It's been nearly two and a half years since Apple's 12in MacBook was last updated (back in June 2017), and the company officially discontinued it in July 2019. It doesn't look like there's much of a future for the petite super-slim laptop now that Apple is focusing its attention on the Air instead.
But the MacBook might not be gone for good. In this article we round up all the rumours relating to a new version of the 12in MacBook, including its release date, price and next-gen processors.
The most exciting rumour about the new MacBook is one that indicates that a new device could be on the horizon that might use an Apple-made processor capable of running both iOS and macOS. We're also hearing speculation about a new keyboard.
The new MacBook could be the first Apple Mac to ship with an Apple processor, rather than an Intel chip. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has said that 2020 is looking likely as the launch date for Macs with custom (most likely ARM-based) processors; more on this in an earlier Bloomberg report from April 2018 based on the predictions of "people familiar with Apple's plans".
The initiative, codenamed Kalamata, could see Apple "able to more tightly integrate new hardware and software, potentially resulting in systems with better battery life," according to the Bloomberg report.
This would be the first major transition since Apple moved from PowerPC chips co-developed with IBM and Motorola to Intel in 2006.
For some time now Apple has been designing its own system-on-chip components: the first processor designed in-house was the A4, which found its way into the iPhone 4 back in 2010 (and subsequently the iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV).
There are also Motion Co-Processors, which since the introduction of the M7 in 2013 with the iPhone 5s, have been used to track steps (and, later on, elevation). Then in 2013 Apple's chips gained a Secure Element where payment and biometric data is stored.
In 2016 the first Mac gained one of these Apple-designed chips - the T1 chip in the MacBook Pro manages the Touch Bar and Touch ID, as well as the Secure Enclave.
Then in 2017 Apple launched the iMac Pro with the T2 chip. This T2 chip is now being used in the MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air, where it looks after security, storage, audio, image processing, system management and "Hey Siri". It's feasible that it could find its way into the new MacBook.
But Apple's chip plans could go beyond the current status of these Apple-made chips as small processors that sit alongside the Intel chips. A 9to5Mac report in May 2018 noted that a project codenamed 'Star' could see Apple create its own ARM-based processor to be used in a "brand new device family" that could see Apple run a derivative of iOS on a Mac.
Could this indicate that a future MacBook could run iOS alongside macOS? 9to5Mac believes this new Apple-made chip will be used for a brand-new device family that will run a derivative of iOS. That site points out that the 'Star' project relates to a product with that has "a touchscreen, a SIM card slot, GPS, compass, is water-resistant and also runs EFI." EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) is the boot system used by Macs.
As for whether we will see this new MacBook before 2020, probably not: 9to5Mac suggests the "First ARM-based Mac, with a ship date as soon as 2020." This correlates with reports that Apple is thought to be planning to move Macs to their own processors by 2020 (see more about that below).
Apparently the 'Star' prototypes are being manufactured by Pegatron (who manufactures other Apple iOS devices). A small number of units have been shipped to Cupertino for testing by Apple employees.
We look forward to finding out if this new ARM-based laptop running iOS and macOS ever comes into fruition
However, now that Apple has stopped selling the MacBook a new one is unlikely to arrive anytime soon. But that doesn't mean it's gone for good.
We could see this new Apple-processor-powered, crossover Mac as early as 2020 or 2021.
if you really want to get a MacBook you still may be able to. You may be able to find some discounts available on the MacBook from John Lewis, KRCS, Currys PC World and other resellers. Check out our best MacBook deals article for more advice.
A brand new MacBook is likely to see a price increase should Apple re-launch it.
Prices for the 2017 MacBook were as follows:
- 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 Kaby Lake, 256GB, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 615: £1,249/$1,299.
- 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Kaby Lake, 512GB, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 615: £1,549/$1,599.
Its main competition would come from the MacBook Air and now that the 2019 model's price has dropped from £1,199/$1,199 to £1,099/$1,099. The new style MacBook is likely to start above £1,249 we estimate.
