Why the New MacBook Is the First True Laptop of the Smartphone Era

But why on Earth doesn’t it have 5G?

  • The new M2 MacBook Air takes everything Apple learned from mobile and puts it in a laptop.
  • It’s fast, light, has insane battery life, and is more portable than an iPad with Magic Keyboard.
  • Apple still hasn’t added a 5G cellular connection to any Mac.
M2 MacBook Air


Finally, Apple has made a MacBook that lives up to the promise of the iPhone and iPad.

The new M2 MacBook Air is thin, light, has battery life for hours, and comes in at only a few hundred dollars more than the iPhone. And that's because it kind of is a big iPhone, which is exactly the computer we've been waiting for all these years.

"In my opinion, 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with M1 Pro and Max were the very first true laptops in the mobile era. The new MacBook Air is a product of evolution following Apple's new vision—its design is unified with the Pro lineup, which in turn is aligned with iPhone and iPad designs," Serhii Popov, software engineer at Setapp by MacPaw, told Lifewire via email.

Mobile Mac

Back when the iPad launched in 2010, critics dismissed it as just "a big iPhone." Ever since, Apple's chips have become more powerful, and now they run everything from the iPhone up to the Mac Studio. Last year, the MacBook Pro showed us what the future of the portable Mac looked like, but now that future is here, with the M2 MacBook Air.

It's not one thing that makes the new MacBook Air stand out, it's the combination. We've long been used to carrying an iPhone everywhere, and iPad users enjoy similar portability, with all-day or multi-day battery life, beautiful hardware, and no heat, all while getting more performance than most of us will ever need.

With the Air, we get all of that in a Mac. It’s thin and light enough to carry everywhere, and the battery will last long enough that you can forget about it.

We’ve had parts of this before, of course. The M1 MacBook Air had just about the same battery life, weight, and capabilities but lacked the modern big screen with thin bezels, and so on. And the M1 MacBook Pro is more powerful but thicker, and still has fans.

Compare this to the bad old days, when Apple still used Intel’s desktop chips in its computers. I bought the 16-inch Intel MacBook Pro back in 2019, my first laptop after years of using just the iPad. I sent it back almost immediately because it got so hot you couldn’t use it on your lap; the fans were so loud that you couldn’t record audio in the same room, and the battery level seemed to tick down like a TV thriller time bomb.

That was Apple’s best MacBook of the old desktop computer era. Now we have the first mainstream laptop of the mobile era, and it’s already better in every way.

Not a Chromebook

Some readers may be screaming at the screen, "What about Chromebooks? They've been around for years!" And that's a good point, but the Chromebook isn't really a laptop computer in the way we usually mean it. It's more of a networked terminal, a front end to the massive Google data machine in the cloud. And it's great at that. Because it's pretty much just a web browser, it can be pretty thin, and get decent battery life.

But if you want a personal computer on which you can install any software, then you still want a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine.

The new MacBook Air is a product of evolution following Apple’s new vision.

The twist here is that the MacBook Air is not only way more capable than even the best Chromebooks, but it also gets better battery life. Laptop Mag tested Chromebook’s battery life, and the winner, the Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook, scored just 13 hours and 31 minutes. The MacBook Air scores 18 hours.

The Cellular Connection

There's just one thing missing, and it's a big one. The MacBook Air still has no cellular connection. This seems particularly absurd when you consider that the Macs now run on the same systems-on-a-chip as the iPad Air and Pro, both of which have 5G inside.

"I wish the new MacBook Air had e-sim support, so users could work literally everywhere without worrying about the Wi-Fi. I had a situation when I had to work from a park, so e-sim support would be a great feature for me," Butenko told Lifewire via email.

 M2 MacBook Air ports


Perhaps this is down to Apple’s patent licensing issues with modem-maker Qualcomm, or perhaps Apple is waiting until its own modem design is ready to be used in its own products. Or perhaps it’s already in there, waiting to be switched on.

All we know now is that the MacBook Air is an almost perfect embodiment of a mobile Mac, only you still have to use an iPhone if you want to connect wirelessly without Wi-Fi. For a device that is so obviously take-everywhere portable, this seems like an absurd omission. But despite that, the MacBook Air looks like the best notebook computer ever made, which isn’t bad.

Update 6/16/2022: Corrected a source's name, title, and bio link in paragraph 3.

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