Apple Special Event: October 2018

We did one of these threads for Google’s Pixel 3 Event and it was well-received. I figured it would also make sense to do it for Apple’s October Event. If you’d like to watch the presentation, it’s available on Apple’s website.

Apple updated the Macbook Air, Mac Mini and iPad Pro at this event. Here are my hot takes on all three.

Macbook Air: One of the best computers of all-time gets an update

The Macbook Air is up there with the 2015 Macbook Pro as some of the best laptops ever made. It was the first Apple laptop to implement SSD and felt blazing fast because of it.

The model has aged incredibly well. As a matter of fact, this post is being written on my Mid-2012 Macbook Air. The keyboard is great and for my day-to-day tasks it still works well. However, it can only run a limited number of games. Also, retina screens have ruined me so I can see every pixel.

What’s great is Apple has largely kept what is great about the computer intact. It has the same wedge design that makes it easy to fit in a backpack. It has an updated processor, new retina display, more battery life and is 17 percent lighter than the previous model.

The new Macbook Air uses Apple’s 2018 butterfly keyboard, which has a bit more travel (or so they say) than the 2017 model and is a lot more reliable. I’m indifferent, but know some will be extra critical. Also, there is no TouchBar model—thank goodness!

What about ports? The MagSafe, SD card, Thunderbolt 2 port and traditional USB ports are gone. The 2018 model contains 2 USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports and a headphone jack. This is the same configuration as the low-end Macbook Pros. While I think the loss of ports in a professional lineup is a shame, it is a fair adjustment for the mid-range models.

Despite how good I think this update is, I am confused about Apple’s positioning here. I fully expected the Macbook lineup to simply replace the Air. There seems little reason to purchase a Macbook. Sure the screen is about an inch smaller, but it cost more and is slower than the new air.

There’s also a ton of similarities when comparing the new Air to the low-end Macbook Pro. Perhaps you’re trading a bit of graphics power and screen brightness for less weight and more battery power. I’d be curious to see a comparison.

OK, final thought—I can see this Macbook Air aging just as well or better than the previous generation Macbook Air. As dissapointed as I was with the updated Macbook Pro, Apple did a solid job with the new Air!

Mac Mini makes a comeback

Apple updated it’s Mac Mini for the first time since 2014. The new computer comes in Space Gray and has 4-and 6-core configurations. It can be customized to have up to 64GB RAM and up to 2TB storage. The new Mac Mini also includes Apple’s T2 chip for additional security.

What’s not to like here? The Mac Mini is a computer many love. There is no Mini trashcan or radical redesign. Apple took what was working and updated the specs.

Also, I love this product shot of the Mini internals with the T2 chip.

Perhaps the only deterrent is that the new Mini did receive a price bump. It now starts at $799 instead of $499. Even with that, it seems to be well-received. It’s a versatile, affordable Mac computer.

iPad Pro loses Touch ID, gets a spec bump

Like many, my main interest in this event was around the new iPad Pro. Many expected them to have reduced bezels and do away with the home button and Touch ID in favor of a larger screen and Face ID. They did just that.

I’m not sure how I feel about Face ID. The conspiracy theorist in me says it is feeding some sort of government database so they can identify people in airports. I’m sure most will love the feature though.

The iPad pro gets a new processor—the A12X Bionic and Next-Generation Neural Engine. One thing that stuck out to me was the claim that this chip is more powerful than 90 percent of laptops sold last year.

That’s a really incredible claim. If true, it:

  • Throws a ton of shade at Intel whose current generation i7 lineup is considered the top of the line for most laptops.
  • Makes me wonder if we’ll see these processors replace Intel in Macs sometime in the near future.
  • Seems like an incredible value considering the base cost of the iPad Pro is $799.

But does a tablet really need that kind of power? Maybe for AutoDESK and AutoCAD? It certainly doesn’t seem that mobile games require that kind of power. The nature of the App Store itself dissuades a lot of AAA titles from appearing on iOS.

What else?

  • There’s a new Apple Pencil (2nd Gen) for $129
  • There’s a new Folio Keyboard for $179
  • The iPad Pro now has a USB-C connector

I rarely say this, but I am disappointed that the iPad Pro is not smaller or lighter than the previous models. I’ve realized that the iPad Mini is probably dead and want to replace my iPad Mini 2.

I was hoping that the new iPad Pro would be smaller and lighter and could replace my Mini. Unfortunately not. It is slightly taller and narrower than the previous one and weighs 1.03 lbs. It’s almost the exact same size and weight as the 9.7-inch iPad.

While it seems like a device with amazing potential. I don’t think I’ll be purchasing a new iPad Pro.

Unrelated to the product itself, but I strongly dislike how scrolling vertically on the iPad Pro product page forces the user to scroll horizontally.

