When it came time to introduce the new iPhone chip last week, Apple gave an ample presentation to the new A12 Bionic platform, that packs the six-core processor that’s now more powerful and efficient than last year’s model, the quad-core Apple GPU, the eight-core second-gen Neural Engine, and a brand new image signal processor. Apple does the same thing at every new iPhone event, emphasizing the new chips that are supposed to deliver better and better mobile experiences. But with the A12 Bionic we’re getting a lot closer to the first A-series chip that will power MacBooks.
The following tweet, comparing the price of the 512GB iPhone X Max to a 13-inch MacBook Pro, perfectly illustrates the evolution of the iPhone, and of Apple’s chip business:
Yes, the 512GB iPhone XS Max is pretty expensive at $1,449 (that’s the correct price of the model, not $1,499). But that’s not the point I’m trying to make about the image above. The comparison above practically tells us that Apple’s mobile chip has evolved so much over the years that they seem to be ready to power MacBooks.
Reports said earlier this year that an ARM MacBook, a MacBook packing an A-series chip rather than an Intel one, is already in testing and will be launched down the road.
Late last year, the first ARM-based Windows 10 laptops were launched, running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 platform, the same chip that powered most of last year’s flagship handsets. This year, Qualcomm came out with a dedicated ARM chip to replace the 835 in new Windows-on-ARM computers, and we saw such devices at IFA 2018 a few weeks ago. These are ultra-slim, fan-less devices that offer incredibly battery life as well as always-on LTE support.
Apple’s mobile chip is already miles ahead of the competition, reaching scores in benchmarks that are comparable to processors used in laptops. And Apple’s MacBook Air has been the ultra-slim laptop that rivals started replicated years ago. Since then, Apple released an even slimmer device, the MacBook, whose logic board is comparable to an iPhone.
And let’s not forget that the same chips that power the iPhone are also found inside the iPad Pro, which is already a great computer alternative to many people.
Finally, let’s not forget that Apple is trying to bring iOS apps to macOS computers, something that will happen in the coming years. Once that software project is ready, we’ll probably have ARM MacBooks in stores as well.
In other words, Apple seems to have everything in place to launch an ARM-powered MacBook if it so desires. It’s only a matter of time until it happens.
While Apple’s never-ending success with the iPhone is documented until the end of time, its MacBooks have quietly been having a bad few years. Sure, there was an upgrade in 2016, but the “upgrade” mostly consisted of USB-Cing everything, adding a dubiously useful Touch Bar, and making everything thinner. The MacBook Air is further past its prime than a Betamax recorder, and the 12-inch MacBook has regressed to being a glorified, very expensive netbook.
But it seems like help is very much at hand. We’ve been hearing murmers about a revamped MacBook Air for months, but a new round of details from some of Apple’s top insiders give me hope that at long last, Apple might’ve fixed the cheap MacBook.
Two years ago, back when we thought the lack of MacBook Air updates was just neglect and not part of a cruel plan to make me buy a MacBook Pro, I wrote about what Apple would have to do to update the MacBook Air. It’s not a complicated wishlist:
I think the solution is deceptively simple: just update the Macbook Air to be the laptop it should be. Kill the 11-inch version, because that’s now the Retina Macbook. Shrink the bezel, update the screen, perhaps add an option for a discrete graphics chip (hey, Microsoft fit one in the Surface Book!), and most crucially put the price at $1,200 or similar.
With the exception of the price (good news on that in a moment), it seems like Apple might actually be doing exactly that. Here’s a final report from Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman with what to look forward to at this week’s Apple event, and wouldn’t you know, a new MacBook makes an appearance:
New MacBook: The company is preparing a new lower-cost laptop with a 13-inch Retina display to succeed the MacBook Air. Geared toward consumers and schools, the laptop may help Apple re-gain lost market share in the PC world.
Then there’s a report from Ming-Chi Kuo, a legendary Apple analyst with a stellar track record for predictions. He also says we’re getting a new cheap MacBook Air, possibly even with Touch ID but no Touch Bar. That’s a near-perfect solution: keep the utility of Touch ID without requiring the expensive Touch Bar, which would drive up the MacBook Air’s cost.
Fundamentally, there’s not all that much Apple has to do in order to make the MacBook Air a killer device once again. Try as they might, Windows laptop makers still haven’t made a laptop that hit as many home runs as the original MacBook Air, and while Chromebooks are excellent, they still have some deal-breaking flaws for some people. Add in Apple’s advantage with making macOS and iOS intertwined, and you’ve got a recipe for sure-fire success. Unless, of course, you do something stupid like charge it off a Lightning connector.
Apple’s inexpensive Mac notebook model is said to incorporate Touch ID, but not a full-out Touch Bar like we saw on select 13- and 15-inch models of the 2016, 2017 and later MacBook Pro models.
Soon after Intel unveiled its eight-gen mobile processors, including the Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake versions, a bunch of Windows laptop makers came out with a variety of exciting designs at IFA 2018. Many of the notebooks we saw last week featured thin bezels, which appears to be the newest trend in the business. These devices are also lightweight, offer excellent battery life, and some of them may even ship with LTE on board. If you’re an Apple fan and you were feeling left out, don’t worry because we’ve got some good news for you: Apple is supposedly launching a new “ultrathin” MacBook very soon.
The news comes from a Digitimes roundup of all the new ultrathin laptops that were unveiled at IFA. But Digitimes only has this to say about the new MacBook: “Apple is also expected to unveil its new ultrathin MacBook soon.”
For months now, we’ve been seeing rumors that Apple is making a cheaper 13-inch MacBook or MacBook Air that will have a Retina display with thin bezels. Reports are conflicting on the matter to this day though, so we have no idea whether Apple is going to launch the new laptop under the MacBook brand or the MacBook Air brand. Truth be told, it would make sense to see Apple update either product line.
Both devices are already incredibly thin, but let’s not forget that it’s the MacBook Air that pioneered this popular laptop design.
Also, both laptop families can make use of Intel’s newest chips. The late arrival of the Whiskey Lake and Amber Lake processors is probably what delayed recent MacBook and/or MacBook Air updates. After all, Apple already released the 2018 MacBook Pros a few weeks ago.
Digitimes does say that the new CPUs are having “serious shortages” and that may lead to delays. Apple is expected to unveil the new MacBooks either during the iPhone event on September 12th or in the weeks that follow.
The new PlugBug Duo, an update to their travel charger PlugBug World, sports two USB plugs so you can charge two additional devices from your MacBook charger at a powerful 12 watts of power, or more than twice as fast as the standard 5-watt iPhone charger.