The MacBook Air is Apple’s most popular laptop, and when the Apple M1 and M2 chips landed, they came to the Air first. That changed with the M3 chip generation, which came to the MacBook Pro and iMac first but left the Air untouched.
That situation should change early next year, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Apple is reportedly preparing to launch updates to the MacBook Air, as well as several new iPad models, in “the March time frame.” Apple hasn’t released any new iPads in 2023, and the 13-inch M2 MacBook Air was introduced in July of 2022.
Gurman says not to expect design changes from the M3 Air. The M2 version introduced a new non-tapered design with a display notch, a new keyboard, and a MagSafe port, and the M3 Air should look externally identical.
The report indicates that Apple will refresh both the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Airs at the same time. The 15-inch M2 model was released in June of 2023, much more recently than the 13-inch version. Refreshing the 15-inch Air after just nine months would be a little unusual but not totally unheard of. And it’s definitely easier to explain the differences between the two sizes if everything inside them stays the same.
Pricing is also an open question. Apple currently sells the aging M1 MacBook Air as a $999 entry-level model, charging a $100 premium for the newer chip and newer design of the M2 Air. Apple could knock the M2 Air down to $999 when it introduces the M3 update, it could drop the price of the M3 Air to hit $999, or it could discontinue the M1 and M2 versions and make $1,099 the new starting price for a MacBook Air. Apple could even continue to sell the M1 Air for $999 and keep charging a premium for the M3 Air refresh; Apple sold some version of the 2015 non-Retina MacBook Air for four years before finally discontinuing it.
As for the iPads, Apple is apparently planning to release four new models across the iPad Air and iPad Pro product lines (eight, if you count the Wi-Fi and cellular versions as separate models), plus refreshed Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard accessories. The iPad Air will come in both 10.9- and 12.9-inch versions, which would make it the first large-screened non-Pro iPad. The iPad Pro will come with an overhauled design, the M3 chip, and new OLED display panels, and it will presumably keep offering premium features like a better camera, a FaceID sensor, and a high-refresh-rate ProMotion screen. The new Magic Keyboard for the redesigned iPad Pro will reportedly “make the iPad Pro look more like a laptop and include a sturdier frame with aluminum.”
Gurman frames these hardware updates as an effort to “reverse a decline in Mac and iPad sales,” though they are happening at roughly the same cadence that they usually do. The Mac has been struggling to post any year-over-year growth in recent quarters, but that has been broadly true of most PC companies as they’ve dealt with a pandemic-era boom-and-bust. If the Mac’s sales do go back to growing (or even staying roughly level) in 2024, it will have less to do with an M3 MacBook Air refresh and more to do with sales normalizing after a couple of unpredictable and abnormal years.