13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch BarSource: iMore

In the coming weeks or months, Apple's expected to unveil its first new Macs of 2022. Among these new Macs, a new 13-inch MacBook Pro is likely. Last updated in November 2020, this laptop currently holds an odd place in the current MacBook lineup. The latest Apple rumors suggest more of the same for this year's model. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and you'll see below.

Today's lineup

The current 13-inch MacBook Pro is nearly identical to the current, similarly-sized MacBook Air, except for some key differences that make the former more expensive. These Pro features include a Touch Bar, better mics, slightly more battery life, and other extras. Despite these minor differences, both models have the same Apple M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC) and similar storage and memory options.

On the more expensive side of Apple's current laptop lineup are the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models introduced last year. Featuring an M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC, these models offer better displays, the return of MagSafe, more memory and storage choices, and much more. For this, you're asked to spend much more, especially for the 16-inch model.

The new lineup

Because there's little difference between the current 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, it would have surprised no one if Apple decided to retire the former model. And yet, that's not going to happen. Moreover, the reason for this makes more sense when you consider what's likely to occur on the next MacBook Air.

Long a popular choice among Mac users because of its price and mobility, the MacBook Air is expected to see significant changes this year. As I noted in January, these changes should include the introduction of an all-new "M2" SoC, plus features carried over from the 2021 MacBook Pro models, including a mini-LED display, MagSafe, and possibly a notch.

For those who like to stand out, the new MacBook Air is also supposed to launch in multiple colors like the 24-inch iMac did last year (and perhaps the new 27-inch iMac will later this year). Like the current model, the 2022 MacBook Air is likely to fast-become the best Mac for most people.

Macbook Air M1Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Turning back to the next 13-inch MacBook Pro, the latest rumors suggest a few design changes. This means no notch, no new chassis, but the continuation of the Touch Bar. The new model is also supposed to offer the same M2 SoC found on the next MacBook Air, which, to me, may suggest similar storage and memory options.

These changes are minor compared to what's expected to happen on this year's MacBook Air. However, if correct, it is probably a sound move made on Apple's part. Not everyone in the market for an entry-level MacBook wants one in yellow or orange, and perhaps some still want a Touch Bar.

It would have surprised no one if Apple decided to retire the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That's not going to happen.

The biggest potential issue here, however, is price. Assuming Apple wants to keep the MacBook Air as its least expensive laptop, does a non-sexy new 13-inch MacBook Pro justify a better price, especially if it ends up with an inferior display? Probably not. That's why I'd assume the new MacBook Pro will continue to have extra features such as a better battery and perhaps an improved camera.

It's coming

The next 13-inch MacBook Pro could be announced as early as March 8 alongside new generations of the iPhone SE and iPad Air. Being announced before the new MacBook Air makes sense given the likely differences (or lack thereof) between the two models. Stay tuned.