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Hello Again: Thoughts on Apple's October 2016 event

Apple wasn't supposed to have another event this year. Infinity Loop's Town Hall venue was given a send-off with iPhone SE back in March. But then the months rolled on, WWDC passed and so did the September event, and there was still one more thing waiting — new MacBooks Pro.

So, "Hello Again". One last event for 2016. One last hurrah for Town Hall. And one last product announcement before the holidays.

Accessibility

The October event kicked off with an accessibility video, shot and edited by someone who lives on and depends on accessible technology every day. It was magnificent, not just in terms of its technical look, pacing, and emotion, but as a reminder of how important inclusivity is to technology.

I wish every company, at every event, would highlight accessibility the way Apple does. It's important for all of us.

Apple TV

Before Apple went back to the Mac, they spent a few moments on Apple TV. Introduced in September of 2016, the current Apple TV is home to 8,000 apps, including 2,000 games — soon to also include Minecraft! — but finding what you wanted to watch in all those apps was still a challenge.

If you knew what you wanted to watch, Siri or Universal search were there, but what if you didn't want to know?

Enter the new TV app. Similar in design to the new bolder, brighter look or more coherent organization of the new Apple Music app in iOS 10, it brings together everything you're watching with curated suggestions and access to both your own library and the iTunes library.

And it's also available for iPad.

For live TV, Apple's sticking to Siri, but improving it so you can ask to watch a live broadcast, a known program — including a sporting event — or a list of live programs.

Tim Cook said it made Apple TV the best way to watch TV, but we'll have to see how much it really has to offer when it ships. And how long it takes to go international.

Canadians want their hockey, Brits want their football, Indians their cricket, and the southern hemisphere wants its rugby, after all.

MacBooks Pro

Apple doesn't often look back. Steve Jobs was famously averse to it. This was the 25th anniversary of Apple's first notebook, though, so Tim Cook and Phil Schiller didn't just look back, they travelled back. Apple showed a video highlighting the company's achievements in portable computing, and of how they've driven the market.

Then they showed the new MacBooks Pro.

Wide color

Once again re-engineered from the ground up, they're thinner, lighter, and smaller than ever before. They also have wide color DCI-P3 displays, like the iMac and iPhone 7. They show better reds and magentas and after having used them on an increasing range of devices, it's tough going back.

Looking at Photos on the new MacBooks Pro is amazing. The richness and detail pops off the screen. Because Apple manages the color profile from capture on iPhone 7 to display on iOS and Mac, you don't even have to worry about it yourself. Shoot what you shoot. See what you see. And it'll look as brilliant as possible. (That's real work, since P3 also means wider range to mess up.)

Otherwise it's about as thin as the 12-inch MacBook display but apparently even more advanced. Thankfully, Apple fixed my biggest beef with that display — they got a 720p camera in there.

RIP glowing Apple logo, though. When you get this thin, all you have room for the embedded stainless steel logo like the 12-inch MacBook.

Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C

Both MacBooks Pro have two Thunderbolt 3 ports on each side, four total. Since the connector is the same as USB-C, you essentially get four of both. There's also a 3.5 mm headphone jack.

So, effectively it's like having a MacBook but with 4x the ports. That's both awesome and terrible. It's awesome in that they're super fast and that you can plug in multiple cables at the same time. It's terrible in that it means you'll need adapters for every other type of connector, including USB-A (standard USB), HDMI, VGA, etc.

And yes, like with the MacBook, you'll need an adapter or a Lightning to USB-C cable (introduced with the 12.9 inch iPad Pro) to charge your iPhone or iPad with the new MacBook Pro.

You also charge the same as MacBook — over USB-C. And you can use any of the four ports to do it.

It's incredibly future thinking. But it's also a bit of a troll. Those of us with MacBooks got over it eighteen months ago. Pro customers will feel some short-term pain.

Touch Bar

The Force Touch trackpad is much, much bigger now, which makes it feel much more expansive. The keyboard is a next generation version of what Apple debuted with the 12-inch MacBook in March of 2015. It has domes, it has butterflies, but it's optimized for a tad more travel.

I only had a few minutes to type on it. I'm fine with the new MacBook keyboard, so I'm fine with this too. People who hate that will likely still hate that, even if there's a tiny bit of hope. Those who love it will find more to love.

The star of the show was the all-new Touch Bar, though. Think of it as a tiny 2170x60 iPad embedded right where the function keys used to be. Rumor has it it's OLED, like Apple Watch, but it has a matte finish that feels much like the keyboard keys.

It leverages the same kind of data detectors and data predictors Apple has been building into macOS for years, but uses them to show context-dependent, highly curated, dynamic controls.

