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MacBook Pro 2019: Rumors and spec speculation

Fake iBook concept
Fake iBook concept (Image credit: iMore / Rene Ritchie)

MacBook Pro 2018: Release date rumors and spec speculation

In March of 2015, Apple introduced the all-new 12-inch MacBook. Not Air. Not Pro. And certainly not at the old, white, plastic MacBook's pricepoint. More shocking was its ports — or more precisely, its lack thereof. Gone was MagSafe, Apple's convenient, tumble-preventing, dent-saving connector. Gone was old-school USB-A. Nowhere was Thunderbolt. Instead, Apple introduced USB-C.

These changes came to 2016's MacBook Pro, too, along with an OLED-screen Touch Bar in lieu of function keys, Touch ID, and a gorgeous DCI-P3 display.

2017 saw all of Apple's MacBooks and MacBooks Pro updated with Intel Kaby Lake processors... but not much else. 2018 saw TrueTone, a 3rd generation keyboard, and Coffee Lake processors up to and including 6 cores.

So, what should we expect for 2019?

When will Apple update the MacBook and MacBook Pro?

Here's the previous update schedule:

  • March 2015: MacBook with Intel Broadwell CoreM
  • March 2016: MacBook with Intel Skylake CoreM and rose gold color option
  • October 2016: MacBook Pro with Intel Skylake Core i5 and i7 processors
  • June 2017: MacBook and MacBook Pro with Intel Kaby Lake processors
  • July 2018: MacBook Pro (Touch Bar) with Coffee Lake processors and True Tone

What about the MacBook Pro (Non-Touchbar), and 12-inch MacBook?

Apple could drop new MacBooks at any time — and if the updates are iterative, we could wake up to a press release and an updated web page any morning. That includes bring the MacBook to Coffee Lake and a new design, maybe a completely new everything, to MacBook Air.

For MacBook Pro, we likely won't see a big redesign until 2019 at the earliest.

Will the next 12-inch MacBook get Touch Bar and Touch ID?

Touch ID on the MacBook Pro

Touch ID on the MacBook Pro (Image credit: iMore)

Touch Bar has proven to be divisive: Apple anticipated high attraction levels for Touch Bar, but while some people like it, many others do not. So, will Apple stick with Touch Bar the way the company did with USB-C, and push it out across the line? Or will Apple retrench and rethink its approach to touch? We'll have to wait and see.

Touch ID, on the other hand, is such a convenience on the 2016 MacBook Pro that not expanding it to all other portable Macs would be a letdown. The only reason it might not is price point: It requires a secure, dedicated processing and display system — think embedded Apple Watch just for Apple Pay — so it adds about $200-$300 to the bill.

It's possible Apple could do what it did with MacBook Pro and offer MacBook (Escape) and MacBook (Touch Bar) options, the former with traditional function keys, the latter with OLED. Otherwise, fingers crossed Apple can figure out how to save a few dollars elsewhere and get Touch ID in and under budget.

And a Force Touch Bar, right?

Love the way you think! Touch Bar is begging for Force Touch, but it's unclear if the technology is ready for the next generation of MacBook Pro or MacBook.

What about Face ID?

Face ID for the MacBook and MacBook Pro seems like something that has to arrive sooner rather than later. It's already on the iPhone X and it will be coming to all the new iPhone flagships this year as well. So, the only real question is how long will it take to ramp up supply and propagate from phones to laptops?

Windows already does facial recognition to unlock, and it'd be great on a Mac. That way, Apple Watch Auto Unlock, Touch ID, and Face Unlock could be in a three-way race!

Can we get a better keyboard, please?

Some people love the new MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards. Others hate them. And you just can't have something so devisive be the only option.

In 2018, Apple updated the MacBooks Pro to a 3rd generation butterfly keyboard with a silicon barrier to prevent debris from getting in an muffle noice.

Whether or not we get a completely new keyboard in 2019, we'll have to wait and see.

Could Apple ditch the keyboard entirely for a multi-force-touch surface?

That rumor has been around for a while. The idea of doing to the laptop keyboard what Apple did to the smartphone keyboard is compelling for a number of reasons — and terrifying for a number of reasons as well!

At some point, tactile simulation technologies could be advanced enough to trick out brain into feeling keys, dials, nobs, and other dynamically changing controls where none really exist, but we're probably not there yet.

More ports for MacBook?

