It wasn’t intentional, nor is it a purse that fashion enthusiasts would necessarily find attractive if it were unattached to the Apple name (though we all found the Apple Watch ugly until it grew on us like a wart and now it’s a genuine icon). This morning Apple announced a new pair of over-ear headphones—the first from the company—with a notable feature: When resting in their accompanying case, the AirPods Max look like a purse shaped sort of like boobs.
Jony Ive announced his departure from Apple in 2019 but continues to consult with the company, so it’s unclear if he had a hand in the design of this case. Given the case is limited only to protecting the cans themselves, and not the band or the hinges, I’m inclined to think Ive’s fingerprints are all over this satchel. Ive believes in minimalism even if it obstructs usability. There’s no better example of that than the long-maligned MacBook butterfly keyboard.
So it’s only natural that Ive would be all about what appears to be little more than a few bits of leather (or a leather-like material) wrapped over the headphones themselves. And to be fair to Ive, and whoever led the design of the product, the image is arresting. It’s also functional, with the Lightning port available so you can charge the headphones while in their case.
It’s just that the image also shows a product that resembles a handbag that looks like titties crammed into a dress. Possibly one made of crinoline.
The problem here is the headband. Apple has apparently put a lot of design resources into the band, which is made of stainless steel, mesh, and fabric. If these headphones become popular, that headband will absolutely be their signature element, and the case is intended to highlight that. It just happens to make it look like something 14-year-old me would have carried lipgloss and a single book in circa ninth grade.
Both Bose and Sony produce headphones that, ostensibly, the AirPods Max will compete with. Like the AirPods Max, the Bose NC 700 headphones and the Sony WH-1000XM4 have Bluetooth, voice assistant support, big drivers, and active noise cancellation. Unlike the AirPods Max, they also include cases that protect the entirety of the headphones, which is usually preferable when a device has hinges and a headband that can get caught on things in your bag. And most people are gonna store headphones like this somewhere when not in use because most people are buying fancy headphones like this for travel, where a snag-free case is welcome, or at home when...well, OK, the Apple case makes sense for the home. At least then you can dangle the whole affair from a decorative hook when not in use.
But we can—nay, we must—agree that this looks like a cleavage-shaped purse.