What Apple got wrong about the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro

13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (Image credit: iMore)

On Star Wars Day, Apple announced the next-generation 13-inch MacBook Pro. The new laptop finally replaces the heavily criticized butterfly mechanism with a Magic Keyboard, while offering beefed-up internals at the same price points as previous models. Unfortunately, there's at least one familiar area where the machine disappoints.

Like many MacBooks before it, the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro includes an inferior 720p FaceTime HD camera.

Why is this? Perhaps even Tim Cook doesn't know for sure. But until Apple makes a camera change, especially to the MacBook Pro lineup, you're going to see stories like this bashing one of of the company's most expensive products on the market.

Ugh, Apple

As I noted earlier this week, the new 13-inch Mac offers double the RAM and storage found on the 2019 model. It also includes a better chipset and graphics card. Beyond this (and the new keyboard), the two models are primarily the same, starting with the paltry 720p FaceTime HD camera.

Keep in mind, you get this camera, regardless of how much you pay for the laptop. The least expensive 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) is $1,299 while the most expensive will set you back $3,599.

Though Apple is often criticized for selling expensive mobile devices, even the $399 iPhone SE (2020) offers a better front-facing camera than any of the 2019/2020 MacBooks. You can certainly argue it's much more essential to have a better camera on your iPhone.

Still, the MacBook Pro deserves at least some camera update at this point, especially when you consider how much Apple charges for the laptops. Aggravating trivia: a 720p FaceTime HD camera has come on every MacBook Pro, going back to the early 2011 model!

What I said in March when the MacBook Air (2020) was released should be repeated now with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro:

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 Including an outdated 5W USB Power Adapter with iPhones is another classic Apple move as is removing extensions from Mac power adapters.... As it stands, shame, shame, Cupertino.


What say you? Leave your comments or concerns about the new MacBook Pro 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.

