AirPods Max are priced perfectly
A lot has been made of the price of AirPods Max. Which is understandable—the price of an object is a huge part of a product’s identity & marketing, especially a new, high-profile product. $550 is certainly expensive for consumer headphones; while audiophile headphones can be several times that price, they aren’t marketing to the majority.
Most of the discussion at the launch of AirPods Max seemed to utterly miss the point, I believe. ATP & The Verge publish a lot of great work, but the reality is, high-end, wired audio customers aren’t coming to Apple’s AirPods brand for headphones. There’s cheaper, more sound-accurate wired headphones out there than what Apple is making.
To me, the most standout feature of the AirPods Max is the striking design. One size & 5 colors is perfectly Apple for a design accessory—a little bit of choice, but entirely within Apple’s palette. They look simultaneously retro & futuristic, utterly simple but meticulously refined. Regardless of people’s many opinions, the headband & case look like nothing else on the market.
Apple’s pricing is never the budget leader. It’s a huge part of the identity of the MacBook that they’re amazing computers nearly every well-known creative person owns, as well as that they start at $999. That AirPods start at $159 (which was much-decried upon release, but now totally normal) is very much part of their identity as well.
AirPods Max were always going to be high-priced, just for the features they offer—no other headphones, due to Apple’s strategic choices, have the H1 chips with seamless pairing & device switching. Just having the Apple brand (even if no logo) is worth a premium.
But by producing a one-of-a-kind design (which reportedly took 4 years) & pricing them at $550, Apple made clear that they’re personal technology doubling as a fashion accessory. Interestingly, it’s arguably Apple’s own Beats, a direct competitor in some ways, that started that trend in the early 2010s.
As a human on a global scale, I’m very well-off, though not always compared to many of my NYU classmates/friends. I take real pride in my appearance, & my style is very important to me, though most of my clothes are under $25 from H&M & I don’t own anything designer.
When it comes to headphones though, I would gladly sacrifice audio quality for style, & price for style. I simply have no interest in covering my head with black plastic. The Sony & Bose competitors AirPods Max have primarily been compared to are ugly & made of cheap-looking plastic, versus AirPods Max’s unibody aluminum, shiny stainless steel, & knit headband. The Digital Crown with a glass inlay is aesthetically (as well as an input mechanism) so preferable to an awkardly-placed USB-C port hanging out. (This absolutely makes me sound like an Apple fangirl & general snob, but hey, we all prioritize differently.)
AirPods Max are priced perfectly: the price says that they’re undoubtedly luxury tech, as well as exceeding the value they have as a technological accessory by becoming a fashion accessory in a way that “WH-1000XM4” inarguably is not. I can’t wait to try some out.