Apple last updated its MacBook Air in March of 2015 with a spec boost, we had been convinced that Apple was about to give the laptop a Retina display. Instead, it launched a brand-new MacBook line that’s super-thin, super-light and does offer that high-resolution display, but does that mean Apple won’t enhance the MacBook Air with a Retina display in the future? In this article we investigate the hints and clues pointing to an imminent MacBook Air update: including release date, specs & rumoured new features.
New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: MacBook Air UK release date
Apple hosted a special event on 21 March 2016, so ahead of the event we had naturally expected new MacBook Air and MacBook models. After all, the Spring event represented one year since both were last updated (or one year since it was first launched in the MacBook’s case) and before that new Air models arrived in April of 2014. But instead, Apple used the event to show off the iPhone SE and the iPad Pro with 9.7in screen.
Despite the lack of MacBooks at Apple’s 21 March event, the MacBook rumours haven’t slowed down. If anything, they’re hotting up as anyone looking to buy a new MacBook soon is feeling frustrated by the lack of any new models with the latest processors. But according to a DigiTimes report published just a day after the March event, new 13 and 15in MacBooks are coming.
The confusing thing about it is that these new MacBooks are said to have a similar design to the current 12in MacBook, but will have 13 and 15in displays. And they’ll apparently be thinner than the 11in and 13in MacBook Air models that we have now, too. That makes it tricky to know what MacBook line this rumour is actually referring to, or whether we’re going to get a complete shakeup of the MacBook lineup.
Our current thinking is that the 11in MacBook Air is about to be retired, and in its place we’ll see a 13in and 15in MacBook Air with redesigned internals and a thinner design.
Of course, the rumour could be completely false. DigiTimes is sometimes accurate, but also sometimes less reliable so it’s tricky to know. But if it is true, we’d expect the new MacBooks to emerge at WWDC in June.
We originally expected the MacBook Air to be updated with a Retina display on 9 March 2015 at Apple’s Spring Forward event. And were quite surprised when we got something else: a Retina MacBook, yes, but one with a 12in display and a USB-C port (and very few other ports), a new strand of products for Apple’s MacBook laptop line-up.
Less glamorously, Apple’s MacBook Air did get an update at the same time, with new, faster processors, faster flash storage and better graphics, but the screen and overall design remained the same. Still no Retina display for the Air line.
That left us wondering what Apple’s plans are for the future of its MacBook line-up. We think the company intends to replace the MacBook Air with the new MacBook eventually, but the MacBook Air could remain part of the line-up for some time yet, and could still get an upgrade to the Retina display when it’s refreshed in 2016.
But when is it going to be refreshed? Now that the March event has been and gone we expect Apple to wait for WWDC 2016 in June, or possibly sneak in an update before then without going to the trouble of hosting an event.
In late November 2015, a report from the Economic Daily News suggests that the MacBook Air will see a significant update in 2016. The report suggests that the update to the MacBook Air may not arrive until WWDC in June, which will be more than a year after Apple last updated the MacBook Air. According to the report, the new MacBook Air models are expected to come out in the third quarter of next year, which suggests that there may be a wait after the June unveiling.
The Economic Daily News report notes that it’s been eight years since the MacBook Air launched and it’s not been redesigned in that time, suggesting that time is ripe for a makeover, or perhaps it’ll be discontinued completely in favour of the new MacBook.
We’ll update this article as soon as we know more.
New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Price
The last time that there was a Mac laptop that had more advanced specs than a more expensive model was the old MacBooks (aluminium, then white and black, and then eventually aluminum again). These older MacBook models were eventually discontinued and the price of the MacBook Air was reduced to make it the new entry level (when the MacBook Air initially launched it was quite overpriced for the specs, just like the current Retina MacBook).
It seems likely that the same will happen with the new MacBook models eventually replacing the MacBook Airs, at a lower price, but for now that seems a long way off.
The Economic Daily News report suggests the new MacBook Air will cost more than it does currently when it does launch. The 11in MacBook Air starts at £749, while the entry level 13in model costs £849.
