The 12-inch MacBook is dead. So is the quote unquote “MacBook Escape”. In place of the MacBook is now just the MacBook Air, newly updated with a True Tone display. In place of the Escape is Touch Bars, Touch ID, and T2 chips all the way down.
But does that make things simpler or even more complicated?
12-inch MacBook Pro
So, yeah, 12-inch MacBook is dead. Introduced in March of 2015, it was supposed to do for the next generation of MacBooks what the second generation Air had done in 2010. And it did. Kinda.
It introduced a new design, where the glowing Apple logo and FaceTime Camera quality were sacrificed to the gods of paper-thin top cases, with a terraced battery, and — you know it — the very first butterfly keyboard. But also, the Force Touch Trackpad, USB-C, and gold and then, rose gold, to the previous very black and white MacBook line.
Now, many of those changes, for good and for ill, are found across Apple’s MacBook line. But, unlike the 2010 MacBook Air, which started off at $1299 but eventually dropped down to $999, the MacBook never dropped below $1299.
With a chassis that would probably need significant updates to be pushed forward — at least on the Intel platform — and the new MacBook Air ramping up and pricing down. It just had to die.
But, hey, it sure leaves that 12-inch slot open for an ARM MacBook or iOS iBook one day. What? A nerd can dream, people!
For now, though, that leaves the MacBook Air as Apple’s only ultra-portable. And Apple’s really leaning into that with this update.
It’s getting a True Tone display, which is Apple’s technology that adjusts the white point based on the ambient color temperature. In other words, keeps white white and now warm yellow and cool blue white. More like paper white.
What it’s not getting is anything in the way of a spec update. Instead, it’s getting a price drop down to $1099, which is much closer to that magic $999 number that conflated the MacBook Air with being not just portable but ultra-affordable as well.
It’s also getting the updated third-generation butterfly keyboard that rolled out with the MacBook Pro revision earlier this year.
And yeah, I guess that means if you were waiting that scissor keyboard update Kuo Ming-Chi’s rumored for the 2019 MacBook Air, you’ll just have to keep waiting. At least for now.
The “MacBook Escape” is also gone. Well, at least the Escape part. Back in 2016, when Apple redesigned the MacBook Pro, in addition to all the 12-inch MacBook style changes, they also introduced Thunderbolt 3, the Touch Bar, added Touch ID, and debuted the T-series custom security chip.
Apple also released a low-end MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar, Touch ID, and T2. Targeted at MacBook Air lovers in a time when that machine hadn’t seen any significant updates, it kept the traditional, developer-friendly function key row intact… even if it only had 2 ports instead of 4.
As Apple spec bumped the higher-end MacBook Pro over the last couple of years though, the low-end MacBook Pro got left behind.
Until now. Also, kinda.
As of today, Apple is bringing that low-end MacBook Pro fully into the present, and that means, you know it, Touch Bar, Touch ID, and T2 security chip.
Which is great news for people who really want Touch ID but not so great news for people who also really want that ESC key.
It’s also being updated to Intel’s 8th generation Coffee Lake processors and Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645.
It’s not the same 9th generation Intel Coffee Lake Refresh and AMD graphics you get in the higher end, but it’s also not the higher end price.
Apple’s also adding a new three-microphone system for better FaceTime and Siri, but they’re keeping the price at the same $1299.
Less and More
What intrigues me about these updates, and what I kind of like about them despite the loss of the 12-inch and the Escape, is what is suggests about Apple’s current strategy.
Rather than push out maximum spec bumps across the line, Apple is maxing out only at the high end. At the low end, Apple is either dropping the price, like with the MacBook Air, or adding and equalizing features at the same price, like with the low-end MacBook Pro.
With the biggest knock on Apple recently being pricing, that makes the kind of sense to me that does.
Also, at the same time, it cleans up the MacBook lineup. No more trying to figure out 12-inch MacBook from Air, or Air from lowest end Pro.
Now, you get the Air, or if you need more performance, you get as much Pro as you need. It’s just that simple.
Back to School
Since this is back to school season, Apple is giving students $100 off the new MacBooks, which means the MacBook Air is going for $999 and the baseline MacBook Pro, $1199. Plus, they’re throwing in a pair of Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones with the purchase of a qualifying MacBook or iMac.
What this means for next-generation MacBooks, including the frequently rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro, we’ll just have to wait and see.