MacBook Rumors 2016: Will October be the month of the MacBook?

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Good news! The MacBook lineup could be getting a refresh as early as this month. Maybe.

Rumors have swirled for months now, and with the MacBook lineup lagging further and further behind the competition, it seems like Apple should be rolling out updates any day now, right? Well it looks like we might be getting an update sooner rather than later, according to some evidence uncovered by 9to5 Mac. The chief indicator of an upcoming announcement comes to us from a quarterly earnings call, which Apple has conspicuously rescheduled to October 25, due to a “scheduling conflict” on October 27.

That could mean anything, really. The last time an Apple earnings call was rescheduled, it was due to the funeral for long-time board member Bill Campbell. But, as 9to5 Mac speculates, this could be a strategic move in anticipation of less-than-stellar iPhone sales numbers. The iPhone 7 has exceeded sales expectations, but Apple is expected to reveal a year-over-year decline in overall iPhone sales – which is not going to be good news for investors.

So, what might we see at this theoretical Apple event on or around October 27? Well, we’ll of course see the usual improvements – updated internals, that kind of thing. But we might also be in for a couple surprises.

The other Great Lakes

One way or another, the next MacBook lineup is going to take a trip up to Intel’s lake house. They’ll be sporting either the 6th-generation ‘Skylake’ processors, or the latest 7th-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ CPUs. That’s very good news.

It wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the current chips in the MacBooks weren’t so old. Either one would make for a massive improvement in performance and energy efficiency over the aging chips currently in use, but Apple hasn’t made any moves in one direction or another. Sure, they’ll be using some variety of 6th or 7th-gen chip, but they’ve been tight-lipped about which one.

Intel Skylake

Even if Apple opted to go with the 6th-generation Core i5 or i7 processors, they’d still see some big improvements over their current offerings. Puget Sound Systems tested the highest-end desktop CPU from the 6th-generation Core family, and found that it “should be anywhere from one percent to ten percent faster” than the chips currently in the MacBook lineup. Even more impressive is the power usage, which consistently drops wattage across the board compared to older chips, while keeping core temps noticeably cooler.

Our own tests back up these results. The Dell XPS 13 from early 2015 scored 2,585 for single-core and 5,025 for multi-core running a Broadwell i5-5200U. The upgrade to 6th-generation Core processors bumped those scores to 2,884 for single-core and 5,960 for multi-core, about a fifteen percent increase. Similar improvements in efficiency can be expected.

Even supply chain reports from various manufacturers have been inconclusive. Apple Insider claims that manufacturers have MacBook-compatible chips on hand in both flavors, so it’s anyone’s guess which one we’ll see in the latest MacBooks.

We’re hoping Apple goes in for the more future-proof, 7th-generation chips, due to their overall improvements over the 6th-generation series. Plus, having the latest and greatest under the hood means your beloved MacBook will stay competitive for a little longer than it might otherwise.

Dead Air?

In addition to the other rumors we’ve been hearing about the upcoming Apple event, there’s one in particular that sounds a bit outlandish but could very well be true. Instead of updating the MacBook Air, Apple could do away with it entirely.

Yep, Tim Cook might get on stage on October 27 and give the poor old MacBook Air the Old Yeller treatment. Figuratively, anyway. He probably won’t shoot it in the face.

macbook-air-2

The MacBook Air has been overshadowed by the MacBook, which received a radical redesign last year, taking the MacBook Air’s crown as thinnest MacBook. If Apple is looking to simplify matters, obliterating the Air lineup could be a step in the right direction, particularly as MacBooks continue to shed the pounds.

If Apple does drop the Air, it will mean a sub-$1000 sized gap in their lineup, which they could conceivably fill by lowering the price on their lowest-end MacBook, which currently retails for an inflated $1,300. At $900 or $1,000, it’d definitely be a more appealing choice.

