5 things the MacBook needs in the next generation

3up macbook primary

Just like the MacBook Air needed a second iteration to make sense, the second-gen MacBooks could be truly amazing


Playing with the new MacBook on Monday, I kept having flashbacks to 2008. Remember the first-gen MacBook Air? It captured imaginations the instant Steve Jobs pulled it from a plain manilla envelope on stage.

Just like this new MacBook, the original MacBook Air’s form-factor was pretty insane for its time. Just like it did with the new MacBook, Apple had to make some pretty big sacrifices to get the Air that small. No Ethernet, no FireWire, and a weird little trap-door you had to flip open to get to the one sad little USB 2.0 port it did have. The keyboard didn’t light up, and it didn’t have anywhere near enough storage.

But guess what? That was all rectified in the second generation. The 2010 MacBook Air refresh didn’t bring back everything we’d lost, but Apple did ditch the trap door, beef up the storage, and re-illuminate the keyboard. And we wound up with almost the same MacBook Air I still enjoy typing on today.

Likewise, I think the new MacBook—shiny gold beauty that it is—will improve significantly in a year or two. Here’s what I’d like to see in the second generation. (And I’ll skip such obvious gimmes like another USB-C port, faster processor, and lower price.)

Touch ID

Having to type my Apple ID password into iTunes to buy a song or an app on my Mac feels super outdated now that I have Touch ID on my iPhone and iPad.

iphone 6 home button touch id Rob Shultz

Once I got used to Touch ID on my iPhone, I wanted it everywhere. 

Adding Touch ID to a laptop would fix that, plus let me unlock the computer itself biometrically. Heck, throw a secure element in there and enable Apple Pay—I’ll buy even more stuff online than ever.

Wireless charging

According to Apple, the new MacBook is all about being wireless. “Fully equipped for a wireless world,” reads its page on Apple’s website, but I have a little niggle with that claim: Where’s the wireless charging?

ikea charging furniture Ikea

C'mon, Jony. Design some wireless charging furniture. You and Marc Newson can do better than IKEA.

All-day battery life is great, and I tend to believe Apple’s claims, since I can already go almost all day on my 2013 Haswell-equipped MacBook Air. But the time has come for at least something with an Apple logo on it to not have to be tethered to charge. Heck, IKEA just announced furniture with integrated Qi wireless charging pads. Jony Ive and his design crew could team up with some furniture designers to make the most beautiful wireless charging station the world has ever seen.

Cellular networking

Speaking of going wireless, Apple specifically mentioned how the new MacBook could get online by easily tethering to your iPhone to use its data connection. Well, not my iPhone. I’m still clinging to my unlimited data plan on AT&T—the company no longer offers unlimited data on new plans, so I’ve kept the same exact data plan since I got my first iPhone in 2008. The downside is, my plan doesn’t support tethering.

7 instant hotspot

Yosemite's Instant Hotspot feature is great, but I'd rather the MacBook could just get online by itself. 

So I for one can’t wait until Apple offers a laptop with a cellular radio. I buy Wi-Fi-only iPads, but I mostly use them for entertainment. My Mac laptop is for work, and I work online, so I would pay a premium for the peace of mind of knowing I could connect anywhere I can find a cell signal. Perhaps a prepaid Wi-Fi hotspot like Karma is the way to go since that could get my iPad or my Mac online, but that’s another thing I have to carry and keep charged.

Make it spillproof

Apple touted a few specific features of the new MacBook’s redesigned keyboard. It’s too soon to know if the changes—the keys are larger and have a new butterfly mechanism instead of scissor switches—will make it easier to type on. What I do know is that no matter what kind of keyboard you have, spilling a glass of orange juice in there is bad.

logitech keys to go ipad 1

Logitech's Keys to Go is spillproof too. 

The Apple Watch has a water-resistance rating of IPX7, and with its paucity of ports, the new MacBook could be Apple’s first water-resistant computer. (Orange juice resistance may still be a few years off…) If Apple could shrink the height of its keyboard by a good 40 percent, making it and the fancy new Force Touch trackpad spill resistant seems like a good next step. I mean, Dell did it.

Light ‘em up

I remember being distinctly bummed that the first-gen MacBook Air released in 2008 didn’t have the light-up keyboard that I loved in my big ol’ 15-inch MacBook Pro. But thankfully, that handy feature came back in the 2010 models. Likewise, in this new MacBook, Apple evicted the light-up logo on the back. It’s just a shiny metallic Apple logo, exactly like you’d see on an iPad. And I know it’s a small thing, but I want that light-up logo back.

Or maybe it’s not such a small thing. Sure it doesn’t have a practical application, but that glowing Apple logo is an icon! I’ve taken a second to look around the crowd when covering big tech events and press conferences at CES, and I always get a little thrill to see a sea of glowing Apple logos perched on the laps of rows and rows of journalists. (Especially if the press conference is, say, Samsung’s. Or Microsoft’s.) Gold is nice. But it doesn’t glow. Please, Apple?

One more thing: a DVD drive

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Just kidding.

This story, "5 things the MacBook needs in the next generation" was originally published by Macworld.

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