Key points

① Apple may launch a 15-inch MacBook Air at WWDC 2023, featuring a larger screen and thinner profile.

② The 15-inch MacBook Air might come with the M2, M2 Pro, or even the more powerful M3 chip, but adopting advanced chips may require a redesign of its body.

③ Analyzing the current pricing of Apple's laptops, analysts predict that the starting price of the 15-inch MacBook Air is likely to reach $1,749.

④ Analysts believe the 15-inch MacBook Air may not appeal greatly to consumers as its performance hasn't seen a significant improvement, and its pricing isn't attractive.

At this year's WWDC, mixed reality headsets will undoubtedly be the focus of the Apple Developer Conference, but another hardware product has also aroused attention, which is the long-rumored 15-inch laptop MacBook Air.

In fact, Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs had a preference for large-sized laptops. Before the release of the 13-inch MacBook Air in 2008, he had proposed the development of larger screen models. Apple eventually launched the redesigned 13.6-inch MacBook Air in the summer of 2022.

Now, numerous sources reveal that Apple is developing a 15-inch MacBook Air, set to debut at this year's WWDC. However, can this laptop really help Apple grab more market share in the face of weak personal computer demand? Are consumers really willing to pay for it?

01 Specifications and Pricing

The rumor that Apple will launch a 15-inch Mac laptop has been circulating for a long time. Well-known Apple analyst Mark Gurman first wrote in January 2021 that Apple was exploring the idea of launching a 15-inch MacBook Air.

In an article published in April of this year, Gurman claimed: "Apple is ramping up testing of the new laptop, whose processor is roughly equivalent to the current M2 chip." Apple's test log also shows that the company is indeed testing a new laptop, whose processor specs are similar to the M2, but with a larger screen and higher resolution.

Reports in May showed that the 15-inch MacBook Air has begun to go offline, and sellers are expected to start stockpiling before its launch. Several well-known analysts revealed that Apple had increased the production of the 15-inch MacBook Air in the past two months. These rumors and leaks all indicate that the new 15-inch MacBook Air from Apple is coming soon.

1. Difficulty in choosing a processor

As for which processor the new 15-inch MacBook Air will carry, there are many guesses. Well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted as early as June 2022 that Apple might offer two choices for the 15-inch MacBook Air: one is equipped with M2, just like the MacBook Air in 2022. The M2 chip has an 8-core CPU (including 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores), and up to a 10-core GPU. The other choice is the M2 Pro, which is currently only used on the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini.

Interestingly, Kuo did not call this device the MacBook Air, but directly called it the new MacBook. In fact, it is believed that this product may not be called the MacBook Air. But other sources seem sure it is a variant of Air and will not completely replace the current models.

Gurman also believes that Apple plans to introduce a 15-inch MacBook Air. He predicts that this laptop will come equipped with the M2 chip, but doesn't rule out the M2 Pro, and it could even potentially have the M3 chip. Apple unveiled the M2 MacBook Air at WWDC 2022. However, due to "yield issues" from chip manufacturer TSMC, the release of the M3 is reportedly delayed until the end of 2023, more likely 2024. Given this, the 15-inch MacBook Air featuring the M3 seems unlikely.

So, might we see the M2 Pro in this new device? A MacBook Air with an M2 Pro would require better heat dissipation, and the current MacBook Air doesn't even have a fan. Therefore, if Apple wants to equip the MacBook Air with an M2 Pro, it would need a significant redesign of the Air's structure, possibly making it thicker. Another possibility is that, as Kuo Ming-chi stated, the rumored 15-inch Mac laptop may not belong to the MacBook Air series.

Featuring the M2 Pro in the 15-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro might negatively impact sales of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. If Apple uses the M3 chip in this new MacBook Air, it can avoid the redesign problem, but launching the M3 chip while announcing M2 versions of other products (like the M2 Ultra Mac Pro) at WWDC could make these products seem outdated.

2. Narrower Bezels, Larger Screen

As for other features, we expect this new device will be similar to the entry-level MacBook Air models. The base model of the current MacBook Air has 8GB of RAM, upgradable to 24GB; the basic storage is 512GB, upgradeable to 2TB. In addition, it may also come with a MagSafe charging port and two Thunderbolt 4 ports, as well as a 1080p FaceTime camera. Lastly, the new MacBook Air might come equipped with Apple's new dual-port 35W adapter.

