Apple did not include a power button on the AirPods Max, so there’s no definitive way to turn them off, but Apple says that putting the headphones inside the included Smart Case puts them into an ultra low power mode.
That’s left a lot of questions about what happens to the AirPods Max when they’re not inside the case yet not being actively used, so we’ve done some testing to attempt to figure out what’s going on.
YouTuber Marques Brownlee (aka MKBHD) has said that the AirPods Max enter into a sleep mode after about two hours when just removed from the head and set down somewhere, and it does appear that the AirPods Max are staying actively connected to an iPhone for hours at a time.
At 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time yesterday morning, we connected the AirPods Max to an iPhone, played a song, and then took them off and set them down on a desk. At this time, the battery was at 63 percent.
At 10:00 a.m., the AirPods Max were still connected, and the same goes for 11:00 a.m. During this period, the AirPods Max dropped to about 62 percent right around 10:00, and then stayed at that level until 11:26 before dropping to 60 percent battery life.
At 12:00 p.m., three hours later, the AirPods Max remained connected to the iPhone over Bluetooth and did not disconnect or go to sleep. During this time, the iPhone was in use for various activities and also in a rest mode where it wasn’t in active use. The AirPods Max were left alone and not touched.
Over a four hour period, the AirPods Max didn’t disconnect and the battery life drained a total of three percent.
With a second set of AirPods Max and a different iPhone that was set aside and not used, we left them connected for more than two and a half hours and saw the same two percent drop in battery life. YouTuber Andru Edwards did a similar test and saw three percent battery drain over the course of 10 hours with the AirPods Max sitting out on a desk.
After monitoring the AirPods Max for a four hour period, we put them in the case at 1:00 p.m. When placed in the case, the AirPods Max immediately disconnected from the iPhone and it was no longer listed as connected in Bluetooth nor were battery levels listed.
We left the AirPods Max in the case to test battery drain while in Apple’s advertised “ultra low power mode.” From 1:00 p.m. Pacific Time to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, the AirPods Max drained approximately one percent while in the case. The battery was at 60 percent when they went in the case at 1:00, and 59 percent when they came out of the case at 5:00.
An hour of music playback on the AirPods Max with Active Noise Cancellation engaged appears to drain somewhere around four to five percent battery. Andru Edwards saw 3 percent battery drain in 10 hours and leaving a set of AirPods Max out all night we saw a total of 8 percent battery drain, so the amount of listening time you’re losing will vary.
So while the AirPods Max do need the case to go into a low power mode that’s the equivalent of a sleep mode, leaving them out and connected to your devices isn’t the biggest hit on battery if you don’t want the hassle of putting them into the case and taking them out. If you want maximum battery life, though, you need to put them in the case.
We still don’t have a definitive answer on when the AirPods Max “sleep” when out of the case because they never appeared to disconnect from the iPhone in our testing without the case, but we do now have a better idea of what happens when they’re used without a case.