Yes, your ESC key is still there. As are your other system functions like volume and brightness. But tuck those away and apps take over. In Photos you can scroll through your thumbnails, quickly access edit controls, even swipe to rotate. In Final Cut Pro you can scrub through your time line. In Safari you can scroll through your windows and open new tabs. In Xcode, even in Terminal — no Apple app went untouched, as far as I could see — there are context aware shortcuts.

And the emoji. You get emoji suggestions, just like iOS, and can access the emoji picker right on the Touch Bar. You can also access Tapback emoji. It makes the new, funner Messages app ridiculously faster.

Developers have an API, so all your favorite apps can update to add support. In Photoshop I you can work on the Track Pad and use the Touch Bar to change palette colors, for example, or access tools. In Excel you can hit a virtual button to generate different graph types.

There's also accessibility built in. Touch Bar supports VoiceOver, so it'll say the tools out loud for those with low or no vision. And it can also offer easy access to Switch Control.

You can customize the Touch Bar as well. For example, you can drag controls from the screen and down into the Touch Bar. It works so fluidly it's hard to believe. They really nailed it.

Touch ID

On the right hand side of the Touch Bar, protected by a sapphire crystal lens cover, is Touch ID. It's just like on iPhone or iPad, so you can use your fingerprint to log in and to make purchases with Apple Pay.

In practice, index finger feels more natural on MacBook Pro, as opposed to thumb which seems like the default on iPhone and iPad. Any finger will work, though.

For security, Apple has created an all-new T1 chip. It basically does what the secure enclave does on the Apple A-series chips on iPhone and iPad, making sure your fingerprint data is locked away and nothing can access it. All the system gets is the token.

It's pretty much like Apple created an ultra thin iOS or watchOS device and stuck it in the MacBook Pro, and that's such a smart solution for keeping it secure.

Speakers

Starting with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, Apple really began upping their speaker game. iPhone 7 had much better speakers, and now the new MacBooks Pro do as well. They have broader dynamic range and better separation, and in the demo I heard they were LOUD and crystal c.l.e.a.r.

Chipsets

Apple's using Intel's Skylake processors here, which are the current generation. Intel's been struggling since their last die shrink but Skylake is now on solid footing. Kaby Lake will be next, then another tock with Coffee Lake, and… yeah.

As happy as I am we get these improvements, it's increasingly hard not to think Apple would be better off controlling their own destiny when it comes to Mac silicon, just like they do on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro sticks to Intel Iris graphics, which are fine. The 15-inch, though, also get discreet graphics. (Last time it was only the highest end 15-inch that got discreet).

Apple's graphics chips of choice this year are AMD Polaris. That's going to make them much more attractive to anyone who wants to push significant pixels.

5K displays

There was no 5K Retina display from Apple. Sadness. But there was a 5K P3 display from LG that Apple worked with them on, and that provides a ton of high-density, wide gamut pixels over Thunderbolt 3.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro can drive one of them. The 15-inch, two of them. Yeah.

I had a chance to see them in action and while you'd never mistake them for Apple displays, they provide the same type of functionality, including port expansion, that you'd expect.

I miss the idea of an Apple display. We'll see if LG makes me miss it less.

Superlegera

One last surprise: A third MacBook Pro. No, Apple's still not making a Retina Air, but this is the next, better thing. It's a version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar that's meant for people who love the 13-inch MacBook Air but want a Retina display and modern architecture.

It's an interesting choice, but I think a good one. The MacBook Air chassis is at the end of the line. This provides a new beginning. You pay for the new screen and processors, though — this new 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $500 more than the old 13-inch MacBook Air.

Final thoughts (for now)

The lines have been drawn. Apple once again showed they absolutely don't believe in Macs with multitouch displays, going so far as to embed an entirely distinct display in the keyboard. Are they right?

They may be. The human brain hates context changing. It interrupts work flows. Even on iPad Pro, when you have to stop typing to tap the screen, it's an interruption. Likewise, gesturing at 90º isn't optimal ergonomics, not for the amount of hours you spend behind a Mac.

But is the Touch Bar any better? Will it prove any more intuitive and let you keep controls at your fingers while your eyes are on the screen? Or will you be forced to hunt and peck the Touch Bar, achieving exactly the opposite effect?

In my brief hands-on time with the new MacBooks Pro, I liked what I saw and felt. The choices feel deeply considered and smartly implemented. I'll have to spend more time with one before I make up my mind, though.

For now, it feels like Apple's next step towards more functional, more dynamic Macs, but in a way that's still distinctly Mac.

