Apple is now a phone company that also makes computers. The iPhone’s share of the company’s total revenue has climbed from 25 percent in the beginning of 2009, to 68 per cent in the first quarter of 2016. This ‘Phones R Us’ perception was further cemented by the fact that Apple’s crown jewel, the MacBook Pro, had not been refreshed since May 2015, while its design language had remained unchanged for years.
But at the Apple Event held yesterday, all doubts about the MacBook’s importance to Apple were pushed away, as we saw a swanky new lineup that goes way beyond a processor upgrade. Besides, Apple CEO Time Cook went to great lengths to emphasise that the MacBook Pro remains integral to Apple’s future.
But we saw it coming!
Apple is infamous for being a secretive company that manages to keep details of upcoming products tightly under wraps, setting the stage for a ‘big reveal’ during a media event. But the company is slipping, and its secrets have been leaking — rumours about the new MBP swirled for months, and so it was a bit anti-climatic when they turned out to be mostly true!
Yes, the MBP’s standout feature is the Touch Bar — an OLED touch strip that replaces the row traditionally occupied by the function keys. It is contextual and the content changes depending on which app you are running. An Adobe spokesperson stepped on stage to demo how the Touch Bar can be smartly used in PhotoShop, while the CEO of Algoriddim, which makes the popular Djay Pro app, regaled the audience with a spontaneous mix done using the Touch Bar. And as more developers get into the game, expect that touch strip to be put to good use in a growing list of apps.
But is it a must-have feature? Well, if your job relies on lot of shortcuts and repetitive tasks, you could speed things up with the Touch Bar. Even for casual browsing or media playback, you could use it to line up your favourite links or buttons. But we would rather call it a good to have feature, rather than a must have.
Apple perhaps recognises this, and it has also launched a 13” model without the Touch Bar, which is Dh2,000 cheaper.
Thin and mean
Incidentally, the thin-is-in brigade will be happy to hear that the new MBPs are significantly slimmer. Apple exec Phil Schiller did a side-by-side comparison and noted 13” MBP is 14.9mm thick, which makes it 17 per cent thinner and 23 per cent smaller in volume than the previous version.
Similarly, the 15” model sheds 20 per cent volume and 14 per cent thickness when compared to its predecessor. And yes, they are lighter, too.
Other significant changes include a fingerprint scanner embedded in the power button. This also allows for Apple Pay and fast switching of users — if your MBP is used by family members or coworkers, all they have to do is touch the power button and the MBP will automagically switch to their logged in session. The demo did look cool!
The trackpad too has been overhauled, and it is now bigger and better with Force Touch functionality included.
Meanwhile, the keyboard uses a second generation “butterfly” design — a common complaint about the 12” MacBook is that the keyboard is too shallow and it, well, sucks. Hopefully, the v2 on the MBP will result in a more enjoyable typing experience.
Elsewhere, the internals have upgraded the Intel’s 6th gen processors, a sharper display, better speakers, a more robust thermal management system and battery that will last around 10 hours. You get four USB-C type Thunderbolt 3 ports, and interestingly, any of these can be used to power the MBP. The 15” version boasts of a quad-core Core i7, AMD Radeon Pro graphics and 16 GB of RAM, while the 13” one comes with either Core i5 or i7 processors, 8GB RAM, and an integrated Intel Iris GPU.
You get two colour options — silver and space grey. The 13” model sans the Touch Bar will set you back by Dh5,999, while the one with the Touch Bar will cost Dh7,199. Meanwhile, the 15” models start at Dh9,499.
Interestingly, while the local UAE pricing for the 13″ models is more or less on par with the US prices, there is a significant difference for the 15″ version – in the US, it starts at $1999 (Dh7342).
The supporting cast
While the MacBook was the hero of the event, Apple wheeled onstage a supporting cast that included a new TV app for Apple TV, iPhone and iPad. This makes watching TV simpler, by pulling content from multiple sources and syncing across devices.
Besides, Apple touched upon a LG 5K display designed specifically for the new MacBooks — it charges the computer when connected, and acts as the “ultimate docking station”. Apple also talked about a new website, dedicated to teaching disabled users accessibility features in Apple products.