RIP 15-inch MacBook Pro: We hardly knew you

16-inch MacBook Pro Keyboard
16-inch MacBook Pro Keyboard (Image credit: Rene Ritchie / iMore)

Only Apple could get away with introducing a new version of a popular tech product and remove it from the market less than six months later. That's what happened earlier this week when it announced the 16-inch MacBook Pro while also discontinuing the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that launched in May. Overall, Apple's move from the 15- to 16-inch MacBook Pro is a good one — but not for everyone.

Been there

This isn't the first time Apple has stuck a fork in a 6-month-old product. Way back in March 2012, the company launched the iPad 3. The tablet was toast before the fall leaves started to drop and was replaced by the iPad with Retina display. The new one was the company's first 9.7-inch tablet with a Lightning connector, not a 30-pin connector.

16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard

16-inch MacBook Pro keyboard (Image credit: Apple)

Owners of what turned out to be the final 15-inch MacBook Pro aren't suddenly without a computer, nor is their laptop no longer supported by Apple. But just like those iPad 3 owners who suddenly saw their tablet replaced by an all-new model after only a few months, it probably feels like thou$ands of kicks in the teeth nonetheless.

Adding insult to injury: Apple has decided to offer the 16-inch model at the same price points as the retired version.

What you get

The differences between the May 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro and November 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro are significant. Even at the entry-level, in additional to a slightly larger display, the new model offers better graphics and double the minimum storage. And Apple has finally ditched the heavily-criticized butterfly mechanism keyboard found on all the most recent MacBook models. In its place, the 16-inch MacBook Pro contains a redesigned Magic keyboard.

Beyond this, there are similarities. For example, both models come with a 720p FaceTime HD camera and four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. The processors (and available upgrades) are also the same.

Not a normal turn-around

Apple buyers are used to seeing new iPhones arrive every 12 months. Sometimes, like in the case of the iPhone X, flagship models are taken off the market from one year to the next. Replacing a MacBook Pro version after just six months is a different beast in many respects.

Owners of (the last) 15-inch MacBook Pro aren't suddenly without a computer, nor is their laptop no longer supported by Apple. But just like those iPad 3 owners who suddenly saw their tablet replaced by an all-new model, it probably feels like a kick in the teeth.

For one, there's a big difference between six months and a year. Electronics — not just those from Apple — are usually replaced after a year as technologies change. Just a few months between versions rarely happens, however. Second is the price point. Yes, iPhones, especially flagships like the iPhone 11 Pro, are expensive. However, MacBook Pros are even more so.

The least expensive 16-inch model is $2,399; all the bells and whistles will set you back nearly $7,000. Now, imagine putting that type of money down just a few months ago on a now-canceled model!

Finally, I wonder whether offering a 16-inch display (but not a 15-inch screen) on the MacBook Pro is even appropriate from a customer point of view. Inevitably, the change could force some would-be buyers to look elsewhere.

The 15-inch model provided a display measuring 15.4-inches diagonally, which means the newer model is just 0.6-inches bigger on all sides. But this also adds 0.27 pounds to the weight. Neither of these changes sounds like a lot. However, if you must lug your laptop around to and from class or when visiting clients, this could prove far less manageable.

An interesting move

Technology products come and go, and from a pure geek standpoint, I can't wait to check out the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Nonetheless, I can see how the change might annoy some current 15-inch MacBook Pro owners. At the minimum, I hope Apple announces an extended return policy for more recent 15-inch MacBook Pro buyers. That would be a good-faith move on Cupertino's part. Still, it might have been wiser had Apple either not released a new 15-inch model in May, or waited until spring 2020 to release the 16-inch model. I would have chosen the latter, but I'm not Tim Cook.

For future buyers who are concerned a 16-inch laptop screen is too big, I suggest looking at one in person and comparing its specs to the older model. For a limited time, Apple resellers will have the 15-inch model available at discounted prices, so you do have a choice. But you'll need to act soon.

Should you upgrade?

Finally, if you own a May 2019 15-inch MacBook Pro and can't return it, you might be wondering whether upgrading to the 16-inch model would be worth it. That largely depends on what your current model is worth and whether you want to go through the hassle of switching everything. I own a 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro and have no plans on upgrading during this cycle. You might have other ideas.


Am I complaining about nothing? Do you like Apple's move? Note your thoughts below.

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.