The AirPods Max are available to buy for $ 549. They come in space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink color options. However, users can select different colors for the ear cushions and external chassis to create 25 color combinations (or a total of 125 if you use non-match ear cushion colors.)
There are currently lengthy shipping delays, so you probably shouldn’t expect to get them until a good few weeks into 2021, even if you order today.
Image Credit: Apple