Apple wanted to create a MacBook that was entirely wireless. Since wireless charging wasn't an option, though, Apple had to include at least one wire. So, it made that wire a multi-tasker. USB-C can both charge and carry data. Since one was infinitely more than none, that was enough, right?

Wrong. Not only isn't wireless charging a thing yet, MacBooks still don't have LTE, and Bluetooth still isn't good enough to support diverse peripherals. The future, as always, is a beautiful lie.

The MacBook Pro does this right, with its two to four USB-C ports; it seems only natural that the MacBook should follow in these footsteps. There are no doubt power and design constraints that may make two USB-C ports more challenging than one in a MacBook, especially when it comes to where they can be mounted on that tiny motherboard. But it's a challenge worth exploring.

In a perfect world, I'd love to see them on both sides, like the higher-end MacBook Pro, so I can charge from either side. I'd settle for them both on one side. It would show Apple can still bring us the future — but in a way that mitigates the real pain points of the present.

And they'd be USB-C and Thunderbolt 3, right? RIGHT?

Look, no writer should ever substitute their fantasies for engineering realities. But if Thunderbolt 3 is possible on MacBook Pro, it'd be outstanding to have it on MacBook. Consistency is absolutely a customer-facing feature.

You mentioned LTE, any chance...?

macOS would have to be updated to include a "mobile mode" where, like iOS, it only does the minimum amount of network activity possible when on LTE. Otherwise, people and their carrier bills would be screaming.

Then there's the extortion-level licensing fees Qualcomm charges. The current round of lawsuits only deepens those suspicions, as does the rumors that Apple is working on its own LTE modem.

I very much hope we get LTE-equipped MacBooks — and soon. We may just have to let the lawsuit dust settle first.

How about next-generation Intel processors?

Intel has been struggling lately. Going to 10 nanometers has been like hitting a brick wall for them. They're probably two years behind on their roadmap right now.

Apple will probably keep going to whatever generation Intel releases, but the glory days of Moore's Law are currently behind us.

Any chance new laptops could run on ARM, use iOS, have a full multitouch display, and support Apple Pencil?

This is more of a strategic decision for Apple than a technical one. Both MacBook and iPad Pro tackle the problem of ultra-light computing from different directions. Currently, macOS lacks a touch-first interface and that would take time and resources to build out (see Windows 8). Arguably that time and those resources would be better invested in making iOS a better primary computing platform on iPad and larger screens in general.

iOS also lacks a pointer system, though adding selection (like on Apple TV) and cursor (like in text editing mode), seems like far less work. (Again, not an engineer, so everything seems both easy and impossible to me!)

A MacBook that's essentially an iPad Pro with a proper keyboard, SurfaceBook-style, would be incredibly interesting to me. Apple prototypes everything, so we'll have to see what's interesting to them.

But it'd be killer at coffee shops and on planes. I'm just saying...

Jet black? (Product) RED?

Ha! I knew that was what all this was coming to!

MacBook is currently the only laptop from Apple that comes in color. (Sorry, MacBook Pro, silver and space gray aren't colors). Gold debuted with the original and rose gold came last year.

I'm not sure if the Jet Black process scales or holds up to MacBook. I'd love to see it, microabrasions, and all. (Product Red) at that size would be a lot of red. Maybe too much red?

Apple treats color finishes like features because that's how we treat them. We get as excited for new colors — more excited even — than we do for new configurations.

Personally, I'd like to see how Apple would handle Space Blue or Space Purple.

What do you want to see from the next MacBook and MacBook Pro?

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is a bold new machine that pushes the future of displays, ports, and input, but it's also one that risks leaving many traditional Mac users behind. Whether that's ultimately good or bad, we'll have to wait in see. For now, it's your turn. What do you want to see in Apple's next Mac laptop?

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.

