In 2021, Apple will address mistakes from the past


When Apple announced the improved MacBook Pro earlier this fall, the common refrain was that the company was finally giving its customers what they asked for. But while the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro updates represent the most obvious case of Apple making (and rectifying) past mistakes, the company has actually moved on this course in recent years. And by the end of 2021, Apple will be nearly done replacing some of its most problematic designs.

Reviews of the new MacBook Pro are almost universally positive (aside from the high price points), but it’s still worth summarizing what a big change these laptops represent from their predecessors. Both new sizes are thicker and noticeably heavier than the models they replace; For a company that has shown an almost fanatical obsession with thin and light design for the past ten years, that is a major turning point. But the older 4-pound 15-inch MacBook Pro often struggled to stay cool under heavy processor loads, a problem that couldn’t be solved without increasing the size and weight of the laptop. It’s as if Apple remembered that it already has the MacBook Air, and that the folks who buy a Pro are willing to lug around a little extra weight for a more capable machine.

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Apple arguably started in this direction with an interim refresh a few years ago. In 2019, the company started banning the unreliable and inconvenient butterfly keyboard for a significantly improved model with a scissor switch. That revised keyboard came on the first 16-inch MacBook Pro. Together with the new keyboard, that laptop was a third of a pound heavier and larger in every dimension than its predecessor.

That was the first indication that Apple was willing to reinstate some of the fateful decisions it made with the MacBook Pro lineup, which brings us to this fall’s refresh. Users still had a laundry list of things they wanted to change, and Apple largely delivered on that. The new models brought back the SD card slot and HDMI port that the company removed in 2016. The MagSafe charging port, one of Apple’s smartest innovations, also made a comeback. Finally, Apple replaced the Touch Bar with a standard row of function keys.

Of course, Apple only deserves so much credit for repairing self-inflicted wounds. But it feels like the company has a much clearer picture of what the people who spend (at least) $2,000 for a MacBook Pro actually want. And in addition to fixing previous bugs, the Apple-built M1 Pro and M1 Max processors offer huge performance gains and longer battery life. Add to that an excellent new screen and keyboard and MacBook Pro buyers have a lot to look forward to. The fact that these computers are thicker and heavier than the ones they replace will hardly be a consideration for most, especially since larger laptops have room for things like extra ports, bigger batteries, and better cooling systems.

David Imel for Engadget

While the MacBook Pro is the obvious example of how Apple is giving people what they want this year, it’s not the only one. Take the launch of the iPhone 13. The company again released two standard models and two “Pro” models, just like in 2020. In most respects, these phones were iterative updates over the 12-series – but all four phones have a significantly better battery life than their predecessors. Improving longevity is an obvious way to make customers happy, but it’s still good news that Apple has quickly identified and fixed the flaw in the iPhone 12 series. Perhaps not coincidentally, all iPhone 13 models are also all a bit heavier than last year’s. (They’re also imperceptibly thicker, at .30 inches versus .29 for the iPhone 12.)

Again, Apple has recently been favored with battery life being more important than a design that’s flimsy at any cost. The 2018 iPhone XR was a cheaper and slightly less elegant version of the flagship iPhone XS – but the larger screen and thicker casing left room for a battery that smoked the “superior” XS. So in 2019, Apple made the iPhone 11 Pro bigger than the XS it replaced, but it also significantly improved battery life. It was especially surprising to see Apple make a bigger iPhone after getting thinner for so long at all costs, but it was certainly welcome. The company finally seems to realize that an impossibly thin device that needs constant charging is not a good user experience.

Another good example is Apple’s big change of mind about product repairs. In particular, Apple announced plans to sell repair parts and instructions to customers who want to fix their iPhones themselves, a win for anyone who felt they should be able to open their iPhone and insert a new battery or have a broken screen. to repair. While right-to-repair groups said Apple could do more in this area, they nonetheless hailed it as a big step forward from the completely closed-loop nature of its products, the vast majority of which were previously unserviceable by the user. Apple is starting with the iPhone, but said it will also roll out some self-repair tools and parts for M1-based Macs in 2022. The threat of government regulation may have played a major role in this new initiative, but the end result is still good for consumers.

In fact, Apple is having a little more fun with its products than it’s been in a while. Take the M1-powered iMac, for example. I wish it had more ports and, given the price, should have more RAM and storage – but the wide variety of colors Apple has chosen is just amazing. I’m dying to see these colorways come to a redesigned MacBook Air (fingers crossed for spring). The three new shades in the HomePod mini range are another great example of Apple’s realization that hardware you place around your home doesn’t have to be just gray or silver.

While the new MacBook Pro is a huge step forward for those who want serious power on the go, Apple still hasn’t given professionals the full-featured desktop computers they need. Since Apple is in the midst of transitioning to Apple Silicon, the larger iMac and Mac Pro machines are hard to recommend right now. Hopefully, in 2022, Apple will bring the power of the M1 Pro and M1 Max to a bigger iMac and a new Mac Pro tower. If they can complete this last bit of the transition next year, Mac buyers will be covered on all counts. the company’s product range. It’s been way too long since we could say that.

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