RIP MacBook Air, slain by the new iPad-specific features in iOS 11

But the need became a little more urgent since I packed up my desk at Macworld and had to give back ... well, all the newer laptops. Luckily, the timing was fortunate, with WWDC just around the corner.

I had my fingers crossed the MacBook Air would get a processor update, hopefully to a Kaby Lake chipset, even though I was afraid it wouldn't. And indeed, it wasn't to be. Instead I think we saw the death of the MacBook Air—at the hands of iOS 11 and its new features for the iPad.

Why I'm into the Air

Even though I've spent plenty of time with all the newest MacBooks and MacBook Pros, I keep coming back to my trusty MacBook Air. Sure, the screen isn't Retina, but I still love this laptop because I've tried and failed to get used to the low-travel keys on the post-2016 laptops. Not needing a dock or dongle to connect USB devices is nice, too, and the later MacBook Air models have decent battery life.

OK, it's true, the MacBook Air did get the briefest of mentions onstage at WWDC, because Apple bumped the MacBook Air's processor speeds a little bit. It now starts (opens in new tab) with a 1.8GHz Core i5 processor, up from 1.6GHz, and upgradeable to a 2.2GHz Core i7.

But those are still fifth-gen Intel chips, the Broadwell series, first introduced in 2015 and two generations back from the Kaby Lake chips. And it just seems like a shame to pay $1,000 and up for such old technology, even though it'd be a huge improvement from the mid-2011 Sandy Bridge laptop I'm using right now.

Enter iOS 11

Still, as the presentation moved on, I had a new surge of hope. With iOS 11, I might be able to avoid upgrading this laptop for a little bit longer. See, when I gave back my work-issued MacBook Pro, the iPad Pro I'd been using at home went back too. This was, to put it mildly, a great concern for my iPad-loving 5-year-old son, so not 12 hours later I was at the Apple Store picking up a 128GB iPad—the new affordable one, because, after all, he's 5.

I've tried to use it for work, with some success, although the multitasking features in iOS 10 still feel awkward. (But I do love being able to use any Bluetooth keyboard I want.) iOS 11 should help a lot, if not remove the friction entirely.

First of all, Files. Integrating Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive is huge, and I give Apple a lot of credit in recognizing we don't all live in iCloud all of the time. The Dock looks great too, and dropping files onto app icons to open them is more natural than having to use the Share button and Open With feature.

The Spaces feature in the new app switcher is another Mac-like feature we desperately needed in iOS. Sometimes I find myself jumping between three apps, for example, and in iOS 11, I could keep two of them locked together in one space, and jump easily between that pairing and the third app running full screen. As a dedicated MacBook Air fan, I'm already very comfortable using Spaces in macOS to keep my windows organized, so I'm excited that multitasking in iOS 11 will make better sense.

Drag and Drop will be a game-changer too, and I'm pleased that it supports so many things (files, photos, text, URLs). Even just dragging text instead of copying and pasting it is intriguing—maybe iOS 11 will get users imagining a touchscreen Mac in a whole new way.

A happy ending?

Confession: I'm still not totally sure what to do. My MacBook Air is getting slow, and its battery barely made it through streaming the keynote. I could settle for a refurbished MacBook Air to save a few bucks, stretch for a 13-inch MacBook Pro with the keyboard I dislike, or even take a closer look at the newly refreshed iMacs.

But first I'm going to take some time with iOS 11 and see if the answer to my dilemma is an iPad, not a Mac.

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Susie is a tech-obsessed writer and mom, and former Executive Editor of Macworld and Mac|Life. Follow her on Twitter @sfsooz.

