Updated August 29th: article originally posted August 26th.
Even with the latest MacBook Pro models and 15-inch MacBook Air, the current generation of the MacBook family is coming to a close. The current MacBook Pro and MacBook Air have squeezed as much performance out of Apple Silicon’s M2 family as possible. Not only is the chipset ready to be changed, but the hardware design has become staid over the last few years.
Apple has exciting plans for the next generation of MacBooks, from a raft of new software and features for consumers to the depths of the machine and improving assembly and repairability.
Update: Sunday August 27th: When can we expect Apple to start the rollout of the next MacBook? Writing for Bloomberg’s Power On newsletter, Mark Gurman suggests that, while the September event will be for the latest iPhone and Apple Watch launches, Tim Cook and his teams are planning an October launch that is earmarked for the first of the M3-powered Macs.
Curiously, Gurman suggests that this will not “be positioned as a formal event”. This might be surprising, given it will be the launch of the new M3 chipsets and the first use of 3nm technology in the Mac platform. yet Apple’s debut of the M1 and M2 platforms were on the consumer-focused MacBook Air and the awkward 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Presumably, the company believes enough details on the M3 can be conveyed in an online presentation or press release without the need for the whole dog and pony show the iPhone’s A17 chipset will get during its September launch.
Update: Tuesday August 29th: Apple does not appear ready to say goodbye to the production of the M2 platform. Chinese manufacturer Wingtech Technology has picked up state certification that will allow it to produce the M2 MacBook Air as well as the M1 MacBook Air.
Retaining the M2 MacBook Air when the M3 MacBook Air is launched would echo the strategy of the M1 Air when the M2 Air was launched. Rather than have the former removed from sale and the latter move into the totemic $999 entry-level price, the M1 Air kept the $999 tag. This allowed the M2 Air to start at a higher price.
With the M3 MacBook Air on the way, and M2 MacBook Air still in production, it’s likely that the M1 MacBook Air will finally be retired and the M2 will move into the $999 slot, leaving the M3 MacBook Air to come in at a higher price point with Apple’s all-new technology.
The construction of the new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops may not be as spectacular as microLED screens or improved I/O features. Still, changes at this level allow more flexibility for the Buck Rogers design flair many are looking for.
Apple’s latest published patent, titled “Electronic devices with rotary magnetic latches.”, describes a new system to help assemble and repair a MacBook. The abstract example is of two latches that connect and lock; by applying a magnetic field to the magnet attached to one of the latches, the two latches will disconnect.
An illustrated example in the patent shows these magnetic latches sitting just underneath the keyboard housing of a stylised MacBook. Rather than relying on any screws or clips forced into place to hold the lower cover in place, a future MacBook could use these magnetic latches to secure the cover and allow it to be removed with ease.
This system has several advantages over more traditional methods.
One of the most notable is the lack of openings to access the latches for removal. Any openings create a path for contaminants, such as water or dust, to get inside a machine. Reduce the openings, and the device has more protection against the environment.
As consumer electronics chase smaller and smaller profiles, access to fasteners that would allow access for repairs gets increasingly complex due to the size of the fasteners and having to provide access for repair tools. A magnetic tool would be preferable to release the latch from the outside. Smaller profiles also mean that the force required to free a fastener must be able to be absorbed by the rest of the housing.
Finally, any repaired hardware must be reassembled with the same structural integrity as a factory fresh unit. Reducing the wear and tear on the fasteners and housings will help.
As always, with patents, there’s no guarantee that any of the ideas published will make it into consumer devices. It is clear that Apple is thinking about how it can be more efficient when assembling and repairing its products. They would undoubtedly be a step up from the current methods of assembly.
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