It is possible to remove the headband of AirPods Max with just a standard SIM card ejector tool, hinting at the possibility of interchanging headbands to achieve a different colorway.
In December, MacRumors revealed the large variety of AirPods Max ear cushion color combinations when it became clear that they were magnetically attatched and available for sale separately. Now, it appears that AirPods Max have a more modular design than previously understood, as raised by MacRumors forums member “MayaTlab”, who highlighted the tidbit from Chinese YouTube channel Prelook.
As mentioned in iFixit’s teardown of AirPods Max, it is possible to easily remove the headband from AirPods Max without any disassembly of the headphones. Users simply need to remove the magnetic ear cushions, fold the earcups flat, and insert a SIM card ejector tool into a small hole above the speaker.
Here’s the trick, and the best part: despite the joint’s complexity, you can detach the entire headband from AirPods Max with just a SIM card removal tool or paperclip, without even opening the ear cup.
When fully assembled, a little poke in just the right place compresses two tiny springs inside the joint, freeing the clamp that secures the headband.
Once removed, the spokes on either side of the headband reveal a small connector for transferring power, and potentially data, between the earcups. It is also interesting that the connector bears some passing resemblance to the Lightning connector. It seems likely that users could swap the headbands from different AirPods Max units to achieve non-stock colorways much more easily than expected.
Replaceable headbands were one of the features believed to be removed from AirPods Max prior to launch. Before being announced, it was speculated that AirPods Max would offer unique customizability with interchangeable headbands and earcups, repeating the concept behind Apple Watch bands.
Apple’s VP of industrial design Evans Hankey said that Apple prototyped hundreds of AirPods Max designs over a lengthy development period. Amid significant delays, Bloomberg correctly predicted that Apple would drop the concept of a replaceable headband to accelerate production:
Apple has also scaled back some of the interchangeable functionality of the headphones that were a hallmark of the initial concept. The latest version of the product is likely to lack a replaceable headband, but could still include interchangeable ear pads.
It is therefore possible that this system for removing the headband is a remnant of the original, more modular approach to AirPods Max. On the other hand, this hidden feature may exist purely to aid repairability, and could not be intended for general user interaction at all.
Nevertheless, it is extremely unusual for headphones that transfer power over the headband to make the part so easily removable. The ease of removing the headband and the small connector on either side looks to be a peculiarly well-developed concept and stands in striking contrast to the otherwise challenging repairability of the device.
Users who wish to attempt removal of the headband from AirPods Max should still take extreme caution as it is not yet clear if this action voids the product’s warranty.