  • Is your only complaint the camera? That seems to be the same winning that we heard about the 16" Pro and the latest Air. Granted you would think Apple would give us at least 1080p if not 4k in a Pro level MBP you're being a bit over dramatic.
  • spoken buy someone who is willing to 'settle' on a $3,500 laptop. Apple has made a fortune from people willing to settle. (also, whining)
  • Even my most expensive MBP was never $3500 so you need to check your tone.
  • The point flew right over your head. All the MacBook Pros are expensive machines, they're supposed to be premium, so yes, the camera does matter
  • Where exactly did he say he bought a $3500 laptop?
  • I think you and erikbock missed his point. It doesn't matter what machine you bought, they're all expensive, and are considered premium machines, so the camera matters
  • Depends on where he is. In Canada there are many versions of the the Macbook pro that are above 3500 bucks. For the life of me I don't know why.
  • Agreed, they should be ashamed. Wheres the 2 in 1 form factor, touch and pen support. Time for Apple to move to the present not 15 years ago.
  • It's called an iPad.
  • Ipad is a toy os. I want a real os. I want one device. Not two. Apple needs a true surfsce competitor. This is what's wrong with Apple. The fans let them off with everything because......Apple. Time for you to realize 2 in 1s, convertibles running full macOS would be amazing. Until then enjoy the toy os on ipad.
  • It looks like Apple is trying to bring iOS much closer to working like macOS, slowly knocking the walls down, but we're not there yet. We need default apps, being able to natively install apps outside the App Store, the Apple Pro-suite (Final Cut, Logic, Xcode), Command Line Applications (kinda possible through iSH.app but that's still in beta), being able to use other browser engines than Safari (currently Chrome/Firefox/Edge all use the Safari renderer on iOS making browser testing impossible), Virtual Machines (might be possible already via UTM?), and probably some other stuff I've forgot to mention.
  • I couldn't agree more with my previous speakers. Much too lame for a true face lift. The least I had expected was a 14" screen in the 13" lid. Hey Apple, that's state of the art! As is a better camera ...
  • The camera complaint is valid. Such an expensive product and it still has the same camera that was introduced in 2011? Just silly, absolutely silly. I also thought they would reduce the bezels. That being said, Apple makes a ton of money, so they know how to work over the consumer.
  • If people stopped buying them Apple would upgrade. $3500 laptop with a 720 camera. Sinful.
  • Its nice to see some actual opinionated writing on this site for once. Rene was great, but if his departure can lead to some articles with some actual substance behind them I am all for it and the site will be better off for it.
  • Curious as to what a better camera gets you during a FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Teams meeting. Not much. 720P is more than enough for such uses. Anything higher is gross overkill. I’d rather Apple cut costs on the camera than other, more important hardware. Spec monkeys, gotta love ‘em.
  • There are a lot of other uses for the camera besides video conferencing. In the last month my wife has started reading books for our church kids. She greatly prefers sitting in front of her MacBook and recording straight into iMovie where she can edit right away. A better camera would be very helpful, as she is not likely to record on another device and transfer files over, manage all the resources, etc. Even if the end product goes out at 720p, having the option to crop or straighten a bit makes a great improvement. Perhaps others have similar use cases? 🧐
  • Better quality camera doesn't just mean 1080p resolution, it means less grainy, sharper, better in poor lighting, amongst other things
  • If you have a need for a better camera for some special reason, just buy one. Logitech 4K and Brio work with MACs. Might even make it more convenient.
  • The special reason could be that we're all resorting to video calls at the moment. I struggled to pay for this Mac I'm on, should I really be finding extra money for a camera as well when I paid so much for this machine? Luckily I have an iPhone with a great camera so I just use my iPhone camera through my Mac
  • There's nothing wrong with the camera. It's 720p as are most cameras in this class of machine. The vast majority of users won't give a rip about quality. I do it for a living, video chat every single dy over a variety of platforms and not one complaint; from my end or the other user's end. Every video service uses compression that makes quality arguments take a back seat.
  • Thank you. I rarely even use the camera in any of my MBP's. Until recently with the pandemic where FaceTime and Zoom have become my choices and a 720p camera is more than adequate for that.
  • I think a lot of people are forgetting how much these machines are, and that they're supposed to be considered premium machines. You wouldn't buy another premium product to find out they had made part of it cheaply. It should have a high quality camera regardless of whether you use it or not
  • I get that it's the hot topic now to complain about the camera. I don't disagree that it could be better, but I guess it's just not that big of deal to me. I use a Lenovo Yoga 920 (2018) for work. It has a 720p camera just like my MacBook Pro (2019). Neither are great, but I conduct and participate in meetings just fine on either. I think my MacBook does a little better with lighting for some reason, but both do the job. I am actually happy to be disappointed by the 2020 13" MacBook Pro. I just picked up the 2019 in the fall. I picked up a 256gb for less than the asking price of the new one so I am really only "missing out" on the new keyboard and I don't mind the butterfly keyboard. So I am happy that they didn't go nuts with the upgrade this time. I should be good until they really make a change worth while.
  • It doesn't matter whether it's not a big deal for you, it's a MacBook Pro, it's Apple, it's supposed to be premium, you're paying a very high price. Every component should be high quality
  • Welcome to 10 to 15 years ago when that statement was true Danny. Now they are just another computer and nothing special except their owners who dish out top dollar for last gen hardware that's outdated.
