Archive for November 4, 2022

Friday, November 4, 2022

Reduced AirPods Noise Cancellation

Sami Fathi:

Apple’s $550 over-ear AirPods Max headphones are less effective at blocking out outside noise when using Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) following their latest firmware update, according to results from a detailed audio test.


The decrease in ANC effectiveness was highlighted in an article by The Verge last month following months of discussion and complaints from AirPods Max users on Reddit and other discussion forums.

M. Brandon Lee (via Scott):

Some interesting research shows that the reduction in ANC quality on Apple’s products is not planned obsolescence but the result of a Patent Troll.

Apple cannot talk about it as it is an ongoing case.


It appears that Apple is quietly replacing or removing the noise cancellation tech in all of their products to protect themselves in an ongoing patent lawsuit.

There’s a detailed timeline.

I have no way of doing an A-B test, but my general sense is that noise cancellation with my AirPods Pro has been less effective for about a year, and that accords with this test by Rtings:

After updating this [AirPod Pro] firmware, our results showed a fairly significant drop in isolation performance, primarily in the bass range. This means that with ANC turned on, they won’t do nearly as good a job blocking out the low engine rumbles of planes or buses as they did before this update. Our latest retest uses firmware update 4A400, released in October 2021, which shows that their overall noise isolation performance has been further weakened.


Update (2022-11-09): scubidubidu:

I bought my AirPods Pro 2 on launch day. This was my first set of ANC earphones coming from AirPods 2nd gen. At first I was amazed, and after finding out you can see on the Noise app in the AppleWatch how much noise was being cancelled, it would usually be a 30dB reduction on average (If ambient noise was at 70dB, my APP2 with ANC on would give me about 40dB. If ambient noise was 65dB, my APP2 with ANC on would give me about 35dB) I would check that every time I went to a noisy environment to check due to the products novelty.

Many weeks later I started noticing sounds that would be blocked before (the voices of the people on the table next to me, clacking of dishes in the kitchen, the restaurants music although relatively quiet). So I started monitoring the results on the AW noise app and found that the reduction I had in the exact same environment was increased by 6dB, now I get a 24dB reduction in an environment with 60-70dB where before I used to have a 30dB reduction.

Update (2022-12-02): Dennis:

Man this pisses me off. I used to work in my Kitchen with a pair of AirPods Max while the washing machine was running and I started noticing it a while ago.


It’s the kind of string on a corkboard post that Reddit loves to upvote, full of intrigue and conspiracy, but its conclusions are not sound.

The patents in question are not related to noise cancellation. They are for microphone arrays and voice recognition.


Adaptation is the very straightforward phenomenon that easily explains why we perceive soft sounds to be louder after some time—our brains get used to it.

Yet the measurements do seem to show more noise after the firmware updates.

Update (2024-05-15): Ryan Jones:

AirPods Max and Pro noise cancelling has definitely gotten worse.

For blocking and voice isolating. I’m having to look for new headphones. :(

SiriSpy Bug

Guilherme Rambo (tweet, Hacker News):

Any app with access to Bluetooth could record your conversations with Siri and audio from the iOS keyboard dictation feature when using AirPods or Beats headsets. This would happen without the app requesting microphone access permission and without the app leaving any trace that it was listening to the microphone.


Knowing that the drop in output quality when using the microphone is a physical limitation of the Bluetooth standards used by AirPods and other similar headsets, how talk to Siri had been implemented on AirPods without disrupting audio quality had always been a bit of a mystery to me[…] I noticed that the AirPods included a service with the UUID 9bd708d7-64c7-4e9f-9ded-f6b6c4551967, and with characteristics that supported notifications. […] As soon as I did that, a firehose of hex bytes started to stream down my Terminal window.


You can probably see where this is going: BTLEServerAgent did not have any entitlement checks or TCC prompts in place for its service, so any process on the system could connect to it, send requests, and receive audio frames from AirPods.


I was told I’ll be receiving a US$7000 bug bounty payment for reporting these issues

I think he deserves a lot more.


Update (2022-11-30): Guilherme Rambo (tweet):

The original version of this article mentioned a bug bounty payment of US$7000. However, this was due to an issue with the way Apple’s security team had communicated about the bounty. They broke down the two vulnerabilities discovered into separate CVEs, one of which was awarded a bounty of US$7000, while the other one was awarded US$22500. So the total bounty payment for the bugs described in this report was of US$29500. Apple’s security team apologized for the confusion, and has since released a new web platform for bug submissions, which should make this a lot better going forward.

Bike Rich Text Editing

Jesse Grosjean:

Bike now supports rich text!


Rich text is difficult when you need to insert text at formatting boundaries. Markdown has formatting characters to guide you. In rich text there are no such characters, and so you must rely on these conventions[…]


Bike’s typing affinity solves both editing puzzles easily. At each formatting boundary (including start and end of line) Bike’s text caret shows a tail. Use the arrow keys to point the tail at the formatting you want. Thats it.


Update (2022-12-01): See also: Hacker News.

iPhone Water Resistance Claims

Tim Hardwick (in 2020):

In marketing materials[…], Apple said its iPhones were water resistant at a depth of between one and four meters for up to 30 minutes, depending on the model.

However, according to [Italy]’s competition regulator, the messages did not clarify that the claims are only true under specific conditions, for example during controlled laboratory tests with the use of static and pure water, and not in the normal conditions of use by consumers.

The regulator also took issue with Apple’s warranty terms, which do not cover damage caused by liquids. The authority considered it inappropriate to push an “aggressive” commercial practice highlighting water resistance as a feature, while at the same time refusing to provide post-sales warranty assistance if the iPhone models in question suffer water damage.

Hartley Charlton (in February):

A federal judge in the U.S. has dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that accused Apple of misleading customers about the iPhone’s water resistance (via Reuters).


U.S. District Judge Denise Cote has ruled that while the plaintiffs plausibly alleged that Apple’s advertising could mislead some customers, they did not demonstrate that their iPhones were damaged by “liquid contact” Apple promised they could withstand. The judge also found no evidence of fraud, citing a lack of proof that Apple consciously intended to overstate its water-resistance claims for commercial gain.


According to Apple, water and dust resistance are not permanent conditions and can deteriorate over time as a result of normal wear. Apple’s warranty does not cover liquid damage, so it is best to exercise caution when it comes to liquid exposure.