Another MacBook Air isn’t what we need from Apple in 2023
Fewer products. Less confusion.
By Michael Simon, Executive Editor, MacworldDEC 18, 2022 8:30 pm PST
Welcome to our weekend Apple Breakfast column, which includes all of the Apple news you missed this week in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours, too.
Apple makes too many products
There was a time not too long ago when you could buy one of two iPads, iPhones, Apple Watches, MacBooks, and iMacs, and the question was easy: Do you want the big one or the small one?
These days it’s not so easy. Even if you exclude color and storage options, Apple sells numerous products with overlapping features and screens that need a comprehensive understanding of what each model offers. Consider the current lineup and screen sizes:
Apple Watch Series 8: 41mm, 45mm Apple Watch SE 2: 40mm, 44mm Apple Watch Ultra: 49mm
MacBook Air (M1): 13.3 inches MacBook Air (M2): 13.6 inches MacBook Pro (M2): 13.3 inches MacBook Pro (M1): 14.2 inches MacBook Pro (M1): 16.2 inches
And that’s not to mention the 24-inch iMac, Mac mini, Mac Studio, Mac Pro, Studio Display, and Pro Display XDR. Or the AirPods, which also have four different models to choose from.
And now it looks like there will be yet another MacBook in the lineup next year, a 15.5-inch MacBook Air that would offer MacBook buyers options of 13.3, 13.6, 14.2, 15,5, and 16.2 inches ranging in price from $999 to $2,499. It’s confusing enough for buyers to choose between the M1 and M2 MacBook Air; now there could be another model that has a larger screen than the 14-inch MacBook Pro but costs a few hundred dollars less.
It’s the same problem with the iPad line. The 10th-gen iPad, iPad Air, and 11-inch iPad Pro all have very similar designs and displays. But to a casual buyer, it looks like Apple is selling the same iPad at three different price points hundreds of dollars apart, but once you dive into the spec sheet you can plainly see the differences. Assuming the 15-inch MacBook Air is $1,499, Apple is going to be selling three Airs within $500 of each other. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure a 15-inch MacBook Air will be a fantastic product that sells very well. But another laptop isn’t what we need from Apple’s Mac lineup.
Apple’s strength used to be in its selective product line. While companies like Dell and Samsung offered a wide array of products, Apple chose quality over quantity. Apple didn’t offer two sizes of iPhone until the iPhone 6. The iPad and iPad mini were the only two tablet options for years. And I can still remember the days when my choices when buying an Apple laptop were the 12.1-inch iBook or the 15-inch PowerBook G4.
I’m not sure there’s a solution, however. Apple is the largest company in the world and needs to cater to as many people as possible. A 15-inch laptop is a popular size, the Air is a popular line, and Apple is under tremendous pressure to continue iterating and innovating. And 2023 could bring several new devices, including an AR headset, a larger iPad Pro, a new HomePod, and possibly several new displays, so this time next year Apple’s lineup will almost certainly be even larger than it is now.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think less is more. And I think Apple could stand to prune its product line to give the remaining ones a stronger identity. People aren’t going to stop buying Apple products. But it wouldn’t be a bad thing to make it easier to choose the one they want by eliminating a few of the ones they don’t need.
And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and stay Appley.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.