Earlier this year, we were convinced that Apple would be updating its MacBook Air to give it a Retina display like the one found in the Retina MacBook Pro models. Apple did indeed update its MacBook Air in March, but it didn't get the Retina display. Instead, Apple launched a brand-new MacBook line that's super-thin, super-light and does offer that high-resolution display. But does that mean Apple won't update the MacBook Air with a Retina display in the future? We investigate in our Retina MacBook Air release date, specs & features rumour round-up.
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Retina MacBook Air release date rumours
We had originally expected the new MacBook Air with Retina display to launch on 9 March at Apple's Spring Forward event. A new Retina MacBook did indeed launch with a 12in display like the one rumoured, but it's simply called the new MacBook so introduces a new line for Apple's MacBook range.
Apple's MacBook Air also got an update, with new, faster processors, faster flash storage and better graphics, but the screen and overall design remains the same.
That leaves us wondering what Apple's plans are for the future of its MacBook line-up. It's quite possible that it intends to replace the MacBook Air with the new MacBook eventually, but it's equally possible that the MacBook Air will remain part of the line-up for some time yet, and could still get an upgrade to the Retina display when it is refreshed next year.
If Apple does give the MacBook Air a Retina refresh, then it's likely we'll see the new 11in and 13in laptops in the spring of 2016. New MacBook Air models arrived in April of 2014, and in March of this year.
When the new MacBook launched on 9 March, analysts began to suspect that the MacBook Air might not be around for much longer, though. "This wasn't the MacBook Air, but instead leaped past the Air," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. "The kept "the MacBook Air] around just as they do with older iPhones, but the MacBook is now in the same position as the newest iPhone. That makes me wonder if the Air will go away over time."
"Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of US business for Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, also predicted a contraction of Apple's line-up. "All [notebooks] need to be more mobile, so something like the Air doesn't need to be branched out anymore," she said of the differenciation Apple made for the line since its introduction more than eight years ago. "And it's to Apple's benefit not to have so many 'families' of Macs."
Retina MacBook Air specs & features rumours
In addition to the rumours of a Retina display for the next MacBook Air, there are also reports to suggest that it'll boast Touch ID within its Trackpad, which may also get the Force Touch upgrade that was given to the 13in MacBook Pro on 9 March, and will come with the new MacBook when it launches on 10 April.
Touch ID is the fingerprint sensor that's built-in to the Home button of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It's also used to make Apple Pay more secure.
The rumour started with Taiwanese blog AppleCorner, which cited sources in the supply chain. Apparently the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad may get a biometric update too, enabling users to make Apple Pay payments on the web. According to an Independent report, Touch ID for the Mac line would require a dedicated chip to be built in to the device.
Will the non-Retina MacBook Air remain?
If Apple launches a Retina MacBook Air, will it discontinue the existing models? It's possible, but it's also likely that at least one of the models will remain, and we think it would be the 11in MacBook Air, as it's the cheapest and most portable of the range.
When Apple introduced the Retina display to the MacBook Pro, it discontinued most of the older models. Now, just one non-Retina MacBook Pro remains - the 13in MacBook Pro priced at £899 - so we expect the same to be true for whichever non-Retina MacBook Air Apple decides to continue.
We'll be updating this article as more information about the rumoured Retina MacBook Air emerges so check back from time to time for the latest news.