Is a 13in MacBook going to launch in 2016? When will the 2017 12-inch MacBook be released? What can I expect from the next 12-inch MacBook in terms of tech specs? How much will the 2017 12-inch MacBook cost? Will the 12-inch MacBook replace the MacBook Air range?
Apple released the 2016 variant of the 12in MacBook back in April 2016, and almost a year on, we're looking to the future and what we could expect from this year's model, the 2017 12in MacBook. Here, we sift through the latest rumours surrounding the 2017 MacBook and also our personal predictions based on previous Apple events, and knowledge of the company.
Those of you that want to find out more about the current 12in MacBook released in April 2016 can take a look at our 12in MacBook review, which covers everything from pricing to performance and design, sprinkled with our personal opinions of Apple's latest MacBook.
Apple decided not to update the MacBook or MacBook Air line during its October 2016 event, and decided to cut the 11in MacBook Air completely. This suggests that the MacBook is set to replace the Air line. We suspect a refresh to the MacBook line in March 2017 to confirm the replacement.
New MacBook 2016 release date rumours: When is the new 12in MacBook coming out?
So, when are we likely to see the next-generation 12in MacBook? Considering that Apple released the 2016 variant of the laptop in April, we assumed we wouldn't be seeing another upgrade until 2017 - and we were right. But 2017 is finally here, so when can we expect to see the new MacBook appear?
Apple has trademarked three new MacBook mode numbers, according to a Russian trademark filing. The three new model numbers, A1706, A1707 and A1708, were tipped to be a 13in and 15in MacBook Pro, and a MacBook with a 12in screen. This is all according to the reliable KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo - we aren't sure if these model numbers correspond with the new MacBook Pro models - but we will update this article once we confirm the model numbers.
We had originally expected to see the 2016 variant of the MacBook announced during 2016's spring Apple event, which was one year on from Apple's unveiling of the very first 12-inch MacBook models. But instead, Apple revealed the iPhone SE, a 9.7in iPad Pro and new Apple Watch straps, with no mention of an updated MacBook. A few weeks later Apple surprised us by updating the MacBook without any bells and whistles or another event.
Apple is a company of habit - new iOS software is showcased every June (along with macOS, tvOS and watchOS) which is then released alongside the latest generation iPhone months later, in September. It has been that way for more than a few years now, with the only exception being with the launch of the iPhone 4. Following Apple's MacBook habits to date, it suggests to us that we'll be seeing the 2017 MacBook sat on our laps between March and May 2017.
New MacBook 2016 rumours: Will the 12in MacBook replace the MacBook Air?
In October 2016 Apple showcased four new MacBooks, none of them an Air model. It seems Apple wants us to believe that it hasn't officially killed off the Air, but it all looks like an indirect confirmation of the 12-inch MacBook replacing the Air in Apple's affection and ongoing product portfolio.
Apple's MacBook Air design is now eight years old, and it's quite possible that the MacBook is lining up to replace it in the near future. When the MacBook Air first launched, its biggest selling point was its thin and light design, hence the name; but the MacBook now outshines it in those areas. To be honest, barring a major and revolutionary redesign it seems unlikely that the MacBook Air has much of a future ahead of it. Plus, for those looking for ultimate portability there's the new iPad Pro with a 12.9in screen.
The last time there was a Mac laptop that had more advanced specs than a more expensive model was the old MacBooks (white and black, and then eventually aluminium). Those were eventually discontinued and the price of the MacBook Air reduced. It seems likely that the same will happen with the new MacBook models replacing the MacBook Air models at a lower price than they are now, at least eventually - especially considering the MacBook Air’s less-than-exciting 2016 update.
According to trusted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the 12in MacBook is now Apple's best-selling computer, closely followed by the 13in MacBook Pro, which adds further fuel to the rumour that it'll soon replace the MacBook Air thanks to its popularity.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also claims that Apple is planning to introduce a 13in MacBook to sit alongside the 12in model in the third quarter of 2016. Kuo is a goldmine for inside Apple information and has been called "the most accurate Apple analyst in the world", providing accurate rumours regarding the iPhone 6s months in advance of its release, along with a flurry of predictions about the upcoming iPhone 7 which many assume to be true. Current rumours suggest an October hardware event where Apple will announce the 2016 MacBook Pro - will the company announce a larger MacBook alongside it?
However, while Kuo is usually accurate, we're not too confident about this one. The rumour hasn't been backed up by any leaks or other sources, and it seems like a pretty strange move to release a new MacBook only 1in larger than the current model, so it's best to take this with a pinch of salt. If true, we think it signals the end of the MacBook Air range. See more MacBook Air rumours here.
New MacBook 2016 release date rumours UK: UK price
While we’re still a way away from the official announcement of the 2017 MacBook, we can already speculate about the pricing as Apple rarely changes the price of its range from generation to generation, unless it’s a fairly hefty upgrade.
With that being said, the 2016 MacBook Pro will set you back £1,449 for the basic variant and £1,949 for a more powerful variant - and the prices have all gone up since Brexit too (Basic Air is £100 more, and basic MacBook is £200 more expensive!)
New MacBook 2016 release date rumours UK: Design and features
Looking at the change in design from the 2015 MacBook to the 2016 MacBook, it suggests that we won’t be seeing huge physical changes. In fact, the only change in design from the original MacBook and the 2016 MacBook was the addition of a new colour option, Rose Gold, to go alongside the readily available Gold, Silver and Space Grey options.
Aside from that, the design hasn't changed for the MacBook. It's incredibly thin at 13.1mm, and it weighs just 0.9kg, making it 24 percent thinner than the MacBook Air, and we don’t expect that to change dramatically in future.
