Will the Touch Bar save the MacBook Pro?

The new MacBook Pro is (again) what we expected after months of rumors: lighter, smaller, faster. And more expensive, of course. The main argument here is the shiny new Touch Bar, a customizable touch OLED display that supposedly allow users to access certain application functions faster and easier than through traditional keyboard shortcuts or mouse control.

I tend to consider the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro as an analogy to the 3D Touch support on the iPhone: something that looks nice on a demo, but that won’t be as revolutionary as it seems in real life.

3D Touch hasn’t been mentioned much by Apple in the latest months, and the problem with the Touch Bar is similar: developers have to enable that support specifically for MacBook Pro owners, who will be just a small part of the Mac user base. I wonder if that would be interesting enough for them given the effort that that kind of support could put to the task.

I found much more compelling the fact that the new MacBook Pro is lighter, faster and better connected. I miss the MagSafe, sure, but charging through USB-C isn’t a bad choice either.

The arrival of the butterfly mechanism to the keyboard is intriguing —although the result in the MacBook has been painful for some users— but the giant Force Touch trackpad is indeed interesting.

Oh, and we still have 3.5mm connectors on the MacBook Pros. Thank god.

The 4-inch iPhone strikes back, and no Android maker is paying attention

Ming-Chi Kuo has been right in the past on his predictions several times, so when he tells us a new 4-inch iPhone is coming, we should believe him. The move is pretty smart for Apple, that will solve several problems at the same time:

  • There will be a solid iPhone 5s refresh: according to his report, “we estimate 15-17mn 4-inch iPhones will be shipped in 2015. We estimate the new 4-inch model will account for 8-9% of total iPhone shipments in 2016F
  • Emerging markets: I wouldn’t say the $400-500 price range is affordable, and emerging markets have expressed their desire for big iPhones (China is a good example).
  • Apple Pay for all: 3D Touch won’t be part of this model, but according to Kuo we’ll have the Apple A9 chip, 2.5D cover glass with curved edges like on the iPhone 6s, and Touch ID & NFC for Apple Pay, which by the way, hasn’t be the star of the show at Black Friday. The cameras aren’t improved from the 5S, but maybe iOS and the post-processing software will help on this. I wonder what will happen with the battery.
  • Metal or plastic?: Kuo predicts the design will be similar to the one on the iPhone 5s, but we know what happened with the iPhone 5C. Plastic could be again an option for Apple, and that could explain a reduced price. The current iPhone 5s is $449-4999 (16GB-32GB model), so I expect the price to be the same (no 3D Touch, no camera improvements, old design). If they use plastic, though, the price should be $399, but Apple is clear on its price tags strategy. Even on that case I suspect not many will protest if they maintain those prices.

Anyway, the move is, as I said, smart. No one in exploring 4-inch high end smartphones anymore in the Android camp, and although we’ve got some nice alternatives (Sony Z5 Compact is $506 at Amazon) the rest of the crowd is using that ‘bigger is better‘ motto.

Not for everyone. And Android smartphone makers should get the hint here. Btw: my guess for the name of Apple’s new baby? iPhone 6c 😉

Update (12/05/2015): Gene Munster seems to disagree with the new 4-inch iPhone potential.