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Why does Apple keep putting a crummy FaceTime camera on its MacBooks?

MacBook Air 2020 Gold
MacBook Air 2020 Gold (Image credit: Apple)

Apple Macbook Air (2020)

Apple Macbook Air (2020) (Image credit: Apple)

Yesterday, March 18, was a terrific day for those of us who cover Apple. Being able, at least for a little while, to pivot away from the worldwide pandemic and focus on a new iPad Pro and MacBook Air was thrilling. Better still, both products bring to the table excellent new features we can't wait to test and discuss with our readers in the coming weeks.

Despite this, we're shaking our heads about Apple's continued insistence on dumbing down the MacBook experience by sticking with an inferior camera.

MacBook Air: Good, great even, except for ...

There's no denying, the MacBook Air (2020) is a terrific upgrade from last year's model. From the inclusion of brand new Intel i7 processors that can deliver up to 80 percent faster graphics performance for those who want to pay extra to the Apple Magic Keyboard from the 16-inch MacBook Pro, this year's MacBook Air is worth considering. Apple's decision to drop the entry-level price to $999 is a nice pile-on.

And yet, we need to talk about the laptop's familiar camera. Like it does on the MacBook Pro, Apple offers a paltry 720p FaceTime HD camera on the MacBook Air (2020). By comparison, the new iPad Pro includes a 7MP TrueDepth camera with 1080p HD video recording and 12MP Wide and 10MP Ultra Wide back cameras.

As Rene Ritchie questioned rhetorically in a weekly iMore meeting soon after Apple revealed the new MacBook Air, how can a company that offers ever-improving cameras on both iPhone and iPad also produce the cameras found on MacBooks?

The question, of course, only has one answer: It shouldn't be, but it still does.

A familiar move

Apple has often made truly bizarre cost-cutting moves when it comes to hardware. For years, for example, the company has insisted on having entry-level iPhones with 16GB of storage. Including an outdated 5W USB Power Adapter with iPhones is another classic Apple move as is removing extensions from Mac power adapters.

Moving forward

Perhaps very soon (hello, new MacBooks Pros), Apple will either update the FaceTime camera found on its laptops or give us a choice. As it stands, shame, shame, Cupertino.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

12 Comments
  • Watching the news last and seeing the poor quality video from reporters at home I was thinking that this crisis might have get Apple to finally upgrade laptop cameras, since the poor quality is so noticeable. It may also finally make ApplePay and other contactless payments the norm rather than the exception.
  • Apple Pay is the norm for me in the UK, I've not carried cash in such a long time. If someone pays me in cash I just transfer it to my bank as soon as
  • Agree, the cameras need improvement in MacBooks. But the cost-cutting or continued use of low-spec components is inevitable. As Apple saturates the market of people willing to pay premium prices, they need to attract more price-sensitive customers. That means cutting out non-essentials (like extension cords on power supplies) or using older components (like low-spec cameras that are not state of the art).
  • Rob, here's a novel thought. Why not give the people MORE for their money instead of cutting **** out. I have a 299 dollar laptop with better specs than the 999 macbook air. That's a load of crap right there.
  • Agreed, what Rob said is nonsense. These computers are supposed to be premium products, every part should be high quality. The camera footage is atrocious for 2020
  • Dear apple, please stop putting crappy internals in your computers...there fixt for you.
  • THICKNESS, people, it’s because of thickness! The displays on MacBooks are absolutely razor thin, so they have a tiny amount of space to work with. With the iPhone/iPad, on the other hand, they can utilize the whole thickness of the device to their advantage. Heck, the quality of the rear cameras require so much thickness that they need a camera bump in addition to the whole depth of the device. And have you seen a taredown of the Face-ID sensor array? It uses every last millimeter of depth that the iPhone/iPad allows. Now compare that with the display portion of a MacBook. It’s a fraction of the thickness. That’s why there won’t be Face-ID on any MacBook anytime soon, at least not in the upper display portion. Now, iMacs are a different story, as they have plenty of space behind their displays for all of the Face-ID cameras and sensors required. It also makes much more sense as compared to an Touch-ID implementation, which (if put inside the power button) would require it to be out of reach and out of sight, making it an inconvenience. Face-ID on an iMac makes perfect sense. On a MacBook though, Touch-ID in the power button is probably good enough for now.
  • Good gosh, someone actually had a rational comment. This is pretty much the right explanation. Look at how thick the lid is. Then look how thick an iPhone is. Come on people. The answer is obvious why there's no FaceID for now. Maybe they can put a better camera in there, but any complaints that don't take into account the physical constraints is just nonsense.
  • If the lid needs to be thicker, then make it thicker. Making things wafer thin isn't making anybody happy except Apple
  • Frankly, I don't think I need to be visible in 4k all the time when using Facetime, especially when I'm still in my morning hair and PJ's. 720p is just fine. But that's just me.
  • That's the most nonsensical reason ever. It's 2020, it should be 4K, no less
  • I rarely use the built in camera on either of my MacBook Pro's so I'm not terribly concerned about that. I usually only FaceTime from my iPhone. I'm somewhat excited about the new Air but was hoping to get the same OLED function bar. I think I will wait to see what update happens the the 13.3" Pro. Rumor is a 14" screen.