Apple is a multi-billion dollar company—one of the worlds largest. You don’t get that big without a strong understanding of pricing. It’s easy to pass the confusion off as silly and an oversight on Apple’s part, but it is likely part of a very deliberate pricing strategy.

Confusing pricing structures often benefit companies, not consumers. I’d encourage you to give this 9to5Mac article a read.

The article talks a good bit about the iPhone X pricing, but this section, in particular, addresses your comments about the Macbook vs Macbook Air pricing.

Apple actually kicked-off its strategy to boost the ASP of the MacBook line-up back in 2015 with the 12-inch MacBook.

Before then, if you wanted the smallest and lightest Mac laptop, and didn’t need to do anything demanding with it, you bought the $999 MacBook Air. That machine always had a split market. There were those who bought it because it was the most portable Mac, and there were those who bought it because it was the cheapest Mac laptop. Techies, with more demanding use cases, might upgrade the machine, but the vast majority of users would be happy with the $999 base model.

By introducing the 12-inch MacBook at a significantly higher price, but keeping a $999 MacBook Air in the line-up, Apple was able to take advantage of that split demographic. Those buying on price would continue to buy the MacBook Air. But those who wanted the smallest and lightest Mac would now be paying $1299.

You see Apple is trying to maximize revenue by forcing customers to make a choice. The same thing is happening with the Macbook Pro lineup right now.

This is a good post and your other comments are spot on! Just consider that most consumers do not evaluate products as thoroughly as you or the other members of this forum.

Well, if the rumor in the iPad Mini thread is true, it may not be dead.

Interesting that it came to surface right before the October event. Does Apple have any control over those rumors? If so, wonder if that is because Apple is afraid that those wanting a smaller iPad will flee to Amazon’s Fire tablet? Although, that may not be true. Everyone else is far behind iPad in the tablet market.

Either way I hope this is true. I’d take the Mini 4 with a processor upgrade.

A fascinating and fair point that I had not considered. The article you shared does a good job explaining iPhone X pricing.

It makes me think of a few other scenarios where businesses have odd pricing options.

  • Magazine subscriptions that offer print or print + online for the same price.
  • Amazon offers 2-day (and sometimes 1-day) shipping for the same price as standard shipping.

Where else are these types of pricing options?

Anyways, appreciate the comment!

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I am super-excited about the new MacBook Air! I have a Mid-2012 Air that has served me pretty well through college and beyond. They are expensive, but to have a computer that reliable is worth it!

Welp, it sure looks like Apple knows pricing. They exceeded earnings expectations. Profits are up 32 percent. I saw this summary in the Morning Brew email this morning.

After hiking prices on new models, Apple smashed through earnings expectations on the top and bottom lines, tallying a fourth consecutive quarter of record revenue and profit.

…if only that were the whole story. Shares fell nearly 5% after hours when its important holiday quarter forecast (between $89 billion and $93 billion in revenue) failed to impress.

Let’s take a peek at Apple’s fiscal Q4 stats:

  • Revenue came in at $62.9 billion, up ~20% YoY.
  • Profit jumped 32% to $14.13 billion.

The biggest takeaway: Average selling price (ASP) for iPhones was a massive $793…up 28% from last year and well above projections.

  • Not to mention …Apple’s $999 iPhone XS and $1,099 iPhone XS Max (which debuted in Sept.) had only ~10 selling days before the quarter ended.

Apple’s Services unit —aka the shining star of Apple’s effort to diversify profits away from iPhones—reached a record high of ~$10 billion in revenue last quarter.

As a side note, I love the newsletter. If you’re interested in markets or investing, I would highly recommend.

I’m skeptical of the IPad Pro taking over desktop computing anytime soon. I do a ton of writing and purchased the 10.5 inch iPad Pro along with the keyboard attachment. My intention was to move away from my old 11-inch MacBook Air to the iPad.

I had high hopes with the introduction of folders on iOS and other improvements geared towards desktop users. Unfortunately, that really hasn’t happened. Maybe I’m getting old, but it seems too awkward to go from keyboard to poking around at little squares on the screen.

At a certain point it becomes tiresome. I’m sure iOS will improve, but it just doesn’t seem there to replace my desktop needs.

Yeah, I don’t think the iPad is a desktop replacement—well for most professionals. But most people are not professionals. Computing is Instagram, Twitter, reddit and internet browsing. Maybe using FaceTime? My old iPad Mini 2 is still good for all of those things.

Benedict Evans had an interesting comment the earlier today about the iPad Pro and professionals.

I know illustrator takes a good bit more horsepower than writing programs, but I’d be curious to know the percentage of people that use writing software on their iPads. I’d bet it is almost as small.

My guess is Apple is still trying to figure out the interactions to make it work for professionals. It strongly believes that can be done with software at some point in the future. In the mean time it can throw the best hardware it can into the iPad Pro so that when Apple figures it out, those old iPad Pros will be up to speed.

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