A cheaper MacBook Air could still arrive in late 2018

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Rumors have long suggested the MacBook Air might be getting the boot in favor of a 13-inch, entry-level MacBook sometime in 2018, according to supply chain reports. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International points to a different fate for the aging notebook: Kuo says that a cheaper 13-inch MacBook Air is likely on the way for 2018.

The Apple analyst cites a late 2018 release, which means the new Air might be just a couple of months away. He goes on to say that a MacBook “with a lower price tag” will hit store shelves in the latter half of 2018 alongside new entries in the iPad Pro lineup, and maybe even a new Apple Watch.

Earlier reports suggested that the new MacBook Air could have launched earlier this year, but had to be pushed back due to problems with a “key component.” Quality control has always been one of Apple’s strong suits, but in light of the recent lawsuits filed due to the quality control issues on the MacBook Pro keyboard, playing it safe and pushing back the release was likely the best alternative to another PR firestorm.

Currently, the cheapest MacBook Air has a 13.3-inch screen and sells for $999. TF speculates that a new Air should sell for less than that.

Naturally, it’s important to take this all with some skepticism since they are rumors, but it’s definitely within the realm of possibility. Apple has neglected the MacBook Air the last couple times it’s been due for major updates, so it would make sense to either retire the once-popular netbook in favor of a return to form, or make a new one with a more accessible price tag.

For years, the entry-level MacBook of choice was the plain-old 13.3-inch MacBook clad in simple white polycarbonate. It was supplanted by the MacBook Air in 2011, which has occupied its coveted $999 price point ever since. Digitimes and Kuo both have a pretty good track record when it comes to these rumor reports.

The most recent hardware refresh Apple’s MacBook line saw came in late 2017 with the introduction of Intel’s seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors to its higher-end offerings. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models received the new processors, and both the premium 12-inch MacBook and entry-level MacBook Air saw a small bump in processor speed.

The MacBook Air has not seen a significant hardware update since 2015, according to MacRumors, and it is the only MacBook offering that does not feature one of Apple’s signature Retina displays. That alone could be the big change that comes to the MacBook lineup later this year — an entry-level $1,000 MacBook with a Retina display, and/or an even cheaper MacBook Air.

Updated on June 26: Added information indicating low-cost MacBook Air could arrive later this year.

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