A new round of laptops appeared in the Apple Store this morning, which is bad news if you ask me. Yesterday, there were four distinct models of MacBooks. Now, there are two. Neither of them is particularly impressive.
Let’s start with the faithful departed. Apple just killed the only MacBook Pro with physical function keys as well as the cute 12-inch MacBook. The little MacBook hadn’t been updated since 2017 and was known for having a crappy keyboard, so it’s not a huge surprise that Apple put it out of its misery. But now, if you want to buy a new MacBook Pro, you have to deal with the tricky Touch Bar.
Maybe I’m sentimental or just old-fashioned, but I loved that MacBook Pro with the physical “F” keys. We were old friends! Since 2003, I’d been using some variation of the MacBook Pro with proper function keys, and in a way, it feels like Apple just offed my best bud. Sure, I could buy a refurbished MacBook Pro with function keys—they’re slightly cheaper now—but like the 12-inch MacBook, those machines hadn’t seen an update since 2017. So I guess it’s not a huge surprise that Apple made some serious changes in its new lineup.
A lot of people will like what Apple is selling now. Replacing the last MacBook Pro with physical “F” keys is a new $1,300 entry-level MacBook Pro that comes with the latest 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, a True Tone Retina display, and a Touch Bar. It also has Touch ID and Apple’s T2 security chip, which are both great. Meanwhile, there’s a new MacBook Air that now has a True Tone Retina display as well. Apple even lowered the price of the entry-level model to $1,100. It used to be $1,200, which was too expensive. Meanwhile, the MacBook Air still has physical “F” keys as well as Touch ID.
Apple is framing this release as a sort of back-to-school special. College students can get the entry-level MacBook Air for $1,000 or the entry-level MacBook Pro for $1,200. Apple will also throw in a set of Beats Studio3 wireless headphones for no additional cost. Students could also just buy a Chromebook for $500 and use the headphones they probably already own.
You used to be able to buy a MacBook that had the keys you like or the size that fit your hands, but now, you’re basically stuck with two choices. One of those choices includes a Touch Bar that many people find useless. I think the Touch Bar is one of the worst things Apple has made in recent memory. It’s not as intuitive as a row of physical keys, and while it is capable of being a dynamic touch interface, it’s usually poorly executed. Like the Siri button that’s right there next to the delete key. If Siri is enabled, you’ll probably accidentally beckon it nine times a day. If Siri is disabled, when you hit the button by accident, the machine prompts you to enable Siri. And don’t even get me started on the play/pause button.
Some people like the Touch Bar, I realize. Plenty of people hated they 12-inch MacBook and, probably, chose not to buy them. The fact that Apple is offering fewer laptop choices to its users still stinks. It seems like the company is streamlining its supply chain as it gears up to sell more Apple Music subscriptions and to launch its premium video service, Apple TV+. You’ll always be able to spend a lot of money on Apple products. They just might not be the products you want.