If there’s been one refrain from Apple fans over the past year, it’s that the Mac is well overdue for an upgrade. This week, it looks like it’s finally going to get one.
Apple is holding an event at its Cupertino campus on Thursday where it’s expected to unveil some major Mac updates, with the highlight being a redesigned MacBook Pro. Updates for the MacBook Air and possibly for the iMac are also expected.
The Verge will be in Cupertino to cover the event live. So if you want to-the-second updates, be sure to check back here on Thursday. For now, if you want to know what we’re expecting to see, read on below.
It’s about time. Apple last redesigned the MacBook Pro in 2012, giving it more-or-less the same slimmed-down, CD-drive-free design you see today. There were some tiny alterations a year later, but otherwise, the Pro hasn’t changed much since then aside from annual spec updates. But now we’re expecting something new. Here’s what:
A thinner, lighter design: It wouldn’t be a new Apple product without being thinner and lighter, so of course this is one of the new MacBook Pro’s headline features. Bloomberg says the laptop, which is still expected to come in 13- and 15-inch models, will be “slightly thinner” than the current version, maintaining its level top and bottom rather than adopting an Air-style taper.
Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like the laptop will be all that different. An image of the new MacBook Pro leaked on Tuesday, showing a design that looks almost identical to what’s already out there, just with slightly narrower bezels around the keyboard and screen.
An ever-changing keyboard strip: This is supposed to be the MacBook Pro’s flashiest new feature. Instead of a skinny strip of keys dedicated to changing brightness, skipping music tracks, and controlling the volume (as all Macs have at the top of their keyboard), the new MacBook Pro is supposed to have a small touchscreen strip, which can be configured to show an array of different options.
Keys that change app-to-app
Basically, imagine having a strip of keys that changes to whatever’s most useful for a given app. So if you’re in a Word document, you might see copy, paste, and formatting options. If you’re in Photoshop, you might see brush adjustments. And if you’re in a game, you might see commands and options specific to what you’re playing. This could be a very handy feature for pros, who’d be happy to have clearer keyboard shortcuts.
The leaked MacBook Pro photos offers a good look at how this’ll work. They show the touch strip changing to Apple Pay controls when buying something on the web. A cancel button appears on one side, while the other points toward a Touch ID button on the right for authentication. Speaking of which...
A fingerprint scanner: Like the iPhone and iPad, the MacBook Pro seems to be getting a Touch ID-branded fingerprint reader. Bloomberg reported in August that the scanner would be located beside the new keyboard strip, which is where Apple put the laptop’s power key in earlier generations. The prediction appears to be spot on, with Apple’s leaked photos showing a button built into the touch strip, just above the “delete” key.
USB-C: It’s no surprise that Apple would want to bring USB-C to the MacBook Pro — the new standard already has a starring role as one of the MacBook’s only two ports. The question is: how many will there be on the Pro?
If there’s such a thing as too much USB-C...
Right now, we only have some sketchy parts leaks from back in May. If they’re accurate, it means there’ll be four USB-C ports on the Pro, taking the place of pretty much everything else. That means no dedicated power connector, no HDMI port, and no SD card slot, which means a lot of people are going to be carrying around card readers. I’m crying already.
A headphone port: ...so long as this doesn’t go Lightning-only, like on the iPhone.
Everything else: It’s a new computer, so of course the Pro will be faster and see some spec changes all across the board. Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI Securities, expects Apple to adopt Intel’s Skylake processors, which launched at the beginning of the year. Kuo expects a 2TB SSD option to be made available (one would guess at a steep price). And he also says Apple is likely to improve the quality of its Retina displays, though without increasing their resolution.
One thing we’re still not sure of: whether the Pro will come in any color other than silver.
Apple’s hugely successful laptop line is supposed to get an update on Thursday, but only a very minor one. Bloomberg reports that Apple is adding USB-C ports to the Air, likely to replace its existing USB 3.0 ports.
And that’s supposed to be pretty much it. Aside from some faster processors, it doesn’t sound like Apple plans to do much here: no redesign, no Retina display, no anything, really. It’s even been rumored that the 11-inch model will be discontinued, leaving only the 13-inch option.
Basically, it sounds like Apple is going all in on the MacBook and leaving the Air pretty much dormant while its thinner successor gets up to speed.
This isn’t expected to be a big update either, but it doesn’t really have to be. The iMac’s design still looks good, and it received big updates in 2014 and 2015, with the addition of 5K and 4K display options.
For this update, Apple is expected to — and you can probably guess this — add USB-C to the iMac. Bloomberg also reports that the computers will include an option for new AMD graphics chips, which isn’t a huge surprise either since AMD GPUs are already an option on existing 5K models.
Whether this actually gets announced on Thursday seems to be up in the air a little bit. Apple will want to put new processors in the iMacs, but Intel hasn’t released appropriate next-generation chips yet. That means if the iMacs are announced, they may not ship right away. Kuo, the KGI Securities analyst, suggests as much, pegging iMac refreshes for a few months into 2017. Same goes for that long-rumored 5K Cinema Display.
Apple’s first pair of wireless earbuds, the AirPods, were supposed to ship sometime this month. But there appears to be some kind of holdup, as Apple announced on Wednesday that the headphones were being delayed. No new release date has been given, but the point is: we’re definitely not going to hear about them at the event.
That doesn’t leave Apple entirely without wireless headphones, though. Three pairs of Beats headphones were announced alongside the iPhone 7 as well. Two of those, the Powerbeats 3 and Solo 3, are already available. But the release of the third, a wireless neck-wraparound called the Beats X, is still scheduled for release sometime “this fall.” It’s always possible we’ll hear about those instead.
Okay, there’s not really much else on the docket, as far as we’re aware. But here’s a very quick summary of the state of Apple’s products:
From the sound of things, this event is going to be all about the Mac, so it seems unlikely that we’ll hear about anything else that would steal the spotlight. Instead, it sounds like Apple will have plenty to show off if it wants to hold an event sometime next spring.
Update October 26th, 4:23PM ET: This story has been updated to reflect the AirPods’ delay.