When Apple first introduced the MacBook Air in 2008, it only had a 13-inch model, though it added an 11-inch model in 2010, which was discontinued in 2015. So, selling two different sizes of MacBook Airs is not without precedent.

This is also not the first time Apple is launching a 15-inch laptop. The company had previously released the popular 15-inch PowerBook in 2001 and the 15-inch MacBook Pro in 2006. Apple kept selling the 15-inch MacBook Pro until it was replaced by the 16-inch MacBook Pro in 2019.

The last 15-inch MacBook Pro had a 15.4-inch screen, and the new MacBook Air will have narrower bezels, so the screen might be even bigger. For instance, the M2 MacBook Air's 13.6-inch display is slightly larger than the MacBook Pro and M1 MacBook Air's 13.3-inch display, but their actual sizes are almost identical.

While rumors suggested that the MacBook Air would come with a mini-LED display in 2022, Apple chose to continue using LCD panels on its redesigned laptops. Therefore, mini-LED will be a selling point for the high-end MacBook Pro models, and the new 15-inch MacBook Air probably won't offer this upgrade. Additionally, Apple might plan to upgrade to OLED screens in 2024, so don't expect to see this technology before then.

Many people believe the 15-inch MacBook Air will come in different colors from the 13-inch's silver and space gray. Not much is known about the colors yet, though there were rumors the M2 MacBook Air would come in a green version, which turned out to be false.

3. Price Tag $1,749?

To determine how Apple might price the new 15-inch MacBook Air, we can look at the current prices of the Apple MacBook lineup:

  • 13-inch M2 MacBook Air for $1,199 or $1,499
  • 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro for $1,299 or $1,499
  • 15-inch M2 MacBook Pro is expected to start at $1,749
  • 14-inch M2 Pro MacBook Pro starts at $1,999
  • 16-inch M2 Pro MacBook Pro starts at $2,499

Reviewing these products can help ascertain the pricing range for the new 15-inch MacBook Air. Assuming this laptop comes with the M2 chip, we expect its price will fall between the 13-inch MacBook Pro and 14-inch MacBook Pro, and higher than the 13-inch MacBook Air. The price difference between the 13-inch and 14-inch MacBook Pro is substantial, so a starting price between $1,499 and $1,999 seems reasonable. Given this, the 15-inch MacBook Air could likely be priced at $1,749.

If the 15-inch MacBook Air comes with the M2 Pro chip, its price might be higher. The first-generation MacBook Air in 2008 started at $1,799, so there is a precedent. However, a 15-inch M2 Pro MacBook Air priced lower than the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the same chip might confuse consumers, so Apple might also release a more expensive 15-inch MacBook Air, priced between the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Air line's popularity largely stems from it being the most affordable MacBook that people can buy, and the 15-inch MacBook Air will surely be more expensive than the 13-inch model, potentially alienating many prospective buyers.

02 Weak Demand Seeks Market Share

Analysts suggest that Apple's intention to launch this new laptop is to expand its market share, offering consumers a broader variety of models and choices.

Market research firm IDC reported that global personal computer shipments plummeted nearly one-third (29%) in the first quarter of this year. Apple took the biggest hit, with the entire industry struggling to respond to a slowdown in consumer spending following the pandemic.

Additionally, market research company Canalys discovered that global personal computer shipments fell by 33% in the first quarter, attributing the drop to weak demand, surplus inventory, and dim economic prospects. Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt said, "The majority of problems plaguing the personal computer industry in the second half of last year have persisted into early 2023."

Among the top five personal computer manufacturers analyzed in the two reports, Apple suffered the largest drop, falling over 40%. Dell, Lenovo, Asus, and HP closely followed.

Analysts suggest that sales for personal computer manufacturers are being squeezed as the pandemic-driven demand boom ends. However, IDC states that the slowdown in demand and stagnation in growth have allowed the supply chain to stabilize after a tough two years, giving companies time to explore production options outside of China.

The two research firms also predict that the market may begin to recover later this year if economic prospects improve, and gain new momentum in 2024. IDC forecasts that "the market outlook will significantly improve as consumers look to upgrade, schools seek to replace old Chromebooks, and businesses shift to Windows 11."