Design & features
If the MacBook does return we are likely to see some significant physical changes. Slimmer bezels are likely, allowing Apple to increase the size of the display by an inch diagonally, without having to increase the size of the laptop significantly.
The MacBook was already incredibly thin at 13.1mm, and it weighs just 0.9kg, making it 24 percent thinner than the old MacBook Air - but in comparison to the redesigned MacBook Air that launched in 2018 the MacBook is only a fraction smaller (28.05cm x 19.65cm, 0.92kg compared to 30.41cm x 21.24cm, 1.25kg). So to compete with that it would need to shrink a bit more...
At present the MacBook is available in one size - a screen size of 12in, while the laptop itself measures 28.05cm by 19.65cm. It's possible that by shrinking the bezels Apple will be able to shrink the size of the laptop even more.
The only issue with reducing the size of the laptop is if it means the keyboard also shrinks. One benefit of the current dimensions is that it accommodates a full-sized laptop. Speaking of which...
For the past few years, ever since Apple introduced the so called 'butterfly switch' keyboards on its Mac laptops, MacBooks have been plagued by keyboard problems.
We have a lot of information in this story about the issues: MacBook keyboard issues. The problem seems to be that if dust gets under a key it can stop the key working, and to fix the problem with a single key the whole keyboard needs to be replaced. Apple has a program through which it will replace faulty keyboards for free. This program includes even the latest 2019 MacBook Pro and the 2018 MacBook Air, as well as all models of the MacBook since 2016. To qualify for free replacement of the keyboard you need to have owned the MacBook for less than four years though.
Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo has claimed that the next round of Mac laptop updates will feature a new keyboard design that actually returns to the scissor switch design that was used by Apple's laptops prior to the change to the butterfly-switch.
The scissor-switch mechanism means you can expect longer key travel (the keyboard is likely to be a bit deeper), but it should rectify the trapped dust issue.
Since its introduction in 2016, some models of MacBook Pro have had a Touch Bar along the top of the keyboard for shortcuts for everything from menus to emoji.
It would make sense for Apple to introduce this Touch Bar to the MacBook - keeping it to the MacBook Pro has made it such a novelty feature that there aren't many functions being developed by third parties, but if it was found on more Macs it might become more relevant.
Even if the Touch Bar doesn't arrive Touch ID is likely to, as it did with the MacBook Air.
The 12in MacBook currently has a resolution of 2,304 x 1,440 pixels at 226ppi.
It's possible that the new MacBook will gain True Tone, a technology that first appeared in the iPad Pro before arriving on the iPhone and the MacBook Pro. True Tone adjusts colour and white balance to better suit environmental lighting, so users should experience less eye strain, and colours should appear more accurate.
The new MacBook Air that launched in 2019 gained True Tone.
Apple is said to be considering an OLED display for the MacBook, at least according to sources at Korean ETNews back in 2016. We doubt this will materialise any time soon, though.
It seems that sharing your iPhone's cellular connection with your MacBook wasn't enough for Apple, if this patent approval is anything to go by. The patent, as described by the US Patent and Trademark Office, could allow the company to embed LTE hardware in the new 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 satellite 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 would tie the user down to a particular carrier.
There's one final design change that we don't expect to see soon, but it's interesting that Apple has filed a patent outlining it. A patent discovered by Patently Apple suggests that Apple is working a hinge design that would allow it to make a clamshell MacBook.
According to the patent, the entire chassis of a MacBook would be made out of a single piece of material that bends in the middle thanks to a "flexible portion" which it refers to as a "living hinge".
In the patent application Apple describes how the flexible portion "may allow the rigid material to be folded in half and thus acts as a laptop clamshell".
That's all the rumours about the 12in MacBook out there right now. But if you're hungry for more speculation, you can read about the changes that could come to the Mac mini in 2019/2020.