Apple has already updated the MacBook Air in March 2020, garnering a 4-star review from us in the process, but there's a very real chance that the line-up will be refreshed once more before the year is out. We take a look at what to expect from the new, new MacBook Air.
Will Apple update the MacBook Air in 2020?
It might seem strange to think that Apple would rev its MacBook Air a second time within a year, but there are strong indicators that this could happen, mainly due to Apple announcing that it would be moving from Intel processors to its own ARM-based chips. This change to Apple Silicon paves the way forward for its products, meaning that Apple's Macs would share the underlying technology also found in iPhone and iPad.
It's a bold move for the company that will finally enable it to have complete control over the inner workings of all its computing and mobile devices. So, what will the new Apple Silicon-powered MacBook Air bring to the table and when should you expect its arrival? We explore those factors below.
New MacBook Air release date
At WWDC 2020, Apple announced that the first Mac containing its own processors would arrive before the end of the year. There's already a Mac mini running on the new Apple 12Z chip, but it's only available for developers at the moment, and while you might expect this to be the first to appear commercially, rumours suggest it will be the MacBook range that leads the charge.
Industry analyst Ming Chi Kuo, who has a rather impressive track record of predicting Apple releases, stated in July 2020 that the first device to come with the new processors would be the 13in MacBook Pro and that it would appear in the fourth quarter of 2020. But that's not a MacBook Air, you cry. True, but he went on to say that this would be swiftly followed by a refitted MacBook Air that would sneak out before the end of 2020 or early in 2021.
With Apple tending to introduce new Macs in October, we'd expect to see the 13in MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon making its debut then, possibly accompanied by the new MacBook Air or at least joined by it within a month or two.
It's not only Kuo indicating that new MacBook Air may arrive this year. In August 2020 evidence that Apple is working on a new MacBook Air emerged from regulatory bodies in China and Denmark where Apple had applied for approval of a new battery. That battery has the designation A2389, which is new, but it has the same 49.9 watt hours capacity as the existing MacBook Air, suggesting that it is destined for that Mac range.
New MacBook Air price
At the time of writing the MacBook Air begins at £999/$999 for the 1.1GHz dual-core Intel i3, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD variant. This is actually a result of a price drop that came in March with the latest revision, cutting the cost of entry by £100/$100.
It's unclear at the moment whether Apple will stick to this pricing structure when the new Apple Silicon models appear, as we've never before seen a MacBook equipped with the bespoke processors. Hopefully it will be a direct replacement for the existing model, so Apple can retain the point of entry at under £1,000/$1,000. However, sometimes when a new generation arrives Apple keeps the old model on at the low price, so we might see the new model come in at the higher price.
New MacBook Air design
We're not expecting much in terms of a complete redesign for the new models, as Apple already went through a large overhaul of the Air range back at the end of 2018. This brought new keyboards (which were subsequently upgraded again in the 2020 versions), higher definition displays and a general nip and tuck to the casing.
With all that work already in place, and Apple's history of sticking with designs for several generations, it stands to reason that most of the changes that take place on the Silicon MacBook Air will be internal.
Of course, we could be wrong, as Apple has won some interesting laptop-related patents recently. Patently Apple reports that these include an iPhone charging plate built-into the area next to the trackpad, a finger sensing technology in the keyboard that allows users to draw shapes on the screen (just incorporate a touchscreen already!), biometric sensors in the palm rest areas to monitor heart rates and other data, plus a keyboard that is essentially an iPad and makes the device a dual-display. But it seems that these would all be innovations that appear at a later date.
One thing that does appear to be set to change is the FaceTime camera on the front of the MacBook Air. It looks like we might see the TrueDepth camera appear on the MacBook Air enabling Face ID. The Big Sur beta code suggests we will soon get Face ID on the Mac with hints that the TrueDepth camera is coming to the Mac.
New MacBook Air specs
Coming so close to the previous MacBook Air refresh, there's a good chance that a new model would only really bring an upgrade to the processor, moving from the current 10th generation Intel core chips to the brand new Apple-made processor.
Apple has stated that it's chips will bring a boost to performance, especially in the areas of graphics as they will also come with an integrated Apple GPUs, and benchmarks for the existing A12Z-powered Mac mini showed an improvement in multi-core functions but a lower score for single-core. This could be due to the fact that the benchmarking software isn't optimised for the new processors yet, which could also be true for many of the apps that are currently setup for Intel's chips.
For a deeper look into the potential benefits of Apple's new processors, read our breakdown of Apple Silicon vs Intel.
New MacBook Air software
In terms of software, the new MacBook Air models will arrive with macOS Big Sur installed, as Apple's latest version of its desktop operating system will be fully compatible with the new hardware. Demonstrations at WWDC also indicated that, thanks to the Mac Catalyst development software, iOS and iPadOS apps can be easily converted and optimised for macOS thanks to the shared underlying processor technology.
This could lead to quick expansion of the macOS App Store, with many of your favourite iPhone and iPad titles making the transition. All of this does bring us closer to a Mac/iPad hybrid, but for the time being we're fascinated to see what the new Silicon powered MacBook Air has to offer before we start looking for the next major change to Apple's laptop range.
If you're undecided over whether to wait for the new MacBook Air and its bespoke processors or go with the tested and proven models that already exist, take a look at should I but an Intel Mac? before making your purchase.