Apple Event 2018, Big Question #4: How Will MacBook Drama Be Addressed?

Apple has a big task ahead.

MacBook touch bar.

Apple has a big challenge next week. The iPhone maker is expected to unveil three new devices on Wednesday, as part of its annual smartphone refresh that will roll out the successors to the iPhone X. While this is normally a rather straightforward affair, the past 12 months have proved tumultuous for the company from a quality standpoint, and the pressure will be on to make a strong impression.

Rumors point to the company unveiling three devices at the company’s Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California and 10 a.m. Pacific time on Wednesday. The first is a $699 6.1-inch LCD iPhone, offering a cheaper device at the expense of niceties like dual lens cameras and possibly materials. The second is an $899 5.8-inch OLED phone that acts as a successor to the iPhone X, possibly named “iPhone XS,” while the most expensive device is a $999 6.5-inch OLED extravaganza tentatively titled “iPhone XS Max,” possibly rocking dual SIM support. Unlike last year’s phones that all used Touch ID bar one model, the new lineup is all expected to use the Face ID scanning system, removing the home button in the process.

It all sounds exciting, but Apple hasn’t exactly enjoyed good publicity since it last took to the Steve Jobs Theater stage. A Quartz story entitled “What the hell is going on with Apple?” despaired at a slew of issues with the company’s products released during that time. An update to AirPods has been delayed, the AirPower wireless charger is still nowhere to be seen, HomePod didn’t launch on time. Of the products that did launch, the MacBook Pro suffered from overheating, the entire range suffered from a temperamental keyboard, and Apple Watches have been expanding on the wrist.

Apple's iPhone in action.
Apple's iPhone in action.

Perhaps worst of all, in terms of the iPhone’s image, is battery throttling. A single Reddit post in December 2017 revealed that older Apple phones seemed to slow down as the battery got older. The company later admitted that, in order to avoid random shutdowns from requesting too much power, iOS was altered to slow down the processor to reduce demands on the battery. Apple was hit with 59 putative class actions, the company was forced to announce a switch would launch in a software update, and the iPhone name was tarnished with fans that had spent so long reassuring people that Apple wasn’t slowing old phones down.

These issues haven’t gone unnoticed. A story in The Outline entitled “The new MacBook keyboard is ruining my life” went viral, while writer Owen Williams has collected a list of all the ways Apple’s MacBook has failed for users.

The Mac comprised just 10 percent of Apple’s profit in the third quarter of this year, making its success arguably less important for the overall company. But with the iPhone making up 56 percent in the same quarter, the pressure is on for the company to get the hardware right when Tim Cook takes the stage.

Check out some of the other big questions we’re following ahead of next week’s big Apple announcement.