In 2021, Apple addresses the mistakes of the past

When Apple announced the MacBook Pro upgrade earlier this fall, the rumor was that the company was finally giving its customers what they asked for. But while the updates to the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro represent the most obvious case of Apple having had (and corrected) past bugs, the company has actually been in this course for the past few years. And at the end of 2021, Apple nearly finished replacing some of its most problematic designs.

Reviews of the new MacBook Pro are generally almost positive (aside from the higher price points), but it’s still worth summarizing the significant change these laptops represent from their predecessors. Both new sizes are noticeably thicker and heavier than the two models they replaced; For a company that has demonstrated an almost extreme obsession with slim and light design over the past decade, this is a major shift. But the older, 4-pound, 15-inch MacBook Pro often had trouble staying cool under heavy processor loads, a problem that couldn’t be solved without making the laptop more bulky and heavier. It’s as if Apple remembered that it already owns a MacBook Air, and people who buy a Pro are willing to put up with a little extra weight for a more capable device.

Devendra Hardwar / Engadjit

Arguably, Apple started moving in this direction with a mid-cycle update a few years ago. In 2019, the company began cutting out the unreliable and uncomfortable butterfly keyboard for a greatly improved scissor key model. The modified keyboard arrived on the first 16-inch MacBook Pro. Combined with the new keyboard, this laptop was a third of a pound heavier, and larger in every dimension than its predecessor.

It was the first indication that Apple was ready to fix some of the ominous decisions it made with its MacBook Pro lineup, leading us to the update this fall. Users still have a laundry list of things they want to change, and Apple has pretty much delivered it. New models have brought back the SD card slot and HDMI port that the company removed in 2016. And the MagSafe charging port is also back, one of Apple’s smartest innovations. Finally, Apple replaced the Touch Bar with a standard row of function keys.

Of course, Apple deserves only a lot of credit for healing the wounds it inflicted itself. But the company seems to have a much clearer view of what people want (at least) $2,000 for a MacBook Pro. On top of simply fixing previous bugs, Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max processors offer massive performance gains and better battery life. Add a great new display and excellent keyboard and MacBook Pro buyers will have a lot to look forward to. The fact that these computers are heavier and heavier than the ones they replaced is hardly going to be a consideration for most people, especially since larger laptops have room for things like extra ports, bigger batteries, and better cooling systems.

iPhone 13 Pro lineup

David Emil on Engadget

While the MacBook Pro is a clear example of Apple giving people what they want this year, it’s not the only one. Take the iPhone 13 launch. The company once again released two Standard and two “Pro” models, just as it did in 2020. In most respects, these phones have been frequent updates to the 12 Series — but all four phones have significantly better battery life than their predecessors. Improving longevity is an obvious way to delight customers, but it’s still good that Apple quickly identified and fixed the weak spot in the iPhone 12 lineup. Perhaps not coincidentally, all iPhone 13 models are slightly heavier than last year. (It’s also imperceptibly thicker, at 0.30 inches versus 0.29 for the iPhone 12.)

Again, though, there’s some recent precedence for Apple in putting battery life over a slim design at all costs. The 2018 iPhone XR was a cheaper, less elegant version of the flagship iPhone XS — but its larger screen and thicker body 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 greatly improved battery life. It was especially surprising to see Apple making a bigger iPhone after chasing thinnest at all costs for so long, but it was certainly welcome. It seems the company has finally realized that a device that is so thin that it needs to be constantly charged doesn’t make for a good user experience.

Another good example is the big change that Apple introduced with regards to product fixes. Specifically, Apple has announced plans to sell parts and instructions to customers who want to repair their iPhone themselves, a victory for anyone who feels they should be able to unlock their iPhone and put in a new battery or fix a broken screen. While the Right to Fix groups said there was still more Apple could do in this area, they praised it as a major step forward from the completely closed nature of its products, the vast majority of which were previously unserviceable. Apple has started with the iPhone, but said it will release some self-repair tools and parts for M1-powered Macs in 2022 as well. The threat of government regulation may have played a large role in this new initiative, but the end result is still good for consumers.

Apple has more fun with its products than it has in a while. Take the iMac running the M1, for example. I wish it had more ports, and given the price, it should have more RAM and storage – but the wide range of colors Apple chose is great. I’m dying for these colors to come to the redesigned MacBook Air (fingers crossed for spring). The three new skins in the HomePod mini lineup are another good example of Apple realizing that the devices you put in your home don’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 desktop PC they need. With Apple in the middle of its transition to Apple Silicon, it’s hard to recommend the larger iMacs and Mac Pros right now. We hope Apple will bring the power of the M1 Pro and M1 Max to a larger iMac and a new Mac Pro tower in 2022. If they can finish the final part of the transition next year, Mac buyers will be covered across all points of the company’s product lineup. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say that.

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