The Potential Future of the Mac

An amazing time for Mac fans?

Key Takeaways

  • The current M1 Macs are the fastest Macs ever, but the slowest M1 Macs there will ever be.
  • The current iMac design is 13 years old.
  • We could see 5G, FaceID, and even Apple Pencil support.
Person using their M1 MacBook Air was sitting on a bench
Apple

The Mac is experiencing its biggest change so far. The new M1 processor has already upended the PC industry, and that’s just the beginning. So, what’s next for the Mac?

Apple’s first round of M1-based Macs was designed to show off the incredible power and efficiency of Apple’s own chip designs, without scaring anybody off. Externally, the M1 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini are all but identical to the preceding Intel versions, providing a sense of continuity. But now that Apple has proven that these Silicon Macs are more than capable, what can it do with these ultra-efficient, ultra-powerful computers?

The M1 Story So Far

The first M1 Macs replaced Apple’s entry-level machines. Apple has committed to moving its entire lineup to Apple Silicon in next two years, and the next likely candidates are the MacBook Pro and the iMac. Rumors and reports say the next Macs will have even more powerful processors and GPUs, but that’s almost a given. Instead, let’s take a look at the new features enabled by the new M1.

MacBooks and iPads

Right now, the iPad Pro is still way more impressive than the MacBook. It has a cellular connection, FaceID, a touch screen, and can use the Apple Pencil. It also has a bank of cameras on the back. 

Will the Mac ever get a touch screen? Probably, although it will almost certainly remain a secondary input method. The iPad is touch-first, but is also great with a keyboard and trackpad. A touch Mac would probably reverse this. You might not be able to control the entire interface with a finger (tapping those tiny menu items would be a pain), but for scrolling and interacting with iPhone and iPad apps on the Mac’s screen, it’s ideal.

"The new M1 processor has already upended the PC industry, and that’s just the beginning."

Another possibility is a 5G cellular connection. The basis of the M1 chip is the iPhone’s A14 chip, after all, so why not make it more mobile?

FaceID, meanwhile, may be hard to squeeze into the MacBook’s super-thin screen, but it’s perfect for the iMac. Current MacBooks have Touch ID readers to unlock the machine, but the iMac has nothing. Who wants to reach up to use Touch ID? So, FaceID unlock for the iMac seems likely.

iMac

Speaking of the iMac, it really is overdue for a redesign. The current iMac design dates back to 2007. Sure, Apple tapered its edges in 2012, but it hasn’t changed since. And while a redesigned MacBook Pro is likely to be a variation on the aluminum "unibody" clamshell design Apple has favored since 2008, the next iMac could look like anything.

A new iMac might borrow from Apple’s Pro Display XDR, which is much like the iMac, only with smaller screen bezels, and a stand that can move up and down and twist 90 degrees into a vertical orientation. It could look like a giant iPad Pro or even more giant iPhone 12, with flat, sharp-edged sides. It could also be a lot thinner than today’s iMacs, thanks to a reduced need for cooling (those M1 chips don’t get very hot) and smaller components overall.

New M1 Mac mini with Pro Display
Apple

Or perhaps Apple might do something really radical. Imagine an iMac with a touch screen, one that can fold down into a drafting-table like Microsoft’s Surface Studio. You’d be able to use the Apple Pencil with a huge 32-inch screen.

Real Surprises

Whatever Apple is making, this is about the most exciting time ever for Mac fans. Apple is no longer constrained by the hot, slow, expensive chips from Intel, or (previously) from IBM and Motorola. We’ve already had a taste of what Apple can do just by putting its own chip into an otherwise identical laptop. Whatever happens next is going to be way more interesting.

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