New MacBook Air release date, specs and rumours UK | Will Apple unveil the Retina Air tonight? How to watch Apple … – Macworld UK

When is the new MacBook Air for 2016 coming out? Will Apple unveil a MacBook Air with a Retina display at its launch event on Monday 21 March?

In March 2015, we were convinced that Apple was about to give the MacBook Air a Retina display but, while Apple did indeed update the MacBook Air that month, it didn’t get Retina. (Instead, Apple launched a brand-new MacBook line that’s super-thin, super-light and does offer that high-resolution display.) But does that mean Apple won’t enhance the MacBook Air with a Retina display in the future?

In this article we investigate the hints and clues pointing to an imminent MacBook Air update: including release date, specs & rumoured new features.

You might also like to read our New 12in MacBook 2015 review | Which Mac? Best Mac buyers guide | When will Apple update the Mac mini | Apple rumours and predictions for 2016

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: MacBook Air UK release date

The invitations have gone out for an Apple launch event on 21 March, starting at 5pm UK time.

Apple's 21 March iPhone SE launch event invite

Apple's 21 March iPhone SE launch event invite

Will there be new MacBooks at this launch event? It’s certainly a possibility: Apple often launches new laptops at this time of year, and it’s been a year since the last major MacBook refresh. But we’ve been getting the sense lately that Apple is trying to play down expectations on the Mac front, and there aren’t any hints in the invite to suggest laptop-related announcements.

We do expect the iPhone SE and the iPad Air 3 on the 21 March, as well as – partly suggested by the phrase ‘Let us loop you in’ – updates related to the Apple Watch. Read all the latest rumours about Apple’s next big launch event and follow the announcements on the night (it starts at 10am PDT, which translates to 5pm UK time) on our dedicated page: How to watch Apple’s 21 March iPhone SE launch event.

New MacBook Air 2016 release date rumours

New MacBook Air 2016 release date rumours

We originally expected a new MacBook Air with Retina display to launch on 9 March 2015 at Apple’s Spring Forward event. And were quite surprised when we got something else: a Retina MacBook, yes, but one with a 12in display and a USB-C port (and very few other ports), a new strand of products for Apple’s MacBook laptop line-up.

Less glamorously, Apple’s MacBook Air did get an update at the same time, with new, faster processors, faster flash storage and better graphics, but the screen and overall design remained the same. Still no Retina display for the Air line.

That left us wondering what Apple’s plans are for the future of its MacBook line-up. We think the company intends to replace the MacBook Air with the new MacBook eventually, but the MacBook Air could remain part of the line-up for some time yet, and could still get an upgrade to the Retina display when it’s refreshed in 2016.

MacBook Air 2016 rumours: How to watch Apple’s 21 March launch event live stream

Apple will stream its 21 March launch event live, and it starts at 10am PDT, which is 5pm UK time (that’s 5pm UK time, not 6pm as we said previously – apologies for the confusion!). It’s likely to last between one and two hours. We expect to hear lots of iPhone SE-related announcements, but there could be some Mac news too.

You can watch the launch event live on Apple’s website from 5pm UK time, on an iPad or iPhone, on a Mac, on an Apple TV, or on a PC.

If you’re on an iPad or iPhone, you’ll need to view that page in Safari on a device running iOS 4.2 or later.

If you’re on a Mac, you’ll need to view that page in Safari 4 or later on a system running OS X 10.6 or later.

If you’re on Apple TV, it’ll need to be a second- or third-generation model with tvOS 5.0.2 or later.

For more on this, check our article explaining How to watch the iPhone SE launch event live, which will also feature our liveblog, offering expert analysis of the announcements as they come. We’ll get past the hype and company statements to tell you what the announcements really mean for you.

MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Apple March event live blog

Podcast: What to expect from Apple’s 21 March launch event

If you’d rather listen to us talk about Monday’s product launches rather than read about them, you’re in luck.

On 18 March, the UK Tech Weekly Podcast discussed whether we’re likely to get some new Macs at Monday’s Apple press event (among quite a bit of other vaguely tech-related nonsense). If you’d like to listen in, the Apple segment begins at 28:45.

The UK Tech Weekly Podcast comes out every Friday. You can subscribe for regular updates, and remember to like and comment on the podcast if you enjoyed it, or have suggestions for topics we can discuss in future.

MacBook Air updates at Apple’s March press event

If Apple does give the MacBook Air a Retina refresh, then it would be logical to expect new 11in and 13in laptops in the spring of 2016. New MacBook Air models arrived in April of 2014, and in March of 2015.

Apple is widely expected to hold a major press event in March 2016, with many pundits predicting that this will fall on 21 March and see the launch of the iPhone SE and iPad Air 3.

It’s certainly possible that Apple will take this opportunity to roll out updated MacBooks, and it would fit the timing of previous years; we hope they do. But our suspicion – based on nothing more scientific than a sense that Apple is trying to play down the possibility so that people aren’t disappointed when nothing appears – is that Retina MacBooks will have to wait. Until WWDC in the summer, perhaps.

MacBook Air updates at WWDC 2016

In late November 2015, a report from the Economic Daily News suggests that the MacBook Air will see a significant update in 2016. However, the report suggest that the update to the MacBook Air may not arrive until WWDC in June, which will be more than a year after Apple last updated the MacBook Air. According to the report, the new MacBook Air models are expected to come out in the third quarter of next year, which suggests that there may be a wait after the June unveiling.

