Unlike the MacBook Pro family, the MacBook Air is locked into a single screen size. If you want a macOS laptop with a bigger screen, you have no choice but to go for the more expensive and, in all likelihood, overpowered MacBook Pro. That’s the choice today, but if you want a better option, you should wait. Apple has something big planned for 2023.
Update: Sunday 18th February: We expect this new macOS laptop sooner rather than later. Jason Cross looks over what we know of Apple’s plans for 2023, and suggests a timescale for the arrival of this new MacBook Air:
“So while the April date is not set in stone–that’s an estimate based on supply chain timetables–it seems as though a 15-inch MacBook Air is almost certainly on the way and will likely arrive no later than WWDC in June. If you’re excited about the prospect of such a product, start saving your money. This is as close to a confirmation as we ever get for unannounced Apple products.”
Apple has another big project in the works, namely its augmented reality headset. Writing for Bloomberg’s Power on Newsletter, Mark Gurman suggests that WWDC is going to be focused on this brave new world. Given that, and Apple’s recent propensity to do smaller releases by press release rather than a large-scale event, that quiet April date feels more likely.
Update: Tuesday 21st February: No sooner has the ‘larger’ MacBook Air been all but confirmed, the faithful are looking for the return of another hero product in the 11-inch MacBook Air. Currently, the 13-inch MacBook Air is the smallest macOS laptop available, which wasn’t always the case. Between 2010 and 2019 the smaller 11-inch MacBook Air model was available. Dan Moren explains why it should come back:
“As the owner of a 13-inch M1 Air who previously toted around two consecutive 11-inch Air models, I miss the compact size of the smaller laptop. It was easy to slip into a small bag, worked amazingly well in the confines of an airplane tray table (a place even the 13-inch Air struggles with), and weighed in at almost half a pound less than the present M2 Air, for which my back thanked me.
“…With the advantages that Apple silicon has brought to the company’s current Macs, it would be truly impressive to see what it could do for a smaller, lighter notebook.”
If Apple is opening up the laptop portfolio in one direction, then surely opening it in the other direction is just as likely?
Apple’s iPhone portfolio has expanded over the last decade to accommodate more price points, more features, and more models. That’s certainly helped with sales, but it also makes the buying decision a more personal experience, although the options still tend to scale everything up at once… if you want a larger phone, you’ll need to move up a model. That model also has higher specs, likely more storage, and a more powerful processor. You can’t just go bump up one feature and leave the rest as they stand.
The same is true in the Mac world, especially with Apple’s laptops. If you want a more powerful processor, then you’re going to move up to the next step in the portfolio, which means more processing power, more highly specced features, and more cost. The a la carte approach in the Windows PC market barely exists within Apple’s.
But that simple sliding scale of ‘better laptops’ will be challenged later this year with the launch of a new MacBook Air.
This MacBook Air will deliver something that fans of Apple’s consumer-focused laptop have repeatedly asked for. A larger screen. Apple is reportedly manufacturing these new laptops and the new display components right now.
Why is this new MacBook Air so interesting? Because those reports also point to Apple offering the 15-inch MacBook Air with the same Apple Silicon M2 chipset as the 13-inch MacBook Air models. Right now, if you want a larger screened MacBook, you have no choice but to jump up to the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro models, with the old-style jumps in specs and performance.
The 15-inch MacBook Air looks like a simple ‘swap’ of the display. No doubt there will be a price increase for the larger display, but there won’t be any increased cost because Apple pops in some faster widgets to bump up the dollars on the sticker.
A quick sidebar; some reports suggest Apple could be including an option on this 15-inch MacBook Air to bump up the processor to the M2 Pro chipset seen in the MacBook Pro family. If this is the only 15-inch option, this would be a curious option by Apple. If this does come to pass, I hope that Apple offers both the M2 and the M2 Pro for a larger MacBook Air.
With the upcoming MacBook Air, Apple is opening up the Mac laptop portfolio to offer consumers more choices at each price point. While Apple’s approach is still far less modular or option-heavy than the competition, this change will be welcomed by many. Assuming the 15-inch option is just the larger screen and no bells or whistles get added to lift up the price.