It was suggested earlier this week that we might see an Apple Silicon 12-inch MacBook before the end of the year, as one of Apple’s first ARM-powered Macs.
If the report is true, I’ve already talked myself into buying one, despite one rather awkward fact…
My 11-inch MacBook Air lives in a cupboard
I have an 11-inch MacBook Air that was a perfectly sensible purchase in 2013, but has since become virtually obsolete for my needs.
My primary Mac was for a long time the 17-inch MacBook Pro. I adored that machine, and happily traveled with it, but it was a bit bulky and heavy for lugging around the city when I might just want to use it in a coffee shop for 45 minutes. It was definitely too bulky to carry on a cycling holiday. A separate, ultra-portable Mac was justified, and I bought an 11-inch MacBook Air for that reason.
But things have changed significantly since then. First the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro, and later the 16-inch MacBook Pro, provided a much more portable primary Mac. I quite happily take that with me for coffee-shop use (or did, back in the days when there were coffee shops…).
Second, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a keyboard is an extremely capable pseudo laptop, so that provided an additional option when I wanted portability over power — especially when traveling, as the all-day battery-life is a compelling feature.
So my poor 2013 11-inch MacBook Air now goes mostly unused.
It did see use for a while, when my girlfriend adopted it after deciding her iMac was too big for her needs now, but she subsequently concluded that she didn’t need a Mac at all. Apple has been touting the iPad as a “computer” for some time now, and Steph is a case study: I gave her my previous 11-inch iPad with Brydge keyboard, and she now uses that as her only computer.
That’s not to say my MacBook Air is useless. I can’t work without a Mac, so it remains my emergency backup machine in case anything happens to my main one. And it has twice been called into service in that capacity. So I do need a spare Mac. What I don’t need is a new spare Mac.
The lure of the 12-inch MacBook
But I’ve always had a secret hankering for the 12-inch MacBook; it was just such a cute machine! I simply couldn’t justify one when I had a perfectly good MacBook Air, nor was it worth the upgrade cost when it was in most respects a downgrade.
The desire for one never went away, though, and of course the new one will have another major appeal: a chance to play with a next-generation Mac. As an Apple Silicon 12-inch MacBook, curiosity alone would be a strong pull. Add in my original gadget lust, and it would be hard to resist.
eBay tells me my MacBook Air is still worth around £300 ($400). If the new machine costs £999 (which will be pound for dollar with the 20% sales tax included here in Apple’s list prices), that’s a £700 upgrade cost. The optimistic view would be that Apple passes on some of the savings from its own silicon to consumers in order to help kickstart demand for the ARM generation, so it might perhaps be £899 instead (I don’t personally expect Apple to go any lower than that).
As a secondary machine, performance isn’t a priority, so that should safely be good for a 5-7 year lifespan – matching my Air, which will be able to run Big Sur but isn’t likely to get any updates beyond that. So call it around £100 ($133) a year in round numbers.
If it were just a backup machine, I’d still hesitate, and would be inclined to just hold onto the Air until it dies. But if the 15-20 hour battery-life claim is true, this is a machine I would absolutely use as a supplement to my MBP. Especially as, with an A-series processor, that claimed battery life might be accurate. In general, I find MacBooks deliver around 50-60% of their claimed life in real usage, while my iPad meets or even exceeds the claimed life.
As much as I love my iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard, I’m still a Mac guy more than an iPad guy. A lot of what I do even for leisure use involves multitasking, and iPadOS is still pretty painful there compared to macOS. My iPad would still have a role, but a 12-inch MacBook that matches or beats its battery life? No contest for most stuff.
In that scenario, the 16-inch MacBook Pro would remain my primary machine, and I’d still travel with it when I need to work from a hotel room. But for pure leisure travel and coffee shop use, the 12-inch MacBook would be my machine of choice.
Indeed, it would then be my iPad that would be hard to justify. Certainly it would fall into the category of a luxury product: Nice to have, but optional. The only role the 12-inch MacBook couldn’t fill is ebook reader, and that is easily solved with a Kindle.
So yep, if the report is true, I’ll be placing my order on day one. How about you? Please share in the comments your own thoughts about the rumored device.
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