The function row is out, an OLED bar is in

This one’s all but confirmed. The MacBook Pro is in for a major upgrade, not only on the inside, but on the outside. According to patent filings, leaked photos, and even support in the latest update for MacOS Sierra, the next MacBook Pro will likely feature an OLED touch pad where the function keys used to be.

As imagined in these unofficial renders, it looks pretty cool. It’s the kind of feature that could help differentiate Apple’s flagship laptops in an increasingly crowded marketplace. How it’ll work exactly, again, remains to be seen. Much of the speculation in that regard is unsubstantiated, but out of all the rumors we’ve heard thus far, this is the one with the most reliable, rock-solid evidence.

This OLED-touch-panel also all but confirms that we’ll see it roll out alongside new MacBooks this month, in a roundabout sort of way. We’re going into the weeds a little here, so please bear with us.

In order to keep some of its upcoming products secret, Apple files patents and trademarks in different countries before filing for them in the United States. They do this in order to protect their intellectual property while also avoiding leaks. But, due to international trademark and patent laws, they only have a certain amount of time to re-file those trademarks and patents globally in order to keep their seniority, and keep someone from swooping in and filing the same trademark or patent in a different jurisdiction.

So if Apple filed a trademark in, say, Ireland, and waited too long to re-file it in the U.S., then they’d lose their seniority, and the new (U.S.) trademark filing would lose that first (Ireland) filing date.

How does that prove that Apple will have an event this month? According to patent and trademark records obtained by Apple Insider, Apple actually filed a trademark for “Touch Bar” on April 26, 2016. Which means Apple will need to re-file that trademark globally by October 26, 2016 in order to preserve their original filing date.

According to a patent attorney speaking with Apple Insider, this is standard operating procedure for Apple. They typically file their patents or trademarks abroad, then bring them home right before the end of their “six month seniority.” Essentially, what it means is there’s even more evidence that Apple will be having a MacBook-centric event later this month, probably around October 26 or 27.

That’s not all! Another long-rumored feature is likely to make an appearance on the event stage at the end of October: TouchID on the MacBook Pro. According to information obtained by MacRumors, we could see a fingerprint sensor integrated into the power button.

Apple could continue to kill connectivity

It’s time for Apple to redesign the look of the aging MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines. It’s been years since a legitimate update, and in that time everything from the iPhone up to the iMac has seen some sort of design update.

If new designs come, it’s incredibly likely we’ll see the introduction of the USB Type-C port across every laptop in the MacBook line. The MacBook’s bold decision to replace everything with a single USB Type-C may be overzealous, though, especially when considering the MacBook Pro’s popularity for media creation and editing. Those users tend to need common ports, and lots of them, to achieve true productivity.

MacBook 2015

But that doesn’t mean they won’t be featured on newer MacBooks. It wouldn’t be surprising for Apple to lean even more heavily on the new standard for both computing and mobile solutions — in particular,for replacing the Mini-DisplayPort and HDMI ports found on the current generation of products.

Did somebody say display?

While we’re talking about DisplayPort and HDMI, there are some indications that Apple could be rolling out a new standalone 5K display.

That’s right, Apple’s venerable Thunderbolt display could be getting a major update later this month. First introduced in 2011, the Thunderbolt display featured a then-impressive 1440p resolution. But recently, the massive Apple monitor has been showing its age, particularly when compared to new 4K monitors.

According to MacWorld, the next generation of the Thunderbolt monitor will skip right over 4K and jump into 5K territory with a lush 27-inch display. It’s not as big a deal as a MacBook refresh, but it’s good news for Apple hardware enthusiasts.

Save the date?

Trying to guess what Apple is doing is like trying to predict the weather. While history, rumors, and people standing downwind might hint about the next big move, we just won’t know until Apple decides to share that information. We’ve got some solid indications that something will be happening later this month, but whether that’s the big MacBook event we all want, or just a quiet refresh, is still unclear.

We’ll have to wait and see — but keep your schedule open on October 27.

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