Update 14 October: According to 9to5Mac, Apple is in talks with the Foxconn startup, Sonder - a company that uses E Ink technology to display its keys (see a video here). This allows a way of customising keys and even adding symbols which would not be possible on a regular keyboard. It's rumoured that Apple will use this technology in their next MacBook.
Back in autumn 2015, it emerged that Apple had filed a patent that appeared to show its design for a Force Touch capable keyboard. Along with the 2015 MacBook Pro, the 2015 MacBook has a Force Touch trackpad, which gave electric pulses that feel like clicks, but is a glass plate that doesn't actually move. Like on the iPhone 6s, you can press harder for a deeper click to access menus and options within certain apps. The new MacBook also has keys unlike any other Mac, which have very little travel in order to make the chassis ultra-thin.
The newly discovered patent shows what seems to be a whole keyboard and trackpad area fit to house this technology.
As this shows, the whole keyboard and trackpad, plus areas to the left and right of the pad, could theoretically be customised to the user's tastes and, for the first time, not have a physical keyboard. However, we have seen Apple file patents in the past that are to bookmark ideas for the future.
It'd be amazing if this technology were included in the new MacBook next year, but we feel this is one for the coming years. It would potentially allow you to have several language keyboards saved and switch between them on the adaptable display. We can but dream.
Imagine typing on a surface that felt like a keyboard, but was actually electric feedback telling your brain you're pressing keys? If this is Force Touch's future, we are excited.
Will the MacBook feature an Apple Pencil-compatible trackpad?
It's not the only new addition to the MacBook either, if the latest patent approval is anything to go by. According to a patent filed by Apple which was recently approved, an upcoming Mac could boast compatibility with the Apple Pencil - although the Apple Pencil depicted in the patent is far more advanced than the one on sale at the moment. The Pencil in question features a number of sensors that could detect movement, orientation and depth and, according to the patent, could be used with a Mac as an 'air mouse' or possibly even a joystick for gaming.
The patent reads: "Inertial sensor input may be gathered when operating the stylus in one or more inertial sensor input modes such as an air mouse mode, a rotational controller mode, a joystick mode, and/or other inertial sensor input modes."
It doesn't end there, either - apparently an upcoming Mac trackpad will feature Apple Pencil support, allowing users to use and draw directly onto the trackpad with the precision of the iPad Pro. While the patent doesn't mention whether the trackpad will be built into a MacBook or offered as a standalone Mac trackpad, we imagine that if Apple plans on utilising the patent, it'll do so with its newest line of laptops - the MacBook.
Will Apple discontinue Thunderbolt?
One question that has arisen is whether the introduction of USB-C spells the end of Thunderbolt. We don't think that Apple will drop Thunderbolt from its Pro Mac line up any time soon, but the standard may well disappear from the consumer level Macs eventually.
The reason we think it will remain on the MacBook Pro, Mac Pro and the iMac is Apple's efforts to convince the industry to adopt it since its introduction in 2011. However, Apple also promoted FireWire to the industry and eventually removed that from its Macs.
New MacBook 2016 release date rumours UK: Tech specs
What can we expect to see from the 2017 MacBook in terms of design? While rumours are scarce at these early stages, there is one interesting rumour that, if true, could herald in a new generation of Force Touch-enabled keyboards for Apple's laptop line.
The next-generation MacBook is likely to feature next-generation Intel processors, as well as graphics and RAM upgrades. Intel has started shipping its Kaby Lake processors: that's the generation of chips after Skylake, and offers support for Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1 and DisplayPort 1.2.
But there's another, less predictable, possibility. The Dutch-language site Techtastic has spotted a reference in the kernel of macOS Sierra to "ARM HURRICANE" being supported.
This isn't a chip family that anyone has heard of, but it's probably an Apple custom ARM chip: the A7 (in the iPhone 5s) was codenamed Cyclone, the A8 Typhoon and the A9 Twister. Apple might be about to put ARM chips in its new MacBooks.
Image courtesy of Techtastic
Will the 2016 MacBook have LTE connectivity?
It seems that sharing your iPhone's cellular connection with your MacBook wasn't enough for Apple, if the latest patent approval is anything to go by. The patent, as described by the US Patent and Trademark Office, will allow the company to embed LTE hardware in the 2017 MacBook, making it the first cellular-enabled Mac in Apple's range, past or present.
As well as LTE connectivity, the patent describes the use of Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth and satallite connectivity, and mentions ways to boost the signal without interference from the metal body of the MacBook. It's worth mentioning that this idea isn't new, though - it was originally filed on June 8 2015, and there was also talk of a 3G-enabled MacBook Pro back in 2008, but the idea was eventually rejected by Steve Jobs as he felt it'd tie the user down to a particular carrier.
Thinking of buying a Mac? Read our Which Mac? Best Mac buyers guide. Wondering whether to buy a MacBook or a Mac desktop? Find out if you should buy a Mac laptop or Mac desktop here.
New MacBook 2016 release date rumours UK: How to re-watch Apple's 27 October Mac launch event live stream
You can watch Apple's 27 October Mac launch event live on Apple's website. But don't just take Apple's word for it when the company says the latest Macs are the best ever: we'll be liveblogging the event throughout the night and adding our expert independent views and analysing what it all means for you. The liveblog is embedded below.
To stream the event on Apple's site you'll need an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with Safari on iOS 7.0 or later, a Mac with Safari 6.0.5 or later on Mac OS X v10.8.5 or later, or a PC with Microsoft Edge on Windows 10. Yes that's right, even PC fans can watch the Apple event.
You can also stream the keynote on Apple TV. If you've got a 2nd- or 3rd-gen Apple TV it'll need to be running software 6.2 or later. A 4th-gen Apple TV will be fine. A 1st-gen Apple TV won't be able to stream the event.