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Fake AirPods Pro with on-case OLED display bring an Apple patent to life

Fake AirPods with screen on charging case

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Apple once patented the idea of having a touchscreen interface on an AirPods Charging Case but never pursued the feature. A fake shows what could be possible.

AirPods launched in 2016 as an accessory to the iPhone, and that status hasn't changed much since. Thanks to Apple's ecosystem of hardware and software, they have advanced connection capabilities but have never served as a primary product category.

Apple's patent filings indicate the company has considered adding new interface elements to make AirPods function better independent of the iPhone. While these patented technologies have never made it to a set of shipping AirPods, a company has tried reproducing a patent in a fake set of AirPods.

A solution to a problem that doesn't really exist

Of course, since the touchscreen AirPods are a fake imitation, they don't have access to technologies like Apple's H2 processor. Also, the display interface looks very rudimentary, unlike anything Apple would ever ship.

It is easy to see why AirPods with a touchscreen could offer an interesting paradigm. However, the Apple Watch exists, so the display seems redundant for Apple Watch owners.

Seeing things like battery information and now playing music on the side of the AirPods case is novel but not exactly a requirement. If you're reaching into your pocket to pull something out, there's not much difference between reaching for an iPhone or AirPods case.

And again, this information is even more readily available on an Apple Watch.

On-case controls seem interesting until you remember that play/pause, skipping, and song selection can all be performed from the earbuds themselves. Whether it be with gestures, presses, or Siri, there's no need to reach for a case with a screen on it.

Possible use cases

That said, it doesn't always hurt to have more options for interactions and controls. One of the concepts from the fake device is a built-in equalizer tool. Having earbud-specific controls where the earbuds live makes some sense.

More granular battery information would certainly be useful, especially when placing the device on the charger. Rather than needing to have a battery widget or open the AirPods lid, the battery is shown up front, on device.

Contact information could be displayed when the AirPods are placed in lost mode. It would at least be more obvious than connecting through the Find My app.

Taking this concept to the most extreme, Apple could also add internal storage. Then, the AirPods and case could act as a standalone music player with a display — a modern iPod.

AirPods Pro 2 USB-C

AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C

Apple AirPods Pro 2 are available with a MagSafe Charging Case with USB-C.

We need fewer displays, not more

In a world full of displays, perhaps it's ok not to add another one — especially one as redundant as this. Apple likely explored the idea and patented it because it sounds like something that would be useful, but stop and think for a second, and it sounds almost silly.

One aspect of this could be stolen for our augmented reality future. Apple Vision Pro may soon be able to detect when you're looking at your AirPods Case and show information about earbud battery life and now playing data.

We envision the AirPods Pro case could even have a kind of window anchor similar to Apple's Magic Keyboard for the autocorrect bar. But if redundancy was a problem before, spatial computing makes displays less necessary, not more.

Apple is expected to reveal the AirPods 4 later in 2024. There could be two models to replace the slots taken up by the AirPods 2 and AirPods 3 today.

While these new AirPods won't have a display on the case, they will have new capabilities. Some rumors suggest Apple could make select AirPods capable of acting as hearing aids.