  • If I could run macOS on a non-Apple computer without hacky methods I would. Linux would be great if there was more support for apps (that is, native apps and not web apps). I'm planning to keep the Mac I'm on for as long as possible, and once it eventually dies I'll see where the Linux scene is at again
  • Why should you need to. You pay way to much for apple crap already. You should get the latest and greatest. Why use macOS at all windows 10 is awesome now with software for anything you want at 1/2 the cost of a comparable Macbook. Open your eyes. You also get touch, 2 in 1 / convertible, pen support and more in that money too. Macbook are old crap now.
  • I'm not really into Windows, that's just my personal preference. Spent a lot on this Mac so I'd like to get my money's worth out of it, at least for a few years. If the Linux scene gets good I might move to a Surface and install Linux on there, that would be an awesome combo.
  • I tried many various Linux distros and none compare to windows 10. Some are just as good as current macOS editions however so you may be fine. But windows 10 and the software available is far ahead of anything else
  • This is a focus on the superficial and ephemeral. If you want a better device for FaceTime / Google Meet / Zoom, get an iPad Pro. In fact, most consumers should just get the iPad Pro. But if you are an iOS/iPadOS/MacOS software developer, you gotta have a Mac running Xcode, at least so far. The real shame here, is that it's taken Apple so long to deliver on a pro laptop with sufficient RAM. In 2010, I was able to buy a Lenovo W520 with 32 Gigs RAM, but up until 2017, the Macbook Pro line was 16 Gb only, which severely limits its utility for running server software as your backend whilst developing for iOS. But you gotta have a Mac to develop for iOS. So I used to carry two laptops around, one for running Xcode, and a Lenovo running Linux with enough RAM to run the server. 32 Gigs is adequate. 64 is better (which I have in the 16 inch model). 4 TB SSD is great, 8 is better (which the 16 inch has). Video professionals - they need the RAM and storage also (emphasis on the storage). So....all of these things may seem niche to you, but the reality is, the same users that don't need 32 G of RAM, probably don't need a Mac at all, and would be better served by an iPad Pro, which has a better front-facing camera, and the Magic Keyboard is awesome. Tech writers, and reviewers? You may want a Macbook Pro, but you could get by perfectly fine with an iPad Pro. People in my situation can't. We NEED the RAM to do our work. After years in the wilderness, Apple finally throws us a bone, and you say 'shame on you' because they put a cheap webcam on it? Hey, I think they should put a better webcam on it too, but you're focusing on the least important thing, for a Macbook Pro, for what it's for. The question is: are you using your Macbook Pro as a host for Xcode or Final Cut Pro or Logic Pro, or are you using it to as a word processor/spreadsheet host / web browser host? Look, I'm happy for consumers to buy these things, but I have heard nary a word from any iMore or Macword or (name the publication) reviewer about the lack of RAM in these devices, or the thermal profile, caused because they're built excessively thin and light. I guess the 13 inch model does kind of straddle the fence between consumers and pro users; compared to the 16 inch model, which is for people who care about getting work done more than size or weight. What I'd really like to know is: what's the cooling like on the 2020 13 inch Macbook Pro? How fast can it compile Swift code, compared to the old model? Those would be real, substantive, useful questions to answer. The 720 p webcam, just.....why is this even worth mentioning? The idea that it would degrade your computer to slap a USB webcam on it suggests that you care more about the way the device looks than what matters, which is how well it performs. I know it's an Apple product, but seriously, the Macbook Pro, even the 13 inch model, should start to be at that part of the product spectrum where we judge it more on an emphasis on function than form. The 720p webcam - this is not a serious complaint, compared to the real substantial issues that have existed in the past (RAM, etc.), and the ones that still DO exist (cooling - thermal throttling).
  • "In fact, most consumers should just get the iPad Pro. But if you are an iOS/iPadOS/MacOS software developer, you gotta have a Mac running Xcode," That extends past just app development. You need a Mac for web development, professional video editing, professional music software, amongst many other things. So for me I certainly can't just get an iPad Pro just for a better camera. It comes down to the fact that Apple's laptops are supposed to be considered premium, and cost a premium price. In that premium price, every component in the machine should be to a high quality. It's pretty disappointing to buy a MacBook Pro for all this money and it has a camera that would make some smartphones from 10 years ago look great. It doesn't matter how many people use it, or how important it is to the general person, the fact is that it's a component of the machine, a machine that costs a lot of money, and should follow the same quality standard
  • I mean, I think I mostly agree with that. But have you really looked hard at the latest iPad Pro 12.9? It's somewhat true that you need the Mac for video editing and pro music software, although Luma Fusion (for video), and Cubasis and Auria Pro. The iPad Pro 12.9 screen is more expansive, for sure, and the keyboard (with magic keyboard) is on par with the MBP. Until this latest release, I would have said the iPad Pro outperformed the MBP 13 for both CPU and graphics; I'm, not sure that's true with the latest of both, but it's certainly on part. Where the MBP beats it is on RAM. But you know, iOS and iPadOS are pretty efficient, the fact that are very clamped down mean background operations are, while quite possible, not as easy for developers to go crazy with, and suck all the perf from your machine, which they can do quite easily on Mac. Web development? I can't speak to that, except second-hand. My co-worker who is a stellar web-dev, seems to be able to make his iPad and AWS work together such that he can do his work....don't ask me how he does it (he used to use a Chromebook in the same way). All of this is to say, that the iPad Pro might be a much more capable device that you realize it is. iPadOS still has rough edges, multitasking and multiple windows and stuff that you do trivially on the Mac take more efforts. Copy/Paste has gotten enormously better, drag/drop is great, and I really love the mouse / trackpad support nowadays. Of