The Curious Case of the 13” M2 MacBook Pro

Why does the 13” M2 MacBook Pro still exist, and what does it mean for the future of Apple’s laptop lineup?

The Curious Case of the 13” M2 MacBook Pro
Photo by Iewek Gnos / Unsplash

Apple unveiled two new MacBooks at this year’s WWDC keynote. The new 13.6” MacBook Air and the 13” MacBook Pro include Apple’s latest M2 chip, a robust evolution of the original Apple Silicon system-on-a-chip. While I was completely wrong about there not being an M2 announcement at WWDC, I am delighted about the new MacBook Air. However, the new MacBook Pro is a curious upgrade that doesn’t make much sense in Apple’s lineup. That is until you look at the bigger picture.

Let’s explore the curious case of the 13” M2 MacBook Pro and what it might mean for Apple’s laptop line moving forward.

The M2 MacBook Pro

The “all-new” 13” M2 MacBook Pro is anything but new. It has Apple’s state-of-the-art M2 chip, which is 40% more powerful than its two-year-old predecessor. However, that’s the only thing new about this machine.

The “new” MacBook Pro did not receive the form factor upgrade issued to last year’s redesigned MacBook Pro line or this year’s MacBook Air (more on that in a minute). It also did not receive any upgrades to the screen, keyboard, or other internals except for the M2. The “new” 13” MacBook Pro is now the only Apple portable still rocking a TouchBar. Why? Great question.

Maybe there are people out there who still love the TouchBar. And perhaps some people detest the new MacBook’s retro-inspired design. Maybe. However, there likely isn’t enough to justify an entire product dedicated just for them.

So, why does the 13” MacBook Pro still exist? It’s likely a placeholder in the lineup for something else, something not yet ready for prime time.

The M2 MacBook Air

The redesigned M2 MacBook Air is a fantastic machine I look forward to ordering. Completely upgraded from the bottom up, the Air no longer tapers to a razor-thin point. It features a rounded-square design, Apple’s latest MacBooks Pro and iPads. The Air also has Apple’s latest screen, keyboard technologies, and the updated 1080p FaceTime camera (notch and all).

What’s interesting about the Air is what it is not. Rumors pointed to a redesigned MacBook Air featuring multiple colors, similar to 2021’s redesigned iMac. While the MacBook Air does have four colors, they are akin to the color options available for iPhone Pro models: Space Gray, Silver, Starlight, and Midnight. These more muted colors are a far cry from the iMac’s candy-colored options. I think this is a telling and intentional move on Apple’s part.

In comparison, the iPad Air is Apple’s Pro-lite iPad. It features many of the same hardware features as the iPad Pro, with a handful of trade-offs. Both support the M1 system-on-a-chip and FaceID, exclusive to these iPad models. The iPad Air has a slightly reduced speaker system and a lower quality screen (when compared to the larger iPad Pro model).

Apple is positioning the Air moniker to be a pro-lite device. The new 13.6” M2 MacBook Air follows suit, just a slight step down in features from the 14” MacBook Pro. The biggest difference in the MacBook lineup compared to the iPad is that the MacBooks Pro uses the Pro level M-series chip compared to the Air’s base chip options. Otherwise, these computers are great compliments to each other.

So, what does that mean for the 13” M2 MacBook Pro?

The Next MacBook

Apple is likely working on a completely redesigned base-level MacBook that will maintain the 13” screen size and eventually replace the 13” MacBook Pro slot. The new base-level model will likely use the previous generation’s base model M-series chip to reduce the price. It will also probably have the less expensive screen technology, candy-colored options, and rumored white bezels.

Apple likely didn’t release the updated computer at WWDC this year so as not to cannibalize the sales of the new MacBook Air. And, since the potential new MacBook will use previous-generation technology and chips, it doesn’t make sense to release until M2 production is fully scaled.

I expect the all-new MacBook to come out next year alongside the new MacBooks Pro. When the MacBooks Pro receive the M2 Pro and Max system-on-a-chip options, Apple can also drop the MacBook update with everything updated exceptthe chip, still using the base-level M2. This computer will likely come in at the coveted $999 price point, giving people a fantastic low-cost option underneath the MacBook Air and well below the cost of MacBooks Pro.

Will this all come to fruition next year, as I predict? Potentially. Though, it is worth noting that I was completely wrong about the M2 at WWDC and the what seemed to be a sure bet of an updated Mac Pro.

As always, take every Apple speculation with a massive grain of salt. However, this feels like the only explanation of why Apple chose to keep the 13” MacBook Pro around when it is such a strange option in an otherwise spectacular Apple lineup.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!