The new MacBooks Pro are available for order now. Super legere 13-inch ships now, Touch Bar 13- and 15-inch ship in a couple of weeks.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

88 Comments
  • I really love the new MBP but the cost to me is unreasonable and that the entry level MBP do not have the Retina bar is disappointing. 2600$ Canadian with Tax for 13 inch model with retina bar is ridiculous.
  • I have to agree. I decided on a 12" MacBook earlier this year because it really met all my needs, so I sold my 2015 MBP. When word of the new MBP's coming out this year gained traction I wondered if I had made the right choice, but after seeing this announcement and looking at the cost of the version of MBP I would want, it's nearly double what I've paid for a beautiful and highly portable MacBook that really fits the bill. It's too bad Canada's pricing is so much more expensive. The base is $400 more, and the models with Touch ID and Touch Bar are $600 more. Ridiculous! I love Apple and have a product from every line up, but at this rate when it comes time to replace my existing products I wonder if I'll be able to stay in their ecosystem with the rising costs of their products.
  • Big trackpads are good, but this one looks like it will get under your wrists when typing, I'd be interested to see if people find this an issue or not. It's a shame that they opted to make the touch bar (which is cool) rather that go down the 2 in 1 route with a full touch screen because I think they could do a great one, far better than that is on offer with iPad Pro which just doesn't have desktop capabilities.
  • So you have purchase a separate cable to connect your iPhone to your new Mac Book Pro? Some ecosystem they have there. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • It looks like an octopus when you get everything a Pro user needs. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Until people start using USB-C devices. It's a transition period.
  • Dumb comment because they are not readily available. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • But they will be soon. Why should Apple wait for everyone else? Especially when they have the manpower to push manufacturers to start getting them ready
  • Apple isn't even waiting for itself...iphone 7 doesn't support usb c so there is already major incompatibility between two most recent lines of Apple's own products released only a couple months apart.
  • That's a valid point. iPhone 7 should be using USB-C but it isn't, hopefully it will eventually, fingers crossed
  • @ XperlmnenT. It's a $25 cable. I hardly call that a major incompatibility.
  • .
  • Every laptop looks like an octopus when it has everything a pro user needs. That there are dongles at the Mac end of the cables doesn't change that there are cables. Going all in on one type of connector makes an odd sort of sense to me.
  • Same as the 18-month old MacBook. Only now you can connect 4.
  • Keep apologizing for them Rene. Sent from the iMore App
  • He's explaining, not apologizing
  • Keep apologising for René Danny...
  • He's knocking some sense into you guys Waldon ;) Sent from the iMore App
  • Good for him :-)
  • lmao
  • Good point. In fact, for me, I would need that adapter for every peripheral I own or will probably own for the next 3-5 years. You would think after boosting the price $500 they could have included a $2 (their cost) adapter.
  • It makes no sense that I cannot connect my Apple products (iPhone 7 Plus and iPad Pro) to the newly announced MacBooks without buying a dongle! The dongle should be included in the box! Actually, we should't have to use Dongles. This is not forward thinking by Apple. To me Apple is becoming a dongle company. Not good!
  • Doesn't take much to impress apple phans. Last spring's processors, 8Gb ram? Really? Touchbar is neat, but whoopie! Drop $2,000 for the entry level basically. All these articles read of desperation from phans who've been waiting a long time to get anything from Apple. Apple knows how to play it's junkies
  • My understanding is that these MacBooks were supposed to ship in June, when Skylake was still relatively new, but because Apple doesn't use off the self parts, and a lot of what they do requires a lot of integration with Intel and AMD. That didn't come as fast as Apple hoped. So, if they switched to Kaby Lake, it would push things out even further.
  • Don't really believe that because when apple want something the intel jumps and from this price point Appel should just taken the newer one. Anyways they do not focus on macs anymore Sent from the iMore App
  • Apple are still very much focused on Macs, what makes you doubt this?
  • Yesterday's keynote? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Where they announced upgraded Macs?
  • They announced upgraded mobile Macs. Which look great -- mine is shipping in 3-4 weeks. I just hope they haven't abandoned desktop Macs. Apple does seem to focus a lot more on mobile everything these days. And don't get me wrong, that makes a lot of sense. But most people are still sitting stationary at a desk for 8 or more hours a day.
  • That's not the real motivation... quad core Kaby Lake and Iris Pro version of Kaby Lake are still not available (they will launch in December/January at best), so Apple can't use it especially on 13" MacBook.
  • I think the bean counters, and the board, are clearly having excessive influence over Apple. Chasing shareholder is a no win game., they only care about the next quarter. Steve kept them in check compared to now. Apple's management had better recognise where they are heading before it gets worse. Apple has some nice technology, design and products, but its starting to become a mess now. Its better to correct course early rather than later.
