Apple: 2020 Brand Report Card

Apple: 2020 Brand Report Card
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Apple was our third-worst brand in our 2019 Best and Worst report, and this year, the Cupertino-based tech giant is our second-worst brand after Microsoft. What contributed to Apple’s lower rank is its mixed results on our phone tech support report and its lack of diverse offerings for budget-conscious consumers — you’d be hard pressed to find an Apple laptop that doesn’t have a four-figure price tag. At the same time, we understand that Apple is a luxury brand, so while Apple may not be able to cater to its non-affluent fans, the Cupertino-based tech giant can still rise to the top of the ranks by introducing new design options and taking more risks with innovation.

Apple: 2020 Brand Report Card

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Apple’s Key Strengths

  • Impressive web support: When you reach out to Apple for help on the Internet, whether it’s on Twitter or live chat, you can tell that the company ensures that its agents are well-trained and well-informed before throwing them to the wolves of the tech support realm. Apple agents will resolve your questions, concerns and technical problems with efficiency and competency.
  • Review-friendly laptops: Our reviews of Apple’s recent product launches told us that the Cupertino-based tech giant is listening to the critiques of its consumers. We told Apple that the butterfly keyboard needed to go, and they heeded our advice with a much better Magic keyboard replacement. We also gushed over the 16-inch MacBook Pro for its sleek form factor, slim bezels, beastly performance and incredible six-speaker audio system.

Apple’s Main Weaknesses

  • Lack of diverse options for varying budgets: Apple is arguably the most luxe laptop brand in the world, and although we give Apple credit for launching stellar, high-performance products, the company often leaves the “have nots” high and dry. Apple needs to make the price more affordable for those of us with smaller budgets.
  • Paltry innovation: While we loved the 16-inch MacBook Pro update with its slimmer bezels, six-speaker audio system and three-mic array, other products on the MacBook line-up weren’t treated to the same level of impressive upgrades. Apple didn’t necessarily innovate with its recent product launches — it tweaked. The MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro could have had more remarkable updates, but Apple played it safe.

Top-Rated Apple Laptops

Reviews (33/40)

Apple’s most exciting laptops are still on the way. If you can’t wait, there were some nice upgrades made to the current models. Most importantly, the past 12 months saw the unceremonious death of the Butterfly keyboard. The 16-inch MacBook Pro kicked things off with an improved “Magic Keyboard” along with a modernized design, a larger display and some incredible speakers. We gave the 16-inch model a 4.5-star rating and consider it one of the best 15-to-17-inch laptops on the market.

16-inch MacBook Pro

16-inch MacBook Pro (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

We hoped to see similar changes to the MacBook Air (3.5 stars) and the 13-inch MacBook Pro (4 stars), but were let down with bare-minimum updates. Not much was changed in the latest models apart from the more reliable keyboard (which is reason enough for some people to upgrade). They’re still great options for students or professionals but the current MacBook Pro and MacBook Air could quickly become obsolete once Apple releases its first fleet of laptops powered by custom ARM-based chips. 

Design (11/15)

The laptop that launched a thousand clones. Apple continues to deliver the premium aesthetic that most laptop OEMs continue to emulate. Each member of this year’s catalog is still made from an all-aluminum unibody chassis. The MacBook Pros, including the 13-inch model, are still available in Space Gray and Silver while the MacBook Air 2020 throws in Gold to shake things up. We still wish the company would cough up a full USB Type-A port or two. The dimensions on the Air and the 15-inch MacBook Pro really didn’t change, which is Apple’s M.O.

13-inch MacBook Pro

13-inch MacBook Pro (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

However, with the MacBook Pro 16-inch, we do see some changes that give us hope for the company’s aesthetic future. First off, Apple finally narrowed down the chunky display bezels. They’re not as thin as competing systems, but it’s a start. And both the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air have ditched the universally-panned Butterfly keyboard in favor of the Magic Keyboard, which delivers a comfortable typing experience with a satisfying click. Who knows, maybe these changes signal even bigger ones on the horizon. 

Support and Warranty (17/20)

While Apple doesn’t possess a tech support avenue on Facebook, the company can help you through live chat, Twitter and their Apple Support App. Through live chat, we were kindly guided through the steps to install Microsoft Edge on our MacBook Air. This took about ten minutes, but it proved to be helpful and a generally enjoyable experience. However, their Twitter operator didn’t take the time to walk us through our request, instead sending us a link to an article.

Apple’s phone support is quite mixed, however, with one agent accurately guiding us to the correct spots in a concise manner and another incorrectly taking us to the App Store to download Microsoft Edge. And the last agent we spoke to only took 4 minutes and even though she gave us the correct information, she gave us a bit of an attitude and rushed us off the phone. Apple will provide free tech support on the phone 90 days after purchase but you can get AppleCare+ for three years of telephone support services and hardware coverage. For $299, you can cover any damage caused to your laptop.

Innovation (6/10)

We’ve discovered that Apple seemed more inclined to invest its innovation dollars on its content-creator fan base in 2019.

The Cupertino-based tech giant updated the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s audio and mic setup with a six-speaker sound system and a studio-quality, three-mic array, which appealed to audio engineers, video producers, podcast professionals and more. The Pro also incorporated slimmer bezels and offered users free reign to change the display’s refresh rate.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

And thankfully, with a 13-inch MacBook Pro update, Apple finally allowed the faulty and problematic Butterfly keyboard to flutter away into the abyss in favor of the touch typist’s favorite Magic keyboard. 

Value and Selection (6/15)

Apple is the king of providing premium laptops for deep-pocketed consumers. Its products are expensive and the complete opposite of inclusive, as they don’t offer anything in the realm of a budget laptop, nor different kinds of laptops, like ones for business or even workstations (although the MacBook Pro could be considered one if the GPU was stronger).

MacBook Air 2020

MacBook Air (2020) (Image credit: Future)

We reviewed the cheapest laptop it offers, the Apple MacBook Air ($999), as well as the most expensive one, Apple MacBook Pro ($3,899), which both land in the quadruple digits (after taxes). Apple’s portfolio is expensive and not very diverse.

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(Image credit: Laptop Mag)