Will Apple release a new entry-level 13-inch MacBook with a touch screen this year? If a report from the hit-and-miss supply chain publication DigiTimes can be believed, the answer’s yes. But it might not be the touchscreen Mac everyone’s waiting for.
Beginning with a claim that Apple “reportedly plans to release an entry-level 13-inch MacBook in the second half of 2018,” DigiTimes explains that Taiwan’s General Interface Solution (GIS) already supplies iPhone X 3D touch panels, and became an LCD module supplier for Apple’s MacBook laptop line late last year. According to DigiTimes, GIS already ships 300,000 laptop panels per month, and expects to double that number by the end of this year, in part thanks to new MacBook orders.
It’s easy to assume that this means a new entry-level 13-inch MacBook will replace both the underpowered 12-inch MacBook and aging 13-inch MacBook Air. That could certainly happen. Moreover, since a touch panel maker is involved, one might reasonably expect the new MacBook to sport a full touchscreen. That would be convenient, as MacOS will reportedly gain iPad and iPhone app compatibility this year, a feature that would benefit from full touchscreen Macs.
Unfortunately, there’s a simpler possible explanation: Apple’s Touch Bar is an OLED touch screen that replaces the function keys on higher-end MacBook Pros. The “entry-level” MacBook Pro currently doesn’t include a Touch Bar, but if Apple either phases out the entry-level Pro model or releases a new 13-inch MacBook that’s not a Pro, sales of touch panel-equipped MacBooks could double from current levels.
Making the Touch Bar more common in Macs wouldn’t be exciting, and it would leave Mac users to interact with iPad and iPhone apps using the MacBook’s trackpad — a bummer given that so many of Apple’s laptop rivals have moved to full touchscreens over the past few years. But it would be consistent with Apple’s past laptop decisions.
We reached out to GIS to see if there’s any reason to believe otherwise, and we will update this article if we hear back.