How to Predict When Apple Will Ship New Macs

15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pro with 32 GB RAM

It’s not an exact science by any means. But there are often subtle hints when Apple is ready to ship new Macs. Here are some recent tips and signs that stood out for me.

One of the new Macs: Apple's 2018 MacBook Pro.
Apple’s 2018 MacBook Pro.

Analysts. Ming-Chi Kuo, now with TF International Securities, has a good record when it comes to understanding Apple’s supply chain and predicting new Apple products. On July 11th, the day before the MacBook Pro update, he made his most recent predictions.

[Ming-Chi Kuo Predicts All of Apple’s New Fall Products ]

So far, he’s been spot on with the MacBook Pro (MBP).

Regulatory Filings. On July 5th, our Bryan Chaffin pointed to new European regulatory flings for five new Macs (as well as iPads.) He wrote: “In several instances in the past, Apple has launched new products roughly a month after making similar filings with the EEC.” This news surfaced on July 4th, when most U.S.journalists have the day off, but a sharp-eyed French site caught it, and then so did everyone else.

Submitted Benchmarks. On June 13th, right after WWDC, there was a benchmark submitted for a 6-core, 32 GB MacBook Pro that was most certainly the next generation model. Beside the 32 GB giveaway, the 6-core reference was a giant flag for the new Coffee Lake CPU seen in PCs.

That leads into the next topic. Watching Intel and the PC world.

New Intel CPUs. Watching Intel’s CPU release schedule is helpful. When next generation CPUs start showing up in PCs, we know Apple isn’t far behind with the Macs Apple updates most often.

[What to Know About the New Intel CPUs: Coffee Lake & Cannon Lake ]

Intel introduced the Coffee Lake series in October, 2017. So they weren’t ready for the 2017 MacBook Pros and iMacs in June, 2017. The notable feature of Coffee Lake is the number of cores for mobile and desktop CPUs. The Core i7 (desktop) has six cores (and hyperthreading, taking it to 12 threads).

Based on the above benchmark submitted, that pretty much clinched the deal on new MacBook Pros with a six core Coffee Lake CPU. But when?

Apple Ads. In June, Apple launched a new Mac-centric ad campaign, “Behind the Mac.” The four ads showed several different professionals using their MacBook Pros to good effect in their work. This happened right after WWDC. It was a subtle sign, to me anyway, that Apple was trying to generate some fervor for future Mac products that didn’t make it into the WWDC keynote. We remember how new MacBook Pros (Kaby Lake) made their appearance at WWDC 2017. Speaking of timing….

Historical Record. For some Macs, there is no known release schedule. This applies to the Mac Pro during the dark years (2014-2017) and the Mac mini even today. For other Macs, especially, the MacBooks, the releases have been a bit more regular. Skylake MBPs were announced in October 2016 followed by a remarkable follow-up with Kaby Lake MBPs at WWDC 2017. Given Apple’s newfound enthusiasm for the Mac, one could guess that Coffee Lake MBPs would eventually come along.

Given the keyboard issue Apple has had with the recent MBPs, one might surmise a slight delay this year. That’s what we got.

2018 Touch Bar MacBook Pro keyboard membrane
The likely cause for delay. A 2018 MBP keyboard tweak.

New Macs: a Case In Point

David Gerwitz at ZDNet writes about a developer who needed a new MacBook Pro. When Apple didn’t announce new ones at WWDC 2018 back in June, he concluded they weren’t forthcoming. He bought a 2017 MacBook Pro (Kaby Lake). Author Gerwitz tells the tale, relating the anguish of the developer on July 12 when the new (Coffee Lake) MacBook Pros shipped.

The developer was upset, but there’s a difference between wanting to be the one on the block with the latest Mac and mission critical work. If the developer truly needs (incrementally) more speed, or 32 GB RAM, to get the job done, why did he jump the gun in spite of all the signs? In any case, the very best Mac is the newest shipping Mac you buy on the day you need it.

Another argument was that Apple should have announced the new MacBook Pros at WWDC, even if they weren’t ready to ship. In fact, pre-announcements haven’t gone well with Apple lately in the case of the HomePod and the AirPower. It’s Apple’s prerogative to ship a product when it’s ready, and that’s what Apple did.

The argument that Apple needs to stick to a cadence so that professionals can plan purchases is without merit. Advanced product development doesn’t happen on a predetermined schedule. Goals are set, but they’re sometimes missed. Issues come up in QA testing. Staff turnovers happen. We all understand this and always have. Especially the technical and creative professionals.

Buying The Best Mac

Buying new Macs means understanding how it can serve the immediate and future intended purpose. Outside those rare cases when a totally busted Mac, out of warranty, must be immediately replaced no matter what, we’re generally happy with any new Mac we might buy.

It’s very rare that the features of new Macs make the purchase of their predecessor preposterous. We all move ahead gradually, and the best Mac is the one we just bought and are using productively. Any other approach is going to cause much frustration.

Still, for those who want to be smart shoppers and avoid buying multi-year old technology, there are often subtle hints floating around. My hope is that the above tips will help with future purchase decisions.

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