The Economic Daily News report notes that it’s been eight years since the MacBook Air launched and it’s not been redesigned in that time, suggesting that time is ripe for a makeover.

Read next: 16 tips to improve MacBook battery life

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Price

The last time that there was a Mac laptop that had more advanced specs than a more expensive model was the old MacBooks (aluminium, then white and black, and then eventually aluminum again). These older MacBook models were eventually discontinued and the price of the MacBook Air was reduced to make it the new entry level (when the MacBook Air initially launched it was quite overpriced for the specs, just like the current Retina MacBook).

It seems likely that the same will happen with the new MacBook models eventually replacing the MacBook Airs, at a lower price, but for now that seems a long way off.

The Economic Daily News report suggests the new MacBook Air will cost more than it does currently when it does launch. The 11in MacBook Air starts at £749, while the entry level 13in model costs £849.

If the 11in MacBook Air is removed from the line up perhaps the cost of entry of the 13in model will reduce to the level that the 11in model is currently, with a rumoured 15in model coming in at a higher price.

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Dimensions 

If Apple does update the MacBook Air range, what dimensions should we expect?

New MacBook Air 2016 release date rumours

New MacBook Air 2016 release date rumours

As mentioned above, rumours suggest that the 11in MacBook Air will be discontinued, after all, the 11in MacBook Air is both smaller than the MacBook and the new iPad Pro.

However, 9to5Mac points out that the new 13in and 15in MacBook Air models could be additional sizes to the MacBook range. That site predicts that some time in 2016 or 2017 we will have just two ranges of Mac laptops: the MacBook at the ultraportable level, and the more advanced MacBook Pro. Maybe the 17in MacBook Pro will make a comeback too, with a 4K display.

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Specs & new features

These new MacBook Air models are said to be thinner and lighter, with internal spec enhancements. Apparently, the new MacBook Air will feature new batteries, cooling modules, and chassis, according to the Economic Daily News.

We also expect to see USB Type-C across the range, especially now that Intel has integrated Thunderbolt 3 into USB-C.

The next-generation MacBook Air is also likely to feature Intel Skylake processors, as well as graphics and RAM upgrades.

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Retina display

The suggestion that the MacBook Air will feature a Retina display has been long running but those rumours were prior to the launch of the 12in Retina MacBook and the iPad Pro – suggesting the signtings of the Retina display some thought was destined for the MacBook Air was instead for these models.

Does this mean that there will be no Retina display on the new MacBook Air when (or if) it launches. If Apple wants to keep the price down maybe not. Or perhaps the newly rumoured 15in Macbook Air will feature a Retina display, while the 13in model will lack the high res display, but come in at a lower price, one similar to the current price of the 11in MacBook Air.

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Touch ID and Force Touch

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Force Touch

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Force Touch

There are also reports to suggest that it’ll boast Touch ID within its Trackpad, which may also get the Force Touch upgrade that was given to the 13in MacBook Pro on 9 March, and comes with the new MacBook.

Touch ID is the fingerprint sensor that’s built-in to the Home button of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It’s also used to make Apple Pay more secure.

According to an Independent report, Touch ID for the Mac line would require a dedicated chip to be built in to the device.

The rumour started with Taiwanese blog AppleCorner, which cited sources in the supply chain. Apparently the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad may get a biometric update too, enabling users to make Apple Pay payments on the web, but both those accessories were updated alongside the launch of a new 4K iMac so that seems unlikely to happen any time soon. 

New MacBook Air 2016 rumours: Will the MacBook Air be discontinued?

With the advent of the 12in MacBook and the new 12.9in iPad Pro, it’s no surprise that rumourmongers are starting to predict that the 11in MacBook Air, with a smaller screen than either of those devices, will be discontinued. The iPad Pro may indeed be viewed by Apple as a replacement for the 11in MacBook Air if Apple CEO Tim Cook’s comments to the Telegraph are taken into account (published on 1 December 2015). 

Following the launch of the iPad Pro, Cook told the Telegraph: “I think if you’re looking at a PC, why would you buy a PC any more? No really, why would you buy one?

“Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.”

However, should Apple discontinue the 11in MacBook Air, it does remove the lower price of entry from the line-up.

It may not just be the 11in MacBook Air that is discontinued. When the new MacBook launched on 9 March 2015, analysts began to suspect that the MacBook Air might not be around for much longer.

“This wasn’t the MacBook Air, but instead leaped past the Air,” said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “They kept the MacBook Air around just as they do with older iPhones, but the MacBook is now in the same position as the newest iPhone. That makes me wonder if the Air will go away over time.”

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of US business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, also predicted a contraction of Apple’s line-up. “All [notebooks] need to be more mobile, so something like the Air doesn’t need to be branched out anymore,” she said of the differenciation Apple made for the line since its introduction more than eight years ago. “And it’s to Apple’s benefit not to have so many ‘families’ of Macs.”

Over time, it seems likely that the MacBook Air range could be discontinued and eventually replaced by a Retina MacBook range at a lower price.

We’ll be updating this article as more information about the rumoured Retina MacBook Air emerges so check back from time to time for the latest news.

Wondering which MacBook is best for you? Read: MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro comparison review: 13in Apple laptops compared


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