Waterfield Designs' AirPods Max Shield Case review: The case that Apple should've made

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Hero
(Image: © Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: The AirPods Max Shield Case is a classy and elegant solution for storing and transporting your headphones when not in use. It's made from premium ballistic nylon or waxed canvas with genuine leather that is tough and durable. The interior is lined with a plush material to keep your AirPods Max scuff-free, and the Magnetic Leather Butterfly can put the AirPods Max into ultra low power mode. There are additional compartments to store accessories. The Shield Case works with or without the AirPods Max Smart Case.


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    Premium materials for ample protection

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    Can charge while in the case with dual zippers and zip-around closure

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    Additional compartments for accessories

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    Plush interior lining

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    Magnetic Leather Butterfly for ultra low power mode

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    Compatible with or without default Smart Case


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When Apple launched the AirPods Max at the end of 2020, one of the biggest points that drew criticism all over was the design of the Smart Case — I even pointed out how ridiculous it looks in my AirPods Max review. And even though I've loved everything else about the AirPods Max for the past few weeks, I've been yearning for an alternative to the silly-looking Smart Case.

Thankfully, Waterfield Designs has come up with a high-quality solution: the AirPods Max Shield Case. I've been a big fan of other products from Waterfield Designs for the past few years, like the Hitch Crossbody Laptop Brief, VERO Sleeve, and the Ranger Holster Case for the best iPhone, so I was eager to get my hands on one of the first third-party AirPods Max cases from them.

So is the Waterfield Designs AirPods Max Shield Case worth the price tag? Let's find out.

The case that Apple should have made

Waterfield Designs AirPods Max Shield Case: What I like

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Front

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Front (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

Let's face it — overall, the AirPods Max are pretty great, but that Smart Case that comes with them by default is probably one of Apple's worst product designs in recent history. Sure, it may have functionality by putting the AirPods Max into ultra low power mode, but they're ugly and look like women's undergarments. And the worst part is that they don't even protect the headband of the headphones at all, which I would say are the most vulnerable part due to the fabric mesh canopy. Honestly, the only reason I used the Smart Case is because that is all I had for a few weeks.

Waterfield Designs' AirPods Max Shield Case is made from either ballistic nylon or waxed canvas, depending on the color option you choose. The front of the case has a full-grain leather panel that comes in one of four colors: Chocolate (with Grizzly waxed canvas), Crimson (with black ballistic nylon), Blue (with black ballistic nylon), or Black (with nylon). Like other Waterfield products, the leather on the Shield Case is high quality and will hold up well — if you get the Chocolate leather option, then it should also develop a patina over time.

In the middle of the front leather panel is a zippered compartment with a bit of depth, so you can store bulkier accessories if necessary. The backside of the Shield Case has a stretchable mesh pocket that is perfect for storing a Lightning cable and other non-bulky items. The interior has a pocket that's perfect for tucking in a charging brick, and it can stay secure with a velcro strap.

The Shield Case has a zip-around closure with double zippers, which means that you can charge your AirPods Max while it's inside. The zippers have metal pullers on them, and the zipper itself is waterproof to keep your AirPods Max safe from the elements. Once the Shield Case is open, you'll find a super soft and plush interior lining that is designed to keep your AirPods Max scuff-free.

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Butterfly

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Butterfly (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

The best part about the Shield Case is the Magnetic Leather Butterfly at the bottom. Since the AirPods Max essentially enter the ultra low power mode with the Smart Case because of magnets, the butterfly in the Shield Case can be folded together (so it's standing up), and you can put the AirPods Max in the case without the Smart Case. Basically, the Shield Case can replace the Smart Case entirely if you dislike it that much. However, if you want to keep using the Smart Case for additional protection, the Magnetic Leather Butterfly can lay flat to accommodate it as well — the choice is yours.

You can always just toss the Shield Case into your bag to carry with you, but there is another option too. Waterfield Designs added a nylon loop at the top, making it easy to grab and carry, or you can attach it to a carabiner on your bag too.

It's pricier than most other headphone cases

Waterfield Designs AirPods Max Shield Case: What I don't like

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Back Cable

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Back Cable (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

The only thing that I don't like about the Shield Case is that it's a little expensive for what is basically a storage case for your AirPods Max. However, while I'm sure you can find cheaper alternatives out there as this new market starts to form, keep in mind that Waterfield is known for its high-quality leather in bags and cases. I have no doubt that the Shield Case will last a very long time and keep my AirPods Max safe and sound.

Then again, if you bought a pair of $550 headphones, then where's the harm in another $100 for a case to protect it?

The competition

If you don't want to pay $100 for a case to put your AirPods Max in, there are a few other options that are popping up on Amazon for much less. Geekria's UltraShell Smart Case is about $20 and protects the AirPods Max with an ultra-hard shell, and it will also put the headphones into its ultra low power state too. Another option is KT-CASE Travel Case for AirPods Max, which also protects with a hard EVA shell and waterproof PU leather and is in the $20 range. However, this one doesn't fully replace the Smart Case, as you'll still need it for putting the device into the ultra low power mode.

Waterfield Designs AirPods Max Shield Case: Should you buy

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Smart Case Side

Waterfield Designs Apm Shield Case Smart Case Side (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

You should buy this if ...

You want a replacement for the Smart Case

The Shield Case has the Magnetic Leather Butterfly inside, essentially replicating the main functionality of the Smart Case while also fully protecting the AirPods Max.

You want tough and durable protection

The Smart Case offers little to no protection at all for the most vulnerable part of the AirPods Max. The Shield Case gives you complete protection all around, including the stainless steel frame headband with fabric mesh canopy. And since it's made with premium materials and leather, it will last a long time, like other Waterfield products.

You want to travel with your AirPods Max

The AirPods Max will be a great option to take with you on flights and other modes of transportation. The Shield Case is a great way to safely store your AirPods Max and throw them in your bag without worrying about damage during transport.

You should not buy this if ...

You don't want an expensive case

The Shield Case is great but a little pricey compared to other options available. However, you're paying for high-quality materials and good looks.

You are satisfied with the Smart Case

For those of you who don't have problems with the Smart Case or how it looks, then the Shield Case may not be something you absolutely need.

If you have the AirPods Max and think that the Smart Case is one of the worst aspects of Apple's $550 headphones, then the Shield Case is a great replacement, though it is also compatible with the Smart Case too. The Shield Case feels premium thanks to the ballistic nylon or waxed canvas materials and full-grain leather used, and there are compartments to hold the necessities. Plus, with the zip-around closure and double zippers, you can even charge the headphones while keeping them safe in the plush interior.

Waterfield Designs has another great accessory for AirPods Max owners. And while it isn't cheap, this case is sure to last a while and even get better with age. It may be a little on the pricier side, but Waterfield makes premium products, and you know what they say — you get what you pay for.

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed. When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.