However, considering the banking industry crisis and the Federal Reserve's continued interest rate hikes to curb still-high inflation, many analysts are not so optimistic.

Fox Advisors analyst Steven Fox said, "The available evidence does not seem to support the view of an economic recovery." He pointed out that businesses are broadly cutting costs and said, "We don't believe demand will collapse, but it will continue to be weak and remain so for some time."

03 New MacBook A Letdown?

Tech reporter Luke Larsen believes that compared to last year's redesigned M2 MacBook Air and even the M1 Max MacBook Pro released in 2021, the 15-inch MacBook Air doesn't offer anything particularly exciting. From current rumors and speculation, it could become one of the least interesting new MacBooks in recent years.

1. Pro or Air?

Naming a product is crucial, especially for Apple. Apple has always strived to distinguish between the two major MacBook lines: MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. For the MacBook Air brand, Apple consistently emphasizes two strengths: extreme portability and entry-level pricing. If the upcoming new laptop still falls under this brand, it will likely continue to promote these two elements.

The 15-inch MacBook Air could be an enlarged version of the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air. This implies that it will be extremely thin, making it one of the thinnest 15-inch laptops currently available. Of course, this is not the first time Apple has offered two different sized laptops. The current MacBook Pro is available in 14-inch and 16-inch sizes. So, this is not a major issue.

However, this new device will likely use the M2 chip, hence it could face the same annoying port restriction problem as its predecessor. Plus, you can only connect one external monitor, limiting the types of uses and audience for this laptop.

Rumors suggest that the 15-inch MacBook Air will come in two configurations, with the second one featuring an M2 Pro chip, but this would certainly affect the device's pricing. On the other hand, outfitting the MacBook with an M2 Pro, while not belonging to the Pro laptop series, could create confusion. It would directly compete with the 14-inch MacBook Pro, which has a similar size (slightly thicker) to the 15-inch MacBook Air and is also equipped with an M2 Pro chip.

This is the real problem. I know Apple wants to bridge the price gap between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, but it only muddies the waters, weakening the positioning of these two products. We've already seen this unfortunate situation with the 13-inch MacBook Pro, with many users often confused about the differences between these products.

2. Bigger Screen, Worse Performance

However, the 15-inch MacBook Air is more than just a product that fits between two others. A product needs its own target audience, not just filling a gap in the product lineup. The 15-inch MacBook Air is suitable for those who do most of their work or study on the go. They prefer a larger screen but don't need extra performance.

Without needing extra performance boosts, Apple has two ways to give the MacBook a larger screen.

Some manufacturers opt to sell larger laptops with dedicated graphics space but also offer cheaper configurations without a dedicated GPU. Examples include the Dell XPS 15 and HP Envy 16. These are pretty thick laptops, but they can support NVIDIA dedicated graphics cards. Apple could follow suit, opting to sell a 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro with just the standard M2 chip.

On the other hand, some Windows laptops are very thin, come with a large screen, but without extra performance boosts. Examples include the 15-inch Surface Laptop 5, LG Gram 16, and Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro. These laptops are too thin to support powerful graphics capabilities. But for the same reason, they are light enough to carry around and stylish. These laptops might target the same audience as Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air.

While there will undoubtedly be those who see the 15-inch MacBook Air as the perfect laptop, its potential user base may be much smaller compared to many other products Apple sells.

3. Is it really what Apple needs?

Survey results show that the "attraction" of the new 15-inch MacBook Air seems weaker compared to when Apple launched new products in the past, which is not a good sign. This isn't only because the market isn't as vibrant as it was a few years ago, but also because the 15-inch MacBook Air doesn't seem very appealing compared to other MacBook lines.

The first quarter of 2023 was a tough one for the entire tech industry, including Mac sales. It's expected that Mac shipments will significantly decline in the first half of this year, including the impact of the release of the 15-inch MacBook Air.

Of course, Apple might have its own tricks up its sleeve. Perhaps it will introduce new killer features like a touchscreen, Touch Bar replacement functions, or facial recognition. Who knows! But judging by its name alone, the 15-inch MacBook Air is not the most exciting announcement for this year's WWDC.