  • I see no evidence that the 'superleger' - the 13" without the touch bar is thinner & lighter as stated above. Just looks slower and cheaper according to Apple site?
  • You're right, my mistake!
  • I noticed I could only buy the 21.5 LG monitor right now. Are they planning on carrying the 27 in the future? Did you like the real estate on the 21.5? I'm going to do iOS development on it. Sent from the iMore App
  • What happened to apple courage? There still is a headphone jack. Just don't feel to buy one. Have a Mac Pro and use it for work a lot. However now I'll buy the surface studio. That's so good for work. Would I use a touch control bar? Maybe but surface dial just so amazing. Was an easy decision for me because wanted a pro and there is non so easy Microsoft studio is just want I wanted and a MacBook for 2500$ ? Maybe the 500$ more is worse Sent from the iMore App
  • Unfortunately Microsoft solutions still are an overpriced joke.... and still running Windows 10
  • Interesting comment. Apple removes headphone jack from iPhone and people complain, they leave it on laptop and people complain. Seems like Apple just can't win.
  • So they don't have multitouch displays because the brain hates context shifts. But they do have this uber cool new second display that's gonna cause me to context shift. Retire Rene. Sent from the iMore App
  • Troll.
  • Just pointing out the obvious; Rene sees everything through  colored glasses. Sent from the iMore App
  • Because, PR spin Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I am fine with the overpriced high end. Even if the hardware is not as high end as the price would have you to believe (gpu). But I think Apple is making a huge mistake by missing out on the low end market. These are the students. Apple used to own this market and ensure a future generation of loyal customers. But all they did for the student market was give them...what they already had. No update. Here's an old MBA. With old tech, at the same price. The MacBook nothing isn't ready for the sub $1000 market obviously. So it is too soon to ignore the MBA. I would have settled for the same MBA in colors. As this is marketed to students. Even simple adding colors would have ensured new excitement for a dead product. That would have gotten them another year to try and get the MacBook price down. Where is Apple going to find the next generation of fans? Sent from the iMore App
  • The Macbook Air doesn't need colors to create excitement, it is already exciting at this price point. 300 $ more for the Retina Macbook is not much for students considering what they spend for their smartphones. Everyone looks for 4K video on a smartphone but then avoids spending $300 more for a 4K capable computer, so what is the point of 4K on a smartphone then?
  • Rene, does the touch bar have a multitouch capability? The djay pro app that was demoed during the keynote made it seem so. Plus, what about Taptic feedback? Does it have that too? I mean, that could help in making use of "scrub" action in various types of pro Mac apps. Another thing I wanted to know was about the sound quality boost in the 13" pro. It is, for the first time, having a pair of dedicated speaker grills.
  • Yes, it does have multi-touch, but no taptic feedback (may be next iteration).
  • That Touch Bar looks f&%@ing awful.
  • Not really sure why, but maybe you could explain?
  • Not much to explain - to me, it looks awful.
  • You're not allowed to have an opinion here. Move along Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • "You're not allowed to have an opinion here. Move along" Wow. Did this micro-aggression trigger you? Are you running to your safe space? Or do you have your lawyer on speed dial ready to sue Seeker77 for daring to say something that you don't agree with?
  • I find it interesting that after all this time with no updates, they still elected to go with the old problematic Skylake processors instead of the current Kaby Lake models. And at a higher price to boot! Therefore, these new machines are technically out of date before they even get into the hands of the public, other than the Touch Bar. This only shows that Apple could have put out laptops all along with Skylake processors but just chose not to until now, a really odd decision. Would putting Kaby Lake processors into these things have caused the price to rocket an additional $1000? I just don't get it.
  • Kaby Lake? What Kaby Lake? Intel begun shipping Kaby Lake to OEMs at the end of July 2016. Do you think that you would build a laptop in two months in Apple's scale including all research, development, production, distribution, packaging, advertising etc... ? PC manufacturers can do that and can sell the resulting crap to PC users easily of course. Apple markets don't work that way.
  • ...And mobile versions of Kaby Lake announced at the end of August 2016. Go figure...
  • The lack of Kaby Lake is annoying but understandable given the timings (although I miss the days when Apple got the latest CPUs before anyone else). The real issue for me is RAM. A maximum of 16Gb of DDR3 is pretty unforgivable in a brand new version of a top of the range laptop in late 2016. Hopefully they will correct that with a Kaby Lake spec bump in the Spring.
  • We all know that notebook RAM conform to Apple's specs is expensive. If that extra 16 GB (imagine a single module of 32 GB, I don't know the internals but most probably there is no socket for a second module) would cost half the price of a machine (new or second hand), then getting that second machine is better. That for virtual machine needs, such as