Next MacBooks to Get OLED Keys, Touch ID: Rumor Roundup

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It's been a while since Apple redesigned its 13- and 15-inch notebooks, but rumors point to the company releasing ultra-thin MacBooks in those sizes this summer and fall. The new laptops will likely feature Intel's 6th Generation Skylake processor and may resemble Apple's 12-inch MacBook, and there's a chance the notebooks will include OLED touch screen keys and Touch ID fingerprint readers.

macbook pf op30 svr print

Early speculation emerged from DigiTimes in a post that claims "Apple's new ultra-thin 13- and 15-inch MacBooks" will "start shipping at the end of the second quarter." According to the article, the notebooks will "share a design similar to the existing 12-inch MacBook" that's "thinner than [the] existing MacBook Air."

MacBook vs Air vs Pro - What Should You Buy?

This would suggest that Apple is making bigger siblings for its 12-inch MacBook, which is thinner (0.52 inches) than the 11-inch Air (0.68 inches). Multiple rumors point to Apple replacing Thunderbolt and USB Type-A connectivity with USB Type-C ports that would enable more svelte designs.

An April 15 report from Digitimes claims that a thinner design is possible thanks in part to a new "metal injection molding-made hinge." This part is supposedly being produced by the Connecticut-based Amphenol manufacturing company, which also supplies parts for the Microsoft Surface.

Touch Screen Keyboard? Maybe Just Part of It

screenshot 2016 04 08 09.02.29Image: United States Patent and Trademark Office

While Apple has a history of eliminating features like disk drives and additional ports from its laptops, the next MacBooks may see the company make one of its most revolutionary changes yet by getting rid of the physical keyboard. A patent filed in September 2015 and published April 7 shows plans for a "configurable force-sensitive input structure" that may have "zero ... or low travel" and will sit in the place of the keyboard and touchpad. 

The patent states the keyboard will send haptic feedback, similar to the Force Touch touchpads that are in many of Apple's current MacBooks. The patent also suggests that the new keyboard would have micro-perforations, which could give users a tactile way to differentiate between keys.

According to a report from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published by MacRumors, the next MacBook Pros may gain touch screen keys as a replacement for the function row at the top of the keyboard. The keys are likely to be made of an OLED screen, and found on both the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros. Kuo notes the updated MacBook Pros will be released as early as October of this year.

1 1Image: Cult of Mac

On May 31, Cult of Mac published photos it claimed are leaks of the upcoming MacBook Pro's chassis sent in from "an anonymous source who claims to work for one of Apple’s manufacturing partners in China." The keyboard deck in the images is missing the key openings where the function keys typically appear, replacing them with a flat bar where the OLED touch screen will supposedly sit.

screenshot 2016 04 08 09.13.55

Image: United States Patent and Trademark Office

The patent also notes that since the key-less input system is configurable, it "may take the form or shape of multiple, distinct input devices or components." While all drawings suggest that the virtual keyboard could take over the entire deck, one schematic proposes that the interface could place a number-pad on one of the wrist-rests, a change that spreadsheet power-users may be excited to hear.

Touch ID on the Way

In the same report where Ming Chi-Kuo claimed that new MacBook Pros due out this fall may feature OLED keys, he noted that the laptops will feature the company's Touch ID fingerprint sensors. This would mark the introduction of native biometric scanning to Apple's OS X desktop platform.

This rumor gained further traction on August 8, when 9to5Mac reported that a "source who has provided reliable information in the past" claimed that that new MacBooks will feature a power button that integrates the Touch ID sensor. This design would enable a one-touch process to power-on and authenticate, similar to how iPhone users use the home button. 

Spec Upgrades

The newly refreshed MacBook lineup is expected to feature Intel's 6th Generation Skylake processors, and MacRumors suggests that the notebooks will include Thunderbolt 3 with USB Type-C connectivity. We would not be surprised to see Apple's MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks also receive these upgrades.

A report from 9to5Mac reinforces that original rumor, stating that the new MacBooks will feature multiple USB Type-C ports and no other connectivity options. This decision is supposedly related to Apple's want for the notebooks to be "as thin as possible for a stunning new design."

left and rightImage: Cult of Mac

The leaked photos published by Cult of Mac all but confirm this drastic change for the next MacBook Pros, showing cutouts for what appear to be four USB Type-C ports and a headphone jack. This would mean the loss of the SD memory reader, and that the laptops will charge over USB Type-C instead of MagSafe.

A report from Mark Gurman at Bloomberg notes that the new MacBook Pros may also feature AMD's upcoming Polaris graphics cards, which will supposedly make the notebooks more powerful for gaming.

Laptop versions of the Polaris cards have yet to be released, but Bloomberg's source claims "Apple is using one of AMD’s "Polaris" graphics chips because the design offers the power efficiency and thinness necessary to fit inside the slimmer Apple notebook."

Release Date

report from MacRumors suggested that new 13 and 15-inch MacBooks with "fully redesigned" internal components would ship between July and September.

While Apple has never offered an ultra-thin or lightweight 15-inch notebook, the recently released LG Gram 15 proves that it's possible to fit a 15.6-inch display inside of a 2.16-pound,0.66-inch thick laptop. The DigiTimes post also claims that Dell, Asus and Lenovo are preparing "ultra-thin notebooks for launch around the same time" to compete with Apple's super-svelte designs.

Stay tuned to Laptop Mag for further MacBook coverage, and comment below to let us know what you want to see in Apple's next notebooks.

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on
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