If the 11in MacBook Air is removed from the line up perhaps the cost of entry of the 13in model will reduce to the level that the 11in model is currently, with a rumoured 15in model coming in at a higher price.
New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Dimensions
If Apple does update the MacBook Air range, what dimensions should we expect?
As mentioned above, rumours suggest that the 11in MacBook Air will be discontinued, after all, the 11in MacBook Air is both smaller than the MacBook and the new iPad Pro.
However, 9to5Mac points out that the new 13in and 15in MacBook Air models could be additional sizes to the MacBook range. That site predicts that some time in 2016 or 2017 we will have just two ranges of Mac laptops: the MacBook at the ultraportable level, and the more advanced MacBook Pro. Maybe the 17in MacBook Pro will make a comeback too, with a 4K display.
New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Specs & new features
These new MacBook Air models are said to be thinner and lighter, with internal spec enhancements. Apparently, the new MacBook Air will feature new batteries, cooling modules, and chassis, according to the Economic Daily News.
We also expect to see USB Type-C across the range, especially now that Intel has integrated Thunderbolt 3 into USB-C.
The next-generation MacBook Air is also likely to feature Intel Skylake processors, as well as graphics and RAM upgrades.
New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Retina display
The suggestion that the MacBook Air will feature a Retina display has been long running but those rumours were prior to the launch of the 12in Retina MacBook and the iPad Pro – suggesting the signtings of the Retina display some thought was destined for the MacBook Air was instead for these models.
Does this mean that there will be no Retina display on the new MacBook Air when (or if) it launches. If Apple wants to keep the price down maybe not. Or perhaps the newly rumoured 15in Macbook Air will feature a Retina display, while the 13in model will lack the high res display, but come in at a lower price, one similar to the current price of the 11in MacBook Air.
New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Touch ID and Force Touch
There are also reports to suggest that it’ll boast Touch ID within its Trackpad, which may also get the Force Touch upgrade that was given to the 13in MacBook Pro on 9 March, and comes with the new MacBook.
Touch ID is the fingerprint sensor that’s built-in to the Home button of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It’s also used to make Apple Pay more secure.
According to an Independent report, Touch ID for the Mac line would require a dedicated chip to be built in to the device.
The rumour started with Taiwanese blog AppleCorner, which cited sources in the supply chain. Apparently the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad may get a biometric update too, enabling users to make Apple Pay payments on the web, but both those accessories were updated alongside the launch of a new 4K iMac so that seems unlikely to happen any time soon.
New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Will the MacBook Air be discontinued?
With the advent of the 12in MacBook and the new 12.9in iPad Pro, it’s no surprise that rumourmongers are starting to predict that the 11in MacBook Air, with a smaller screen than either of those devices, will be discontinued. The iPad Pro may indeed be viewed by Apple as a replacement for the 11in MacBook Air if Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comments to the Telegraph are taken into account (published on 1 December 2015).
Following the launch of the iPad Pro, Cook told the Telegraph: “I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC any more? No really, why would you buy one?
“Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.”
However, should Apple discontinue the 11in MacBook Air, it does remove the lower price of entry from the line-up.
It may not just be the 11in MacBook Air that is discontinued. When the new MacBook launched on 9 March 2015, analysts began to suspect that the MacBook Air might not be around for much longer.
“This wasn’t the MacBook Air, but instead leaped past the Air,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “They kept the MacBook Air around just as they do with older iPhones, but the MacBook is now in the same position as the newest iPhone. That makes me wonder if the Air will go away over time.”
Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of US business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, also predicted a contraction of Apple’s line-up. “All [notebooks] need to be more mobile, so something like the Air doesn’t need to be branched out anymore,” she said of the differenciation Apple made for the line since its introduction more than eight years ago. “And it’s to Apple’s benefit not to have so many ‘families’ of Macs.”
Over time, it seems likely that the MacBook Air range could be discontinued and eventually replaced by a Retina MacBook range at a lower price.
We’ll be updating this article as more information about the rumoured Retina MacBook Air emerges so check back from time to time for the latest news.
Wondering which MacBook is best for you? Read: MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro comparison review: 13in Apple laptops compared