How to make Group FaceTime calls on the iPhone, iPad, or Mac

Video conferencing is bigger than it’s even been now that we’re all keeping our distance from one another, and with Group FaceTime, Apple has an appealing option of its own—provided everyone on the call has either an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. If you’ve been put off by all the iffy privacy decisions being made by popular alternatives like Zoom, this should come as an especially welcome alternative.

It’s free, it’s really easy to set up, and Apple even allows a whopping 32 people to take part in a single FaceTime call. Here’s how to do it.

Table of Contents
How to make a Group FaceTime call through the FaceTime app
How to make Group FaceTime calls through the Messages app
How to make a Group FaceTime call through the FaceTime app
We’ll start here since this is the easiest way to start a FaceTime chat with a lot of people, especially if you’ve never called or chatted with them through Messages before. These instructions are for iOS and iPadOS, but we’ve also included instructions for macOS afterward.

[ Further reading: Everything you need to know about iOS 13 ]
Open the FaceTime app.
Press the + button in the upper right-hand corner.
If the person is in your Contacts, you can just enter their name. If they’re not, you can enter their phone number. You’ll know if they’re on iOS (and can participate in the call) if the numbers or names show up in blue text. If they aren’t, the names and numbers will be in gray and you won’t be able to interact with them. You can add up to 31 people.
Press Audio or Video to start the call.
Once the call has started, you can add another person to the call at any point by swiping up on the FaceTime menu options along the bottom of the display and pressing Add Person.

adding person to facetime call
Leif Johnson/IDG
Here’s what you’ll see when you swipe up on the four-button FaceTime menu panel.
To end the call, press the red icon with an “X” in the lower right that says “end.” To end the call, press the red icon with an “X” in the lower right that says “end.”

On a Mac
Making FaceTime calls on the Mac is a little different, but weirdly enough, you have a bit more versatility in that you can start calls with people who aren’t on Apple devices, so long as you only do it through audio.

Open the FaceTime app.
In the panel that appears to the left of the video feed, you’ll see a search bar that says “Enter a name, email or number.” Do as it says. You can add as many as 31 people.
Two buttons will appear at the bottom of the panel after you enter the first name. Once you’ve chosen everyone you want to enter press Video. (If you haven’t added any Apple users to the group, press Audio. Unlike on iOS or iPadOS, you can still use the Mac to Group FaceTime with people on Android, but they’ll just hear it through audio.)
The call will immediately start.
You can add a new person to the call by moving your mouse over the video feed and then pressing the icon in the far left that looks like a Finder window.

adding someone to facetime call mac
Leif Johnson/IDG
Like this, specifically.
You’ll then see a list with all the names and numbers of the people on the all. After that:

Press the + button to the right of Add Person.
Enter their name(s) in the entry bar that pops up.
Then press the green Add button in the lower right of the panel.
How to make Group FaceTime calls through the Messages app
This is a good route to take if you already have a Messages group thread that’s shared between a number of friends or contacts, even if you’ve only texted with them before. You can easily transition to making video calls with FaceTime. Here’s how.

Open the Messages app.
Press the group thread with the friends or contacts you’d like to video chat with.
In the chat thread, press the header at the top with the name of the thread and the icons representing your contacts.
A menu with three options will drop down. Press FaceTime. (Alternatively, press Audio if you just want to chat by voice.)
group facetime ios1
Leif Johnson/IDG
Just to emphasize: You won’t see this menu unless you press on the icons above it.
The call will immediately start, you’ll see staggered tiles on the screen representing your contacts. A tile will read “Waiting…” if one of your contacts hasn’t picked up yet.

If you missed the initial call and the FaceTime call is still going on, you can still join later by going to the thread in the Messages app and pressing the big green Join button that should be visible. FaceTime will also tell you how many people are active on the call.

To end the call, press the red icon with an “X” in the lower right that says “end.”

On a Mac
You can also easily start FaceTime chats with people in group threads on Messages, although everyone in the thread will need to be on iOS or macOS for the steps below to work. Otherwise, you’ll need to start a FaceTime with a single person and then add more people from there.

Open the Messages app on your Mac.
Press the group thread with the contacts you wish to FaceTime with.
Press Details in the upper right-hand corner.
You’ll see two icons for a camera and a phone, corresponding to video and audio. Press the camera icon.
how to add to group facetime mac camera
Leif Johnson/IDG
If an Android user is in the thread, you’ll have to call one person individually and then add other people to the call individually. 
Your Mac will start making the call and a new window will pop up showing all the available viewing tiles for the people in the conversation. To end the call, press the red circular icon with the “X” in the middle.

how to add to group facetime calls mac

How to stop iPhone videos from turning into a blurry mess on Android phones (and vice versa)

Sadly, our friends don’t all have iPhones. That means some of our Message chats are peppered with green bubbles and send over regular SMS instead of via Apple’s ultra-fast iMessage system. But it’s not just the color and speed that makes iMessage superior: it’s also the clarity and downright watchability when dealing with videos.

If you thought the latest Game of Thrones episode was hard to see, clearly you’ve never sent a video from Messages on your iPhone to a friend with an Android phone. If they responded with something like, “What is this?!”, it probably wasn’t because of the content—it’s because they could barely see what was going on in the clip. By the time it reached their device, the video is a blurry, garbled mess. That carefully edited HD clip you took on your new iPhone was reduced to an unwatchable sludge once it reached your friend’s phone. And the same is true of the videos they send you.

iphone android blurry
Your Android friends will see a blurry mess where a video is supposed to be.
The phenomenon can also affect group messages. As they say, once bad apple can spoil the bunch, so if one of the recipients in your group is on an Android phone, then the entire message will be sent over SMS. Hence, all users will see blurry, barely watchable videos, even iPhone users with iMessages enabled.