4 Comments
  • When I learned that this 2011 Mac Mini won't be compatible to upgrade to Mojave I started looking at replacements. (I run my Macs until they die or I just can't resist the upgrade anymore)
    Looking at the 2018 Mac Book Pro, I'm 100% on board with the 4 USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, and since I can get a wireless-(name-any-device-here) I'm not too bothered other than the expense of replacing some cords. But please, PLEASE, Apple, bring back the SD card reader! Its the only thing holding me back from buying the 2018 MacBook Pro! At least put the SD card reader on the Pro models!
  • i love the specs 4tb ssd, 32gb ram, 6 core of the new mbp 2018, i waited these specs since 2015, but i don't like the design, is to air. i hope that we get a 15 or 17 inch similar to lenovo p72, so no matter kg or size, it need to be pro without problems like 2018 (i mean it should be able to replace a desktop, like lenovo can do, so mbp should be portable, but main focus would be to use it as desktop, so as a imac portable, this is why i want a 17" inch back). at the end mbp 2019 should be bigger in display and / or have better cooling system, with a better gpu too. thunderbolt 3 ports should be 6 and not 4 on the 15 / 17" pro model (since using 1 usb c hub, 2 thunderbolt ssd without tbt out port, 1 charging or ethernet 10gbs and you already don't have other tbt port free, the only solution is to buy multiple docks or using daisy chain, since now there aren't thunderbolt hub on the market, but i request different brands to produce those products). They should use new pcie generation, if not 5, at least 4. Apple should sell a usb c to magsafe 2 adapter too. they should work with blackmagic for a egpu that can be upgraded.
    Would be great to see a mbp with 64gb ram, 8 core, thunderbolt 4, pcie5 but this would not be in 2019. Plus if they change design, they should add the old keyboard back. Some user desire a better display, i'm already happy with the actual display. What i want too, is to see more features in MacOS, as i continue to write to Apple in the Feedback page.
    They should remove the fact that all component are soldered too, for a better repair of the mac.
    If they can give add all this without problems it would be amazing, still waiting now for macbook air (better than the old 11 inch, not like the actual macbook with a stupid 1 usbc port) , macmini, apple thunderbolt display 24 + 27 + ultra wide (with tbt in tbt out and usb c / sd / 10gbs ethernet ports like on the imacpro), macpro new generation (with 6-8 tbt 3 ports, 2 tbt 2 ports, 4-6 usb c ports, 4-6 usb 3 ports, 2x10gbe, nvme raid as second storage, pcie expansion, apple ssd as main ssd, maybe some bays for 2.5 HD or SSD, like MacPro 5.1 + all features on the imacpro or better, so for example with dual cpu) and an ipad pro that is really PRO not only pro (= usb c or thunderbolt 3 port on ipad, more features with external device like now happen with mac, better transfer / organisation of files, better communication between apple devices, a way to send and receive sms, receive and make call like iphone, better camera, better storage upgrade option with new apple flash storage that works like microsd, more pro app designed by apple, ecc.)
  • I want my card reader, USB-A and HDMI back. I use early 2015 Pro model now and I am happy with it. But I am worried about potential need to buy a new one: none of the newest models meets my requirements. Seriously, this is a professional device, not a toy. I use it to do my job and I don't want to carry variety of adapters and external card reader in my backpack.
  • re: "Could Apple ditch the keyboard entirely for a multi-force-touch surface?" Apple founded its multi-touch tech through the acquisition of Fingerworks, a few years before the first iPhone was released. Fingerworks was founded out of academia by Wayne Westerman and his Ph.D. advisor John Elias (iirc). They shipped a number of multi-touch products including their flagship Touchstream keyboards – which are exactly what this question proposes. We know that Apple has continued working in this vein, primarily because Westerman, et. al. have continued to issue patents in this area. Interestingly, the first time I saw a haptic touch interface was a tech demo at the ACM SIGCHI conference in 2001. A researcher from Japan (maybe with NTT Docomo?) was showing an LCD touch screen desk calculator where the various keys had different feedback when tapped, distinguishing numbers vs. arithmetic operations vs. the equals key. That a predecessor to what reached the mainstream with the Taptic Engine in iPhone and Apple's recent generations of trackpads. That's all to illustrate that effective multi-touch keyboards with integrated haptics has been under active research for a long time now. Haptics is a hard problem space, and absent inside knowledge from leading experts and teams, pretty much impossible to predict when, or even if, it will be "solved". One thing to look out for: despite Apple's advances, there are still no "passive" haptic interfaces. Consider a complaint about the much-lamented recent generation of MacbookPro keyboards: reducing the gaps between keys at first blush would seem to be a win: bigger hit zone, therefore easier easier to hit the key. But there are complaints around that change decreasing users' ease of finding key boundaries in the first place, especially when moving hand a distance across the keyboard. On a "flat pane of glass" keyboard, we still have no way of indicating key boundaries at all. Again, there are some tech demos, but still no one has put the pieces together into a great solution.