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Apple Said to Plan Thinner MacBook Air With MagSafe Charger


Apple is working on a thinner and lighter version of the MacBook Air, the company’s mass-market laptop, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The new computer is planned to be released during the second half of this year at the earliest or in 2022. It will include Apple’s MagSafe charging technology and a next-generation version of the company’s in-house Mac processors. Apple has discussed making the laptop smaller by shrinking the border around the screen, which will remain 13-inches. The current model weighs 2.8 pounds and is just over half an inch at its thickest point.

The company considered building a larger version of the MacBook Air with a 15-inch screen, but Apple isn’t moving forward with this for the next generation, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

MagSafe, which was removed from the MacBook Air with its 2018 redesign, is a magnetic charging system. That means any accidental yanking of the power cable would simply detach it from the laptop rather than pull down the entire computer. The new model will have a pair of USB 4 ports for connecting external devices.

The new laptop is destined to be a higher-end version of the current MacBook Air, which is expected to remain in the company’s lineup as an entry-level offering. Apple last updated the product in November with its own M1 Mac chip, replacing a processor from Intel.

The Mac is Apple’s oldest product line and has a loyal following. A few years ago, the company was criticized for not updating these computers enough and not paying attention to customer demands. Now, there’s a flood of updates coming. In addition to the new MacBook Air, Apple is planning its biggest update to the MacBook Pro since 2016, the first redesign of the iMac in nearly a decade, a new Intel-based Mac Pro, and a half-sized Mac Pro desktop with in-house chips.

The upcoming MacBook Pro is an example of Apple’s renewed focus on Mac loyalists. The company is planning to bring back an SD card slot for the next MacBook Pro models so users can insert memory cards from digital cameras. That feature was removed in 2016, to the consternation of professional photographers and video creators, key segments of the MacBook Pro user base. The heavily criticised Touch Bar, the current model’s touchscreen function row, is also going.  

Apple has also developed underlying Mac support for both cellular connectivity — the ability for Macs to connect to the Internet via smartphone networks — and Face ID, the company’s facial recognition system. But neither feature appears to be coming soon. To that end, Face ID had originally been planned to arrive in this year’s iMac redesign, but it’s now unlikely to be included in the first iteration of the new design.

© 2021 Bloomberg LP


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Samsung Display promises thinner laptop bezels with unproven under-screen webcams

Samsung Display has released a teaser for its under-screen camera technology meant for laptops, dubbed “Samsung Blade Bezel,” on its Weibo page. It promises that its “UPC” (Under Panel Camera) tech can make a laptop’s bezels smaller without having to relocate its webcam, while also making the OLED display itself be both thinner and lighter. There’s no mention of the impact of the technology on the webcam’s image quality, however, which has become increasingly important in the age of social distancing.

We saw the first smartphone with an under-display selfie camera release commercially last year. However, the ZTE Axon 20 5G’s implementation of the feature simply wasn’t very good. The quality of its selfie camera photos was poor, and the portion of the display that covered the camera suffered from much lower resolution than the rest of the screen.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Samsung Display’s under-panel camera plans. Previously, however, attention has focused on its use in smartphones, where manufacturers have obsessed over reducing bezel size in recent years. Back in 2018, Samsung Display mentioned under-display camera technology during a presentation about the future of phone design, and the following year an executive said the technology could be ready for use in smartphones “in the next 1-2 years.”

Now, it seems, the technology is also headed to laptops, where it could allow for smaller bezels without having to relocate the webcam to below the screen. That’s the approach taken by Huawei’s MateBook X Pro which has small screen bezels thanks to a webcam that’s built into its keyboard. Unfortunately, this placement means the webcam is directed at you from a very low angle, when ideally you want it to be positioned at eye-level. The Dell XPS 13 has a small bezel that’s still big enough for a webcam, but the camera’s quality isn’t great.

While the technology could make for better-looking laptops, it’s unlikely to do much for the image quality of built-in webcams themselves which continue to suffer from stubbornly low-quality despite their sudden importance in the age of COVID-19. Ultimately, laptops with better webcams, like the Pixelbook Go or Surface Laptop 3, tend to have larger bezels needed to house beefier imaging components.

Samsung Display provides panels to a variety of different manufacturers. That means we could see Samsung Blade Bezel technology appear in laptops across the industry, rather than being confined to Samsung’s own devices. Today’s teaser doesn’t mention when the first laptop with the technology could release, however.

As for when an under-display camera could appear in Samsung’s smartphones, a recent report from The Elec suggested that it might make its debut in the company’s third-generation Fold.