Why Apple Releasing a New Touchscreen Mac Makes Perfect Sense Now

It’s all about those iPad apps

  • Apple is finally readying a touch-screen MacBook Pro.
  • Touch on Macs makes a ton of sense, even if Apple denies that. 
  • Don’t expect it to be cheap.
Closeup on a hand with one finger touching a computer screen.

Elia Pellegrini / Unsplash

Apple may finally be ready to launch a touchscreen Mac, and if so, it may have some explaining to do. 

Apple plays a long game, and it may finally pay off for touch-loving Mac users, with a touch-enabled MacBook Pro in 2025, according to Apple rumor-whisperer Mark Gurman. The absence of a touchable Mac is a curious puzzle. Apple has the best touchscreen tech in the world and makes a 13-inch touchscreen computer, the iPad. Meanwhile, pretty much every other computer manufacturer has a touchscreen laptop. Why so long without a touchscreen Mac, and why make one now?

"I frequently use a Mac via a touch interface, and while it's not ideal, it works just fine. When my daughter used a Chromebook with a touchscreen as her main computer, I found myself reaching for the screen to quickly tap an item or scroll something, even though the laptop had a standard trackpad," writes veteran Mac user and former Macworld editor Jason Snell on his Six Colors blog

The Excuse

For years, the answer to the touch-screen Mac question has been the iPad. Apple’s line is that touch and mouse control can’t exist in the same operating system. The Mac user interface needs an accurate pointer to clock those tiny icons, and the iPad UI needs huge icons and touch targets to accommodate human sausage fingers. 

And yet this is clearly not true. Since the iPad Magic Keyboard in 2020, Apple has managed to combine a touch interface and a keyboard/trackpad interface in one computer. Apple has a history of ridiculing already-available products and concepts right up until it makes its own version.

I think Mac does now need touch... and Apple will do it differently to the way Microsoft crudely retrofitted it into Windows,

The Turnaround

A touchscreen Mac is a great idea, and Apple has shown us how it might work. It could be the opposite of the iPad. Apple came up with an amazing reimagining of mouse input for the iPad. The mouse point mimics the finger, and the entire interface bumps and jiggles to give the user feedback on what will happen next.

"I think Mac does now need touch, so it will happen. But it will require loads of thought in the Mac UI, and Apple will do it differently to the way Microsoft crudely retrofitted it into Windows," graphic designer and long-time Mac and iPad user Graham Bower, told Lifewire via direct message. 

The point is the iPad has a simplified, adapted trackpad experience. Apple could do the same for the Mac. Instead of scaling up all the UI elements—the menubar, icons, and so on—to meet the requirements for fingers, it could allow some operations via touch, not all. Scrolling pages, pinching to zoom, opening apps, switching apps, and all those multi-finger gestures you can already do on the trackpad. 

But really, the case for a touchscreen laptop is that they have existed for years in the Windows and Chromebook worlds, and people seem to get along with them just fine. 

Apple Silicon

There’s one other part of this story. The twist, if you will. Ever since Apple switched the Mac to run on its own Apple Silicon chips, those Macs have been able to run iPad and iPhone apps. The experience is, frankly, terrible. For example, using the mouse to operate a touch-screen music app is pretty bad. On the other hand, it works fine for news reading apps or other less-handsy apps. 

Someone with their finger on the screen of a MacBook Pro.

Marek Levák / Unsplash

But as soon as Apple makes a touch-screen Mac, all those iPad and iPhone apps will suddenly work just as well on the Mac as on their native platforms. World-class iPad music apps like Loopy Pro and Drambo will suddenly exist in a powerful new space where they can, presumably, interact with other apps in a more Mac-like (that is, a superior) way—the Finder’s more mature file management and the Mac’s intuitive, non-weird windowing system. 

But what about the iPad? Who will buy one if the Mac does everything it can do and more? There are a few answers to that. One is that the cheapest MacBook is currently the $999 M1 MacBook Air, while the cheapest iPad is $449. And Gurman says that Apple is putting this into a MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,999 for the 14-inch version. Also, the iPad can be used without a keyboard, and some might just prefer the iPad to the Mac.

Me? I can’t wait. I love the iPad, but if I could use my favorite iPad apps on my Mac, I might relegate the iPad to traveling duties only. Apple can’t add touch soon enough.

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