19 Comments
  • Files is nice, but it still only allows things to be done Apple's way. I'd be curious to see if I could install Zedge, and install Ringtones from it only on iOS 11. You also are still barred from installing apps that Apple doesn't approve of. I don't like Apple blocking what I can and can't see as an adult. There's a really easy ways they could block kids from seeing some apps, but they block me from having access to apps that support free speech. Hence, this isn't a replacement for a computer, it is still a little too locked down. Yes, I can use the sites in Safari, but then you don't get notifications or alike. Not as easy as an app with an API to the site.
  • It's always going to be locked down to an extent, what you want is Android
  • True. Or, people not jumping on "RIP Macbooks" when iOS 11 admittedly won't match OSX.
  • Doesn't make for a good click bait title though if you don't over exaggerate.
  • "because I've tried and failed to get used to the low-travel keys on the post-2016 laptops" I will never understand people who are so sensitive and fussy that the travel of keys impacts a buying decision. For me, key travel might be 312341234th reason for not buying a computer.
  • It doesn't seem weird to me that people would be picky about the primary means of interacting with a device.
  • Since car analogies are so popular, here's one; Keyboards are sort of like steering wheels in cars. People who're a bit more enthusiastic about their driving like a nicely weighted steering wheel with lots of feedback. Others who prefer a softer, more relaxed ride would prefer more a numb steering that doesn't transmit every undulation on the road. For me, keyboard key travel and overall "feel" easily ranks in my top 5 most important considerations when buying a laptop. Was up to number 3 in my list of reasons not to bother with the TouchBar MBPs when they were announced last year, with the primary reason being the **** poor price/performance ratio and the other being the lack of connectivity.
  • Nice read, I'm working with a MacBook Pro and an iPad on a daily basis. I'm moving as many things as I can from the MacBook to the iPad. I'm looking forward to my new iPad and iOS 11 for what they will bring in improvements. Keep these types of articles coming as I like to hear how others face and adjust to this transition to more mobile devices.
  • replacing MBA battery is really easy. costs less than 40 dollars and good as new. check ifixit for visuals but it's basically unscrew the bottom with pentalobe screwdriver(included with most battery replacement kits) pull out the old , reinsert new, replace cover. Can replace the SSD same way, can get more capacity/speed and reinstalling macOS will speed things up too.
  • Thank you for bringing up the possibility of upgrading a couple of parts instead of the whole machine! I wish we all had the mentality of finding ways to use fewer resources -- it's great for the wallet and the planet! We should also celebrate the fact that Apple used to make machines that could be upgraded and has seemingly returned to this philosophy with the new iMacs! Hopefully, it's an actual trend back toward building machines that really are as environmental as possible (even if the percentage of people who do upgrade parts is low).
  • An iPad Pro 10.5" with 128GB Storage, Apple Pencil and Keyboard Accessory is about the same price as a MacBook Air with 128GB Storage, 8GB RAM, a Better CPU, and better battery life. Replacing batteries don't matter. Batteries wear down in all mobile devices... iPads included. That is a complete non-factor. I'll take the MacBook Air any day over the iPad, personally. I remember getting an iPad and returning it within a day to get a MBA, because it seemed totally worthless to me. Then I returned the MBA after 2 days, just kept my Windows Laptop, and got an iMac because I didn't have a desktop. I didn't see any huge benefits over a MBA over my Windows Laptop, but since Continuity and Hand-Off were a thing, and I had an iPhone (but no desktop), I got the iMac. So yea... Even the fact that it was way cheaper than a MBA (at that time), and less than half the price of the iMac... I still couldn't be bothered with it. The guy in the Apple Store told me he uses his iPad like a PC. My Response: "I'm not even sure how such a thing could be possible." And I'm still not, because for the type of stuff I do on a PC, you cannot use an iPad. I found that out, very quickly. The types of people who can replace a PC with an iPad can probably save a lot of money by simply getting an 11" ChromeBook instead...
  • I'd like to coin ADDP. Apple Device Decision Paralysis. We've reached a point where deciding between a new Mac and iPad Pro is really difficult and it leaves me with no idea on how to move forward, so I don't buy anything. I think there are a lot of us in this boat where we have aging Macs and are unsure about where we should be spending our money. Having an iPhone, Mac, and iPad was an easy justification before the iPad was still a clear accessory device and priced as one ($499). An iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard is $800 at the lowest. You are now approaching PC/Mac pricing territory. Add a Pencil and you are at $900 to start. This pricing implies that Apple doesn't think users will be buying iPad Pro's AND a Mac. The 9.7 2017 iPad is now the 'accessory iPad' for Mac/PC users at $329.. So here I am with a 2010 iMac and an iPad Air 2, and I'm wondering what my next purchase will be. Should I buy an iPad Pro and just ride my Mac out until it dies? I don't think I'm ready for an iOS-only life. But dropping $1200-$1500 on a new Mac feels weird in 2017 when iOS has come so far. I'm stuck. ADDP guys. ADDP.
  • How did you manage to connect DropBox, OneDrive and Google Drive to FIles? I can only see "Local device" and "iCloud" :(
  • I've not tried it myself, but you may need the Dropbox/Google Drive/OneDrive apps. Then sign into them, and see if it appears
  • I have... and they didn't. I mean I can see files through the respective apps, but there is no corresponding location in the Files.app
  • I don't think any of these apps are already updated for iOS 11. Would be kind of strange ...
  • Get the Broadwell 13" Air. Big jump over your 2011 model.
  • Wow! Susie Ochs at iMore! Great hire!
  • Totally!!!!!