OPINION: The transition over to Apple Silicon is almost complete, with the Mac Pro and a version of the Mac Mini the only surviving Intel-powered options available on the Apple store. And with the absurd levels of performance that the M1 chip family offers, there’s no doubt that the move has been a resounding success.
But after looking back at the last two years of Mac launches, I’m starting to worry that Apple has become so focused on its goal of delivering best-in-class performances that it’s started to neglect the designs of its various Mac devices.
That’s quite an odd change of events, as Apple has arguably built up a reputation for creating iconic designs for all of its products. After all, Apple is just as much of a fashion brand as it is a technology company. But I’d argue that Apple has recently been so focused on hitting its promise to complete the Apple Silicon transition within two years that new design upgrades have been left on the backburner.
There are of course exceptions. Apple updated the iMac last year, slimming down the width of the all-in-one PC while also introducing a number of colour options to spruce things up. The 16-inch MacBook Pro also received a much-needed makeover in late 2021, now with a slimmer bezel and that divisive screen notch. But that’s where the recent design refreshes end.
Where are the new designs, Apple?
Apple hasn’t given the MacBook Air a major design upgrade (aside from the move to a butterfly keyboard) since 2018 – that’s 4 years ago, which is a very long time in the laptop industry. The likes of Asus, Dell and Lenovo are refining their laptop designs on an annual basis, with laptops such as the XPS 13 OLED making the MacBook Air look remarkably outdated in comparison.
Rumours indicate that Apple will finally give the MacBook Air a design refresh later this year, with a slimmer and lighter design, as well as adding more vibrant colour options akin to the iMac 2021. Those are the exact kind of upgrades that the MacBook Air is in desperate need of, but it’s a little bit of a head-scratcher why it’s taken so long for Apple to introduce these changes.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is another laptop that’s in dire need of a design refresh. Apple has given up on the Touch Bar (as seen with its removal on the 16-inch MacBook Pro) and yet it still features on both configurations of the smaller Pro. It also has a bland set of features, with no Mini LED technology, ProMotion display, or anything else that could set it apart from the more affordable MacBook Air.
It feels like Apple is relying heavily on the M1 chip to keep this laptop relevant. Take that away, and it’s hard to justify a purchase when you could buy a Dell XPS 13 instead. And that ugly, chunky screen bezel certainly isn’t helping matters.
And then we have the Mac Mini. A new design for this Mac is arguably less urgent than the two MacBooks, as this dinky desktop PC is designed to blend into the background rather than being a flashy fashion accessory that you can proudly show off at a café. But Apple could still do more here.
Just like the MacBook Air, it would make a lot of sense to reduce the size of the device and add a couple of colour options to make your office setup a tad more interesting to look at. Apple could even spring a surprise and introduce a new feature that would improve the user experience beyond a faster performance.
This is what I miss most about Apple conferences, as Apple has stopped wowing crowds with new features for Macs. Instead, Apple has become reliant on spitting out numbers to emphasise how powerful these new Macs are compared to previous iterations. It’s very impressive, sure, but Apple events are in danger of becoming dull to the average Mac fan. Would a 20% faster performance for the next MacBook Air really result in a transformative experience?
Apple has admittedly unveiled a couple of new devices in the past couple of years, such as the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac Studio, which both look impressive in their own right. But again, both of these devices’ most exciting feature is the M1 chip inside.
I want Apple to return to its roots and start thinking outside the box again, rather than relying solely on annual performance gains. How about a 12-inch MacBook with an affordable price to take on the Surface Laptop Go? Or maybe even a dual-screen PC to beat the Surface Neo to the punch.
I do appreciate that transitioning over from Intel to Apple Silicon was a big challenge that required a lot of time and resources. But now that transition is almost complete, it’s important that Apple returns to its roots and once again excites fans with cutting-edge designs and features for its wide range of Macs.