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The MacBook Pro is getting a killer feature iPhone users can only dream about

Think your MacBook Pro’s screen is good? You ain’t seen nothing yet

Mac fans have long felt aggrieved at the apparent preference that Apple gives the iPhone when it comes to new features. After all, the iPhone was the first to get an OLED display and the first to get Face ID; hell, the Mac Pro won’t even have Touch ID.

This seeming second-class status has long fuelled fears within the Mac community that Apple simply doesn’t care about its desktop and laptop users. It’s not hard to see why — take a peek at Apple’s most recent quarterly earnings report and you’ll see the iPhone makes up over 50% of Apple’s total sales; the Mac contributes less than 11%.

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But if the latest report from Apple super-analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is anything to go by, things are about to be shaken up. According to Kuo, the Mac will get a killer feature next year that iPhone users can only dream of, one that will “significantly improve productivity and the entertainment experience” on the device.

The iPhone is nowhere to be seen

We reported earlier this week that Kuo claims a MacBook with a mini LED display is in the works. This isn’t the first time he’s made such a claim — in both April and September 2019, he issued similar reports. Kuo has an excellent track record when it comes to Apple rumors, and is generally considered reliable, so when he sends out repeated signals that Apple is working on something, it pricks up more than a few ears.

But what’s interesting about this latest report is its predicted timing for Apple’s future mini LED products. First up will be the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, coming in the third quarter of 2020; second will be a refreshed 16-inch MacBook Pro in the fourth quarter of 2020. There will then be four more products to get mini LED displays, although Kuo doesn’t go into detail on what they will be.

iPhone 11 Pro Max screen
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Notice how the iPhone is not mentioned at all. While it’s possible that the iPhone is among the other four unnamed devices to get mini LED displays, we consider this unlikely; CNBC has previously reported that Kuo believes Apple is planning to outfit mini LED displays in its “midsize” devices, meaning those larger than the iPhone.

With the price of the mini LED display restricting it to high-end devices, we could end up seeing it make an appearance in the iMac Pro and Mac Pro. Alternatively, the remaining four mini LED products could simply be different configurations of the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Whatever the reality, it looks like this is one key feature that’ll be aimed squarely at Pro users.

It also suggests this high-end feature will hit the Mac potentially long before it ever arrives on the iPhone. Coupled with the well-received MacBook Pro 16 and the impending launch of the all-new Mac Pro, things are starting to look up for Mac fans.

The ultimate screen tech

So, what’s all the fuss about? What makes the rumored mini LED display so exciting? Well, the answer is a combination of what it actually does and what it means.

In the case of the former, the mini LED display packs in way more LEDs than any of Apple’s current monitor panels. Kuo has said he expects the MacBook Pro’s mini LED screen will contain around 10,000 LEDs; for comparison, Apple’s Pro Display XDR — it’s best-quality monitor by far — will contain 576 LEDs. The mini LED display will be able to maintain the superb quality of OLED displays, with exceptional HDR performance, high contrast, and a wide color gamut, while avoiding the burn-in issues that can befall OLED screens.

A mini LED panel would achieve all this while still being thin and light. That’ll please anyone who needs to travel with their MacBook Pro, as well as satisfy Apple’s itch when it comes to lightweight devices. And now that Apple has overhauled the cooling in the MacBook Pro 16, it should no longer badly restrict performance either.

With all this in mind, it suddenly makes sense why Apple hasn’t equipped the MacBook Pro with an OLED display yet. Apple’s high-end MacBook laptops already contain the best displays in the biz, so Apple hasn’t been under any real pressure to upgrade the LCD panels in the MacBook Pro. Much better to make a huge statement to its rivals in the form of a mini LED screen than the much smaller statement an OLED display would make — at least, this appears to be the thinking. Apple wants to show off just how far ahead of its rivals it is when it comes to display tech, and a mini LED screen would do just that.

But there’s another element to all this. The fact that Apple is already leading the pack when it comes to laptop displays makes its switch to mini LED even more notable. The company doesn’t have to do this for any reasons of competition — it simply wants to. That tells us that the Mac is still important to the company — it gets major improvements in areas where it doesn’t strictly need them.

A change of attitude

Though the Mac trails far behind the iPhone in terms of sales, 10% of Apple’s quarterly total is not nothing. It’s also clear from Apple’s approach to the MacBook Pro 16 — fix the mistakes of previous versions, basically — that the company still cares about its pro computers and users. The criticism leveled at the last few versions of the MacBook Pro clearly hurt, and Apple wants to put things right.

It seems like that attitude extends not merely to giving Pro users a machine devoid of annoyances like the butterfly keyboard, but actually treating them to the best display, not just among the company’s rivals, but among its own devices. If that doesn’t signal its commitment to the Mac, then we’re not sure what does.

The iPhone 11 Pro already has an incredible screen, but its OLED goodness will be nothing compared to the MacBook Pro if the mini LED rumors pan out. It’s not often Mac users get to feel like they have priority over the iPhone crowd, but this could be one of those moments.

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