Apple has announced notable updates to the MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and iPad Pro. The new MacBook Air features a Retina display and Touch ID, the Mac Mini features powerfully revamped internals, and the iPad Pro now features slimmer bezels and support for Face ID and a new Apple Pencil.
Aside from new hardware updates discussed below, Apple also released various operating system updates to their product lines as well, including iOS 12.1, tvOS 12.1, watchOS 5.1, and macOS Mojave 10.14.1.
New MacBook Air with Retina Display (late 2018 model)
The revamped MacBook Air with Retina display weighs in at 2.75 lbs and now features a 2560×1600 13.3″ display with greater color support and smaller screen bezels.
The late 2018 MacBook Air has a 1.6Ghz dual-core Core i5 CPU and includes two USB-C ports and a headphone jack, removes MagSafe as a charging mechanism in lieu of one of the USB-C ports, adds a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and is available in space gray, gold, and silver color options. Users can customize the MacBook Air to have up to 16 GB of RAM and a 1.5 TB SSD.
The keyboard is apparently the same third-generation Apple butterfly keyboard as what is available in the latest MacBook Pro models, though there is no Touch Bar included meaning you will get a hardware escape key and function row instead.
The new Retina MacBook Air starts at $1199 and can be ordered today, becoming available on November 7.
Apple has posted an introductory video of the New MacBook Air with Retina display (late 2018) which you can view below:
New Mac Mini (2018 model)
The revamped Mac Mini has a space gray finish and comes with a quad core Intel i3 CPU, upgradable to up to 6 cores. Users can also customize the new Mac Mini to have up to 64 GB RAM and up to 2 TB SSD.
The new Mac Mini has rich port options compared to other Macs, including gigabit ethernet, 4 Thunderbolt / USB C ports, HDMI output, 2 USB-A ports, a headphone jack.
Mac Mini now starts at $799, with orders available today for availability on November 7.
The new iPad Pro slims down the devices bezels, remove the Home button, removes the headphone jack, replaces the Lightning port with a new USB-C connector, includes Face ID as an authentication method, and can now magnetically attach and charge the new Apple Pencil.
iPad Pro is available in 11″ and 12.9″ screen options, features an A12X CPU with 8 cores, and is available with storage sizes available at 64 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB.
The iPad Pro 11″ model starts at $799 and the 12.9″ model starts at $999. You can order the new iPad Pro today with delivery on November 7.
Apple has posted a video introducing the new iPad Pro, available to watch below:
Tucked away in a press release for the new MacBook Air, Apple also states that the existing MacBook Pro will have an optional Radeon Pro Vega graphics card option starting next month for users requiring additional GPU performance on the MacBook Pro line.
As mentioned earlier, Apple also released software updates to macOS Mojave 10.14.1, iOS 12.1, watchOS 5.1, and tvOS 12.1. Mac users running prior versions of MacOS Sierra and MacOS High Sierra will also find security updates available for their Macs.
Amid the battles over bezels, screens, and battery life, there’s one thing that all iPhones have in common: They’re powerful enough to replace your PC. Now before you start yelling at your screen, I’m not talking about the iMac Pro or the HP Omen. If you use your laptop or desktop to do something you can’t do on your phone, the point is moot. PCs and Macs still have their place in the world, and it’s going to be a long while before our mobile devices can handle the more strenuous tasks we call on our PCs to do.
But for the majority of people, an iPhone is enough. Apple knows this. It’s already marketing the iPad as a computer, and the iPhone is just a stone’s throw away, with the same processor, OS, and storage capacity. The only real problem is that the screen is too small for doing lengthy work.
When Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air 10 years ago, it’s main selling point was extreme portability. It wasn’t the fastest machine or the most capable, but people flocked to it for its thinness and lightness. At just 3 pounds and less than an inch thick, the MacBook Air ushered in a new era of portability years before the iPad made its debut.
The MacBook Air isn’t the smallest, thinnest, or lightest MacBook anymore.
But Apple’s strategy for the MacBook Air has hit something of a wall. It hasn’t been received a meaningful update in years (despite a spec bump at last year’s WWDC), and no longer holds the claim as the company’s lightest or thinnest laptop in Apple’s lineup. Essentially, it’s the Mac mini of the notebook line.
