Apple AirPods Max might be missing a U1 UWB chip despite the price

Although its existence has long been rumored and expected, Apple still managed to surprise the consumer electronics market when it finally announced the AirPods Max over-the-ear headphones. That shock was more about the price rather than the features, and at that price point, you'd expect it to almost have everything and the kitchen sink. On paper, the headphones do meet those expectations but it seems that Apple still managed to skimp on a U1 Ultra-wide Band chip despite having a feature that suggested its existence.

The Apple AirPods Max already boasts a variety of sensors that tells the headphones how a person is wearing it. Optical and position sensors tell it whether it's being worn or taken off, pausing and resuming playback as necessary. It also has dynamic head tracking to implement spatial audio, positioning audio in 3D space in relation to the head's position or orientation.

Despite that plethora of sensors, Apple reportedly left out one of its newest pieces of silicon, the U1 UWB chip. The chip, in theory, could have helped the AirPods Max know which way the headphones are put on, distinguishing between left and right sides without needing to have separate left and right drivers. According to AppleInsider, however, its device specification page leaves out any mention of the U1 while mentioning all other sensors and chips, including Apple's H1 second-gen audio processor.

An Apple U1 chip would have given the headphones a lot more features than something like the plain AirPods wouldn't be able to get, like improved and more reliable AirPlay. It would also be able to take advantage of upcoming AirTags tracking which is believed to be based on UWB technology.

While it isn't exactly a critical loss, the absence of one of Apple's most recent innovations makes the AirPods Max's price even more controversial. At $549, Apple is clearly banking on its brand, its ecosystem, and a promise of premium audio quality that still has to be confirmed when the product becomes available next week.