the three 'pro' disciplines you mention, (web, video, music), video is the one that really takes hardware. But, I kinda doubt that the MBP 13 Iris graphics are going to blow away the iPad Pro (which is pretty burly on that score). Luma Fusion is not Final Cut Pro, or Adobe Premiere, but it's quite powerful in its own right. But I mean, if you're serious about video, you're not buying the 13 inch MBP anyway. You're getting a 16 inch MBP at a minimum, or more likely, an iMac Pro or a Mac Pro with multiple MPX modules and Afterburner and all that. The idea that you're going to have a substantially better video editing experience on the MBP 13 compared to iPad Pro - it's questionable, although the extra RAM is a big deal. But the MBP will now go to 4 TB, and 32 GB, and that matters a lot for this. All this is to say, your point is correct; the machine should be quality across the board for the money, but....I guess I'm used to Apple's ways and just deal with it. I use one because I have to for what I do...you simply cannot do iOS development with anything but a Mac (maybe a Hackintosh, but you're going to have trouble staying up to date with the latest as Apple iterates - new iOS versions lead to new Xcode versions, and eventually means new MacOS point releases, or entirely new versions - all that is problematic for Hackintosh builders). I just don't care about the camera on a MBP; just slap a Logitech cam on it or something, if you really want it. I care less than nothing for the 'visual elegance' of the whole thing - I'll never understand that kind of thinking (I personally wish the Macbook Pro looked and weighed more like this: https://system76.com/laptops/serval - adequate cooling for reduced thermal throttling), I like MacOS well enough, but I'd be just as happy on Windows or Linux (I worked for Microsoft for ten years, and have spent many years on Ubuntu and Mint laptops and desktops). But you're right. They cheaped out on the camera. Don't know why they keep doing this. I just don't care very much - I'm just thankful they finally came to their senses on the RAM and storage front. So much more important.
  • You're right the iPad probably can do a lot more than I give it credit. I do web dev myself, my main requirements would split into 3 things: Code editor: These do exist on the iPad, there's Coda, Textastic and others. VS Code is the big app at the moment on Windows/Mac/Linux, it uses web technologies so it can actually be run in the browser on iOS, but I'm not sure how much access the browser has to the Files app which would be a difficulty point, I've not really properly utilised web apps on iOS so it's something I'd need to test. Version Control (Git): The big one on iOS seems to be called Working Copy, so that seems fine Command Line Utilities: This is where it gets tricky, the iPad doesn't have a terminal or package manager for running these utilities. Your friend probably runs these on the AWS server, remotely viewing them through the iPad, but I would really want to be able to do this locally on the device. There is an app called iSH.app which could be the solution, but it's currently in beta so it's not stable enough yet for proper work. As for the camera, on a personal-use level it doesn't bother me too much as I don't use it much and when I do need to use it, I know how to link up my phone so I can use the much better camera provided by phone. What bothers me is that people pay so much for these machines, and not everyone knows how to link up their phone camera, so we end up with video conferences that look like we've stepped back in time despite being in 2020 when many people would expect we'd be video conferencing with crystal clear images.
  • For the amount of complaining about the camera, I think he is using his MacBook as his only camera. I’m on video call everyday for my job... 99% of the time nobody even shows themselves. Such a crazy thing to focus on.
  • How can you be on a video call without somebody showing themselves? In any case the camera is still very important on a product that costs this much
  • It's a freaking selfie camera. What are you going to do, run around with a laptop making movies? Find a real thing to complain about. Ashamed of themselves? Just the new keyboard should have them patting themselves on the back they didn't wait until a major update was needed.
  • It is a real thing to complain about when the laptop costs so much. It's supposed to be a premium device, some 10 year old Android devices have better cameras than this
  • They wouldn't have needed a new keyboard if they wouldn't have let Mr. Thin, Jony Ive, ruin it in the first place.
  • I doubt that was all Jony's fault, it's clear to see that there's a mantra throughout Apple in trying to make products as thin as possible.
  • Your assessment seems pretty harsh, but I think this is a bad year in general to upgrade any Apple products thanks to COVID.
  • Is it really harsh? This is a website which generally praises Apple products, but criticism is needed when there are bad points
  • 2020, the year of the incremental apple upgrades (MacBook pro, ipad). Seems like apple needed a stopgap since their microLED products weren't ready to ship.
  • Must be a slow period for news (no kidding, right?). Complaints are easy to write. While a spec bump on the web cam would be certainly welcome, it's not exactly a tragedy or even a necessity. Nobody looks to create art with a webcam, for which more pixels might be beneficial (e.g. enlargement and cropping). The old webcam technology is perfectly fine for its purpose. The reasons most web cam pics look awful (Mac or otherwise) are lighting and camera distance to subject (which induces the big-nose distortion of near objects). My 2012 MacBook Pro web cam delivers better webcam images than newer laptop webcams. Why? Lighting... I light my environment to avoid the noise (i.e. grainy appearance) that is generated from automatic signal gain on darker image areas as programmed into web-cam firmware or software for low-light environments. Office buildings are not lit for good photography; they are light for energy efficiency with shadow-inducing overhead lights. Home office (i.e. working remotely) environments are rarely lit well; background windows or floor lighting to the rear of the subject create a high-contrast input scene that is output-adjusted to balance out the comparatively dark faces by inducing gain on the dark foreground areas, resulting in more noisy images. From the complaints about the Mac webcam, I suspect an awful lot of people know little about photography in general