Ten years later, Apple’s ultimate portable isn’t the MacBook Air anymore. Nor is it the MacBook. In fact, it’s not a Mac at all: It’s the iPhone. Apple may still sell some 20 million Macs a year, but it ships twice as many iPhones in a down quarter. Simply put, the iPhone has become the MacBook Air for a generation of Apple users who have no use for the processing power of a PC. It’s more than capable for most tasks—messaging, web browsing, streaming, social media—has a great camera and lasts all day.
Screen with a view
The one thing the iPhone doesn’t have, however, is a large screen. The largest iPhone screen is just 5.8 inches, which isn’t exactly conducive to getting work done. Apple will happily sell you an iPad or a MacBook to fill that need, but otherwise there’s no way to expand the screen and no real multitasking, at least not like Split View or Picture in Picture on the iPad. And as long as the iPhone stays in the 6-inch range, it’s going to stay that way.
But it doesn’t have to. Back when it unveiled the Galaxy S8, Samsung also took the wraps off an innovative companion dock that transformed how we think of our smartphones. Called DeX, it allows the S8 to attach to a monitor for a full-sized workspace. It’s a true innovation that pushes the smartphone into new territory, and it’s a delight to use.
It’s easy to dismiss as a gimmick, but once you pop the S8 into the DeX dock, you can instantly see the potential. It might not be as polished as it could be, but Samsung has designed a legit desktop interface for the S8 that does for the phone what Chrome OS did for laptops. There’s no setup or preferences to speak of, but phone apps feel more like full PC ones than mobile apps, with resizable windows, robust interfaces, and traditional multitasking. Once you plug it in, it doesnt feel like you’re using a phone at all.
And other phone makers have taken notice. Huawei does something similar with the Mate 10 Pro, letting users connect a standard USB-C-to-HDMI cable to enter PC mode, but it was something Razer showed off at CES that really piqued my interest. It was just a prototype, but instead of a small dock, it was a full-sized laptop with a slot for the phone to slide into. And I wonder if there isn’t a prototype of something similar floating around Jony Ive’s laboratory.
macOS for the win
No matter what you use your iPhone to do, there are times when we all could use a break from holding our phones. And that’s where a dock could be a killer accessory. Unlike Samsung, Huawei, and Razer, however, Apple has a built-in advantage here: the Mac. Remember, iOS is built on OS X, so building a “lite” version of macOS for the iPhone would be a natural extension of iOS. But Apple could go a step further than a mobile operating system by incorporating Mac-like functions too: a full iCloud-based Apple File System, Spotlight search, dynamic notifications, powerful security, and of course, desktop-caliber apps.
People have been clamoring for a hybrid Mac for years, and this would be the next best thing: essentially, a Mac that can fit in your pocket. The iPhone is evolving faster than the Mac ever did, so much so that it’s beginning to reach the limits of what it can do on our phone. Each new iteration of iOS might bring a couple new features, but for the most part, iOS is constrained by the limitations of the iPhone screen. And unless Apple plans on making a 10-inch iPhone in the near future, iOS won’t be able to break out of its mold.
The next step
If Apple were to expand and modify iOS to fit on a big screen and work with a trackpad and a mouse, it would turn the iPhone into a sort of modern MacBook Air. Except it would be even more mobile, more versatile, and more advanced.
So what would an iPhone dock look like? Apple could go the way of the S8 and create a portable desktop dock that connects to a monitor. Or maybe a wireless charging pad that delivers data once it rests on it. Or it could do something like what Razer demonstrated: A full-on laptop with an iPhone slot. That’s probably not viable (or affordable), but it would be the coolest way to bring the iPhone to the desktop. I know I’d buy one.
Whatever the method, it seems inevitable that Apple develops some kind of a way to bring iOS to the big screen. As cool as iPhone X is, it’s still just an iPhone, and until Apple embraces its full potential, that’s all it’s going to be. But while the MacBook Air may be on its last legs, its spirit is alive and well. All Apple needs to do is harness it. By combining the mobile prowess of the iPhone and the MacBook Air, Apple would create the ultimate mobile device, one that works as well in your hand as it does when you hook it up to a 20-inch screen.