What's the rumored release date for the next-generation MacBook Pro? What spec speculation has there been? Will it have a new form and new features? Here's our roundup!
Revered — and often emulated — for its design, power, and portability, the MacBook Pro sits at the very top of Apple's laptop line. Yet, despite a flood rumors that a refresh was on its way, the MacBook Pro hasn't been an update since the spring of 2015. So, what's happening with Apple's MacBook Pro lineup this year? What can we expect .. and when can we expect it?
Release date rumors
Unlike the iPhone, which has recently stuck to a steady cadence of fall releases, Apple has updated the MacBook Pro at different points during the year.
- May 2015
- March 2015
- July 2014
- October 2013
- February 2013
- October 2012
- June 2012
Some of those updates were major, including non-replaceable batteries, Retina displays, and Force Touch trackpads. Others were minor spec bumps.
The new MacBooks Pro were widely rumored for a June 2016 release, but Apple's World Wide Developer Conference came a went with no mention of hardware at all. If Apple sticks to its current pattern, the next event will happen in early September for the iPhone 7. Macs haven't historically been announced alongside iPhones, though. When new Macs have been on the docket, Apple has done a second, smaller fall event in October in their Town Hall.
Everyone, including Apple, wants new MacBooks Pro out as soon as possible, so another massive September event can't be ruled out. If not, would Apple open up Town Hall one last time for the Mac before moving to their new campus?
Either way, I expect we'll all be happy by the time we roll into the holidays shopping season.
Design and colors
The MacBook Pro, like iPhone and iPad, has reached a point where the design is as minimal and essential as possible for the task at hand. Change could be made for change's sake — fins on both sides of the display, a spoiler on the back — but that's not how Apple rolls.
Lighter is always a goal, though. For anything you need to carry, making it as easy to carry as possible is an advantage. And for lighter, you typically need to go thinner. So, any time the MacBook Pro design gets iterated, thinner is a safe bet to make. Sure, Force Touch Trackpads are cool, but they also removed the need for a vertically stacked switch mechanism, which saved internal space.
Color, on the other hand, is the wild card. Apple used to keep the flagship products strictly grayscale, while color livened up the lower end. Now even the iPhone and iPad are in gold and rose gold.
So are the new MacBooks.
Absent big physical design changes, we humans have shown superficial color changes excite us just as much — maybe more. So, if Apple were to bring silver, space black, gold, and rose gold to a slightly thinner MacBook Pro, they'd please a lot of people.
Apple's Mac roadmap is tied to Intel, who makes the chipsets. If Intel is delayed, Apple is delayed. That extends to other chipset manufacturers as well, especially AMD for graphics. So what have we been waiting for this year?
Skylake is Intel's current "tock" — a follow up to last year's Broadwell and what the MacBook was updated with this year. Kaby Lake, an unprecedented second "tock" is up next.
While initial Skylake chips proved hugely problematic for Microsoft's Surfacebook, Intel seems to have gotten the shrinking pains worked out, and that's likely what we'll see in the new MacBooks. Combined with AMD's new graphics technology, it should provide for both the power and power efficiency Apple now focuses on for the Mac.
The MacBooks Pro was the first Mac to go Retina, and the sharpness of the display still looks great. What's aged is the color gamut. Now that the iMac has DCI-P3, the MacBooks Pro call out for the same rich magentas. Given how Apple has worked higher dynamic range into macOS, it seems inevitable that it will roll across the product line.
Could Night Shift and True Tone come with it?
It's a USB-C world now and we just live in it. Well, technically it's a USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 world, but the plugs are the same. Apple has already shifted to USB-C for the new MacBook, so there's little reason not to expect it in the new MacBook Pro.
That means MagSafe can go. HDMI, maybe not yet. Either way, USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 along the sides feels like it'll be the new normal.
Keyboard + OLED
iPhone jettisoned the old, hardware keyboard for a virtual keyboard that could take any form — the best form — at any given time. Rumor has it Apple's been experimenting with ways to make the MacBook keyboard more flexible ever since, including putting displays onto them.
While the mere thought of the reaction to a full-on, Force Touch, multitouch keyboard is tantalizing, Apple looks to be starting more conservatively: With an OLED display replacing the function key row. This way, the function keys will be able to visually take on the appropriate look for any task, including media controls, editing controls, and more, but the rest of the keyboard will remain clickety-clacky enough to meet most expectations.
As to that keyboard, Apple has shown they can get really thin with the new MacBook and butterfly mechanisms, but not everyone is a fan of that. The MacBook Pro offers slightly more depth of travel. But only slightly.
You can now use Apple's fingerprint identity sensor, Touch ID, to unlock any recent iPhone or iPad. Simply place your finger on the Home button and a photograph of your print is transformed into a secure hash, compared with what's registered in the secure enclave of Apple's A-series chipset, and then a token is release granting or denying permission. Under most circumstances, no passcode needed. Same for purchases from iTunes, Apple Store, with Apple Pay, or to get into banking or password apps.
It'd be fantastic if the Mac could do the same thing. Sure, watchOS 3 and macOS Sierra will let you magically log in without touching a key, but it doesn't address the rest — secure authentication for transactions.
Putting a Touch ID sensor on the power button would.
How Apple engineers implement the secure hardware channel will be fascinating see. Would they use Intel's chip to do what the Apple A-series chip does, or would Apple build it's own, dedicated security chip to handle the process?
macOS Sierra is bringing Siri to the Mac ... but not "Hey Siri!" voice activation. At least not for existing Macs. What about future Macs, though? What about Macs with mics designed to support Hey Siri functionality?
Call it a long shot for now, but it would be a boon for accessibility, for anyone who wants to use their Mac while cooking or cleaning or working around the office, or simply to change music from across the room.
New Apple Thunderbolt Display
Part of what makes the MacBooks Pro so great is that you can take them with you as laptops but then bring one home or to the office, plug it into a Thunderbolt Display, and it becomes a desktop. Only the Thunderbolt Display hasn't been updated since the dawn of IPS panels, and Apple has recently discontinued even the old ones.
While it's always possible Apple is leaving the display business, it's also possible new MacBooks Pro will come with new displays Thunderbolt. DCI P3 Retina 5K displays to be specific, matching the new iMacs.
There's a lot of debate around how Apple could push 5K pixels from MacBook to display, given the limitations of Thunderbolt 3. Two cables, a fused cable, one cable with special chips on either end ... opinions vary.
What doesn't vary is the desire for the display itself.
What do we know for certain?
Only that we won't know anything for certain until Phil Schiller shows it off on stage!