My problems with the new MacBooks.

I was listening to episode 193 of the Accidental Tech Podcast, and one of the hosts didn’t seem like he understood why I (and apparently many other people on Twitter1) were uninterested or annoyed or disappointed with the new MacBook Pros. So, being a random white dude on the Internet, I hoped that I could leave a comment explaining the various reasons, in case he was interested… 🙂

My main complaint is that (similarly to the iPhone 72, and macOS Sierra3) the things Apple is introducing aren’t interesting to me, and the things they are taking away are things I value. There are a lot of ways Apple could have changed the MacBook to make it better, and in their defence they did a few of them4. There are also a lot of things they could have removed that I wouldn’t particularly care about, and they did some of those, too5. But then there are the things they removed that I use all the time, and already feel the lack of even before buying the new machine. Things like the USB 3 ports, to which I connect my iPhone, my Magic Keyboard, my Magic Trackpad, and a USB key that I store family pictures on. Things like the MagSafe port which has saved my current computer from falling to its death at least six times so far over its three year lifespan. Things like the Thunderbolt ports to which I connect my external monitor, and my ethernet dongle (when the WiFi goes down). Things like the play/pause, volume up/down, and screen brightness keys. And now I have to give all these up to get a TouchBar that seems like an accessibility nightmare at worst, and a confusing mess at best? That doesn’t seem like a good tradeoff for the kinds of things I do. Oh, and I keep on forgetting that I’ll need to pay more for all these things I’m not interested in. And pay even more for a ton of adapters so that I can have the privilege of using the many cables already scattered around my home and office.

My current MacBook is slowly dying, so I’m probably going to upgrade at some point, but for the first time since I switched away from Windows, I’m really not excited about what Apple has to offer. On the other hand, Microsoft has been kind of killing it these days… I’ve also got a previous generation Surface Pro at work, and while I don’t use the touch screen that often, I do use it sometimes. And their newly-introduced Linux Subsystem lets me run all the same Unix apps I run on my Mac, and the upcoming ability to launch Windows apps from the Linux subsystem will basically give me everything I need to do my job. Am I still stuck in the Apple ecosystem because of various apps I’ve bought? Yes. But that, too, is a telling statement. I’m no longer using Apple products because I think Macs are the best computers, or the latest iPhone is the best phone, but instead because of lock-in. And I don’t feel joyous about getting new Apple products anymore. And that sucks.

Anyways, I guess it is what it is, and there’s no real point in complaining about it. I might end up buying one of the new MacBook Pros, but I think I’m going to wait as long as I can, to see if they come out with something more suited to my needs next year (or to see if Microsoft does)6

  1. Yes, I re-tweeted a lot of snarky tweets about the missing escape key, but I never thought that would actually be a problem. It was just amusing. 🙂 

  2. I’ve never had a problem with my headphone cord getting caught on things, but I frequently charge my iPhone while listening to it, and switch from my iPhone to my laptop, and listen to music for more than five hours at a time, and I have a reasonably expensive pair of headphones that feel and sound great already, so I’m not really looking forward to having to purchase a pair of bluetooth headphones that won’t fit correctly, won’t sound as good, and that I can’t change the volume on without talking to myself like a crazy person. So I bought one of the new iPhone 6S Plus’s instead. I worry quite a lot about what I’ll do when it finally dies. 

  3. Looking through the feature list, I object to more people talking in the office and distracting me, so I kind of wish Siri would go away, or at least switch to a text-only input. The new stickers in are nice, but I haven’t really used them after the first couple of days. For a while, it had broken aText (a text expander that you can buy once, instead of paying for every month), but that was eventually fixed by someone. And everything else is unremarkable/unusable. Oh, and my WiFi seems to take way longer to connect since I upgraded, but that might be co-incidental. 

  4. Longer battery life, although only an hour longer, and “Up to 10 hours wireless web” doesn’t sound like it’ll last a full day under my normal workload. Faster, although according to some benchmarks linked in this article, “the CPU in this MacBook Pro actually performs worse than the older one”. And they didn’t go with the more recent Kaby Lake chips, choosing instead to use an architecture that’s already over a year old. They did nail making the laptop lighter, and adding TouchID, and the 3D Touch trackpad, all of which I’m quite grateful for, but at the same time, I’m a little disappointed there isn’t a rose gold option. 

  5. I’m sure some people do, but I, for one, don’t use the SD Card or the HDMI port. 

  6. I also apologized for the extensive footnotes. I’m not entirely sure how they would read them on air, but then, it seems pretty unlikely my email would be read anyways, so I’m not too worried. 😉