Apple rolled out an update to the AirPods Max a few months ago. This new firmware has reduced the effectiveness of active noise reduction. The Cupertino giant would have been forced to restrict the sound insulation of the helmet following a complaint. Explanations.
Last May, Apple started rolling out a new update to the AirPods Max headphones. The firmware, titled 4E71, did not bring any new functionality to the accessory. On its website, Apple was content to mention ” bug fixes and other improvements “.
After installing the update, many users noticed a drop in the quality of active noise reduction. Quickly, a host of testimonials to this effect appeared on social networks, including Reddit.
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Less effective noise reduction
Unsurprisingly, the specialized media quickly took an interest in the issue. Several reputable sites, such as The Verge, have corroborated the feelings of users. To find out for sure, our colleagues from RTings, a site specializing in product testing, carried out a series of tests.
Verdict: AirPods Max noise reduction is actually less effective after installing firmware 4E7. The site states that the active noise reduction system blocks “ a little less noise between the mid bass and the high bass”. Of the low noisesuch as ” the low rumble of bus and airplane engines”, are less well canceled by Apple’s algorithms. De facto, users will hear more of these types of sounds when wearing the headphones.
That’s not all. Apparently, the update also clamped down on midrange and treble noise reduction. On this side, the power of the reduction is slightly weaker. It’s about a ” relatively minor difference”, notes the specialized site. Besides, the headphones still do wonders in blocking out noises such as chatter.
A lawsuit leading to change
According to our colleagues at Apple Insider, Apple has decided to curb the noise reduction of the AirPods Max following a complaint filed by Jawbone Innovationsa patent troll “. In fact, the American media is relaying a theory that appeared on Reddit. Shared by a user called FacingCondor, the hypothesis assumes that Apple has been repeatedly forced to rein in its algorithms to avoid lawsuits since last year.
“It happens all the time in software. You don’t hear about it because no one can talk about it”explains FacingCondor.
A patent troll » means a business whose sole source of income is claim licenses for patents. To exist, these companies file patents with a vengeance or buy back existing patents. They then file complaints to claim damages from companies that use similar technologies.
In this case, Jawbone Innovations acquired the audio patents from Jawbone, a company that closed in June 2017. With these patents in his possession, the “patent troll » hired lawsuits against Apple in September 2021. In the complaint, the company believes that the Cupertino giant infringes intellectual property related to audio technologies in its possession.
The complaint notably refers to technology that relies on a vibration sensor to determine when a user is speaking. The data recorded by the sensor is then used to cancel background noise. Apple uses similar technology on its HomePods, AirPods and iPhones, the complaint alleged.
The AirPods Pro 1 clamped a few months earlier
Fearing more legal setbacks, Apple would have been forced to change noise reduction algorithms of certain products in its catalog, including the AirPods Max headphones.
The first AirPods Pro of the name would also be affected by a clamping measure. In October 2021, Apple would have rolled out an update that limits the effectiveness of noise reduction. A drop in the efficiency of the algorithms has also been confirmed by Rtings. Following measurements carried out last year, the site estimated that the sound insulation of the wireless headphones has been reduced on ” the whole range of sound ».
Note that Jawbone Innovations is not just targeting Apple. The company has also initiated legal action against Google and Samsung. These lawsuits, including the one against Apple, are still ongoing. Unfortunately, there is no public information regarding the decisions made by the courts, and their consequences on Apple, Samsung and Google devices.