While the company has made incremental updates to the MacBook Air during the past eight years, the Air is more or less the same essential device Apple introduced in fall of 2010. Suffice to say: A major makeover is way overdue. The current 13-inch MacBook Air, released in August 2017, is nearly identical to its 2015 predecessor save for a microboost in the speed of its antiquated Intel CPU and a belated doubling of RAM.
In the interim, Apple has expended plenty of attention on the premium MacBook Pro line, regularly refreshing internal components and introducing innovations like the Touch Bar. Just this June, the company delivered new 13-inch and 15-inch models. That effort hasn’t been flawless, however, as some recent MacBook Pros have been the subject of complaints and class action lawsuits due to concerns with their ultraflat butterly keyboards being rendered inoperable by a literal speck of dust. Despite an official denial, this brouhaha may have prompted Apple to retool the Pro line before releasing a new MacBook Air.
At the same time, Apple’s competitors have been flooding the market with alternatives that are well-designed, affordable and significantly more powerful. Exhibit A: Dell’s elegant XPS 13, which offers state-of-the-art Intel processors and other modern flourishes for $1,000. If you can tolerate Windows, there are many laptops to choose from that arguably deliver more value per dollar than the outdated MacBook Air.
Still, the fact that Apple has left the Air in its lineup and not killed it off — as it just did with its AirPort networking products — has fans of the Air hoping for a Mac Pro-style stay of execution. After all, the basic design of the MacBook Air remains the Platonic ideal of a laptop to many. At the very least, a MacBook Air reboot — whether or not Apple sticks with the name — is an opportunity for Apple to redefine what kind of a laptop you can get for $1,000 in 2018.
To that end, we’ve collected all the rumors and published reports circulating about the forthcoming price, specs, features and design of the next MacBook Air equivalent. (Note: Apple has not announced anything officially, and did not respond to our request for a comment.) This roundup will be updated on an ongoing basis, so check back often to see breaking news and details about the 2018 MacBook Air.
Rumor: A new MacBook coming in 2018
A report from Bloomberg breathes new air into our hopes for a debut this year. The article describes a ‘low-cost’ MacBook coming ‘later this year,’ leaving room for some curveballs. It’s possible that Apple might drop the ‘Air’ and go with the plain-old ‘MacBook,’ as it did for the 12-inch model it debuted in 2015 and refreshed in 2016 and 2017. And there are many months to go before we put up our 2019 calendars.
Rumor: September or October release date
So, while there’s consensus — all unofficial, of course — that we’ll see a new MacBook in 2018, there’s far less confidence about exactly when. Last year, DigiTimes reported that Apple would debut a new 13-inch model sometime during the first half of 2018. After refreshing its entire laptop lineup at WWDC in 2017, Apple delivered zero new hardware at this year’s developer conference. So, DigiTimes recently revised its forecast, suggesting that the introduction would be ‘probably in the third quarter.’ The clock is ticking on that one, but it would work if Apple slipped in a new MacBook unveiling alongside the new iPhones, Apple Watches and possibly iPad Pros we expect to see announced in September.
But, if Apple holds off on Mac announcements at its presumed September event, the next feasible opportunity will be October — a month during which it has often debuted new Macs. We could see new iMacs and even updated Mac Minis, too.
Rumor: Retina Display, finally
Bloomberg reports that Apple plans to update that ‘low cost’ MacBook with a high-resolution Retina Display screen. This bolsters an earlier report by DigiTimes that describes a new MacBook with a ‘slim design’ and a high-resolution Retina Display in addition to a contemporary Intel CPU; the newest Bloomberg information also suggests that the new model will have slimmer bezels. It’s hard to imagine Apple unveiling a new MacBook Air-equivalent that doesn’t have all of this, at a minimum.
Price: Still under $1,000?
Bloomberg reported in March that a ‘new, cheaper MacBook laptop is in the works and likely destined to replace the MacBook Air at a price less than $1,000.’ Likewise, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the 2018 model will be even ‘more affordable’ than the current MacBook Air. More recently, however, DigiTimes has reported that Apple has developed a new ‘entry-level’ MacBook that will run a new Intel CPU and will cost $1,200.
Today’s entry-level MacBook Air, with 128GB of hard-drive capacity, starts at $999, £949 or AU$1,499; the 256GB version costs $1,199. Third-party retailers now routinely discount the Air to $750 or $800, and its low price is key to its popularity. (Converted, $800 is about £600 or AU$1,060.)