[ Further reading: Everything you need to know about iOS 13 ]
What gives? While it might seem like it’s the result of sabotage between platforms, that’s not the case. It has to do with compression. Apple handles the iPhone-to-iPhone delivery of texted videos, so no matter the size, videos are sent and received in their original quality. However, that’s not the case when not using Apple’s system from start to finish—your carrier gets in the way, and that’s when things break down.

Sent Pictures are mostly OK (large ones will be compressed but still viewable), videos files are hit hard. Texting from Android to Android will see minor compression, but it’s compounded when going from iPhone to Android or from Android to iPhone, since Apple’s system gets in the way. Even when sending relatively short video clips (around 15MB to 20MB), they’ll be compressed on one end and stay that way, resulting in a blurry, unwatchable video.

How can you fix it? Convince all of your friends and family to get an iPhone, of course, so everything you send will be over iMessage. Since that’s probably not realistic, here are some workarounds.

Use a third-party messaging app
The reason why texting video between iPhones and Apple’s Messages app doesn’t result in blurry photos is because Apple controls the compression on both ends. The same is true when you’re using another messaging service, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, etc. If you send a video using any of these services, it’ll reach your recipient with its quality intact (as long as you don’t run into any file-size limitations). However, you need to convince your friends to sign up and use the same service you use.

Use email instead
If there’s one messaging service that tried and true, it’s good, old-fashioned email. We all know how it works: launch your client of choice, create a new message, choose the video you want, and hit send. And you’ll be sure that it arrives in the same quality as it was sent.

iphone android blurry2IDG
While some compression happens whenever your try to text a video (center), the level that Android users experience (right) is off-the-charts bad. Sending it over email through a clioud service will fix it.
Send a Google Photos link
It’s always handy to have a copy of Google Photos on your iPhone. It creates a library of every photo on your iPhone that can be viewed anywhere, and it also lets you share your photos with anyone, no matter what phone or device they have. Unless you have lots of space on your Google Drive and choose to save the “original” resolution, the quality will be a bit downgraded, but nothing like what happens when you try to text over Messages. 

Use Dropbox or Google Drive
After you take a video, you don’t have to leave it in Apple Photos in order to share it. Open your photo in Photos and tap the share button to get a variety of options, including saving to Dropbox, Google Drive or your cloud-based storage service of choice. From there, you’ll be able to send a link with the full-sized file in tow.

Tell them to turn on chat
Android has finally gotten around to using RCS instead of SMS on Android, so if your friend is using a newer phone with Google’s Messages, they should see a new option for Chat, which brings iMessage-like features such as typing indicators and texting over Wi-Fi. While it won’t turn your Galaxy-using friends’ bubbles blue on iPhones, it should help increase the quality of the photos and videos your receive from them. Photos and videos taken within the Messages app are still compressed, but far less than before. (Unfortunately, this has no effect on the iPhone videos being sent to Android phones.)  They can enable chat (if it’s available) by tapping Settings in the overflow menu in the top right corner of the main conversation list.

iPhone 12 rumors: Another look at the camera array with LiDAR

Three cameras and a LiDAR sensor, with flash in the middle.
Instagram account Concepts iPhone has what is purported to be an image of the camera array for the iPhone 12, reportedly taken from iOS 14 (judging by the diagram style, either a repair guide or user guide).

[ Further reading: Do you need a special HDMI cable for 4K and 8K TVs? ]
It shows the same square cutout as on the iPhone 11, but with the 

three cameras arranged differently, with a fourth area for the LiDAR sensor—the same sensor Apple just released on the 2020 iPad Pro. The iPad Pro has just two cameras plus the LiDAR sensor, so this diagram clearly depicts new hardware.

Coronavirus fallout could delay the iPhone 12 launch by months
Even if the coronavirus pandemic has ended by September, the launch of Apple's iPhone 12 might still be affected. While reports out of China are that manufacturing plants are beginning to return to normal, a source told the Nikkei Asian Review review that "Apple is concerned that the current situation would significantly lower consumer appetite to upgrade their phones, which could lead to a tame reception of the first 5G iPhone." That could have disastrous results for Apple's roadmap, as both 5G and, obviously, the iPhone key heavily into whatever future products may be on the way. Nikkei says Apple will make a final decision about the phone's launch in May and "the fall launch is not completely off the table," but it's possible that we don't get a new iPhone until 2021.

iPhone 12 Pro Max to receive “sensor-shift image stabilization”
It’s all but certain that the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s screen will grow from 6.5 inches to 6.7 inches this year, but now we’re starting to learn a bit more about it. As reported by Macrumors, Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is predicting that Apple’s flagship will include sensor-shift image stabilization, which could be a solution for the ultra-wide camera.

According to What Digital Camera, sensor-shift image stabilization in a DSLR camera “works by moving the camera’s sensor around the image plane using electrical actuators. If any shake motion is detected by the camera’s accelerometers, it calculates in real-time the direction and speed to move the sensor, so that it remains stationary in relation to the image being projected onto it by the lens.” On the iPhone 11 Pro’s triple-camera system, only the wide and telephoto cameras have optical image stabilization, so sensor-shift image stabilization could be a way to stabilize all three cameras. 

Kuo notes that Apple would look to bring the feature to other iPhone models in 2021. It’s not clear why Apple would limit the feature to the Max phone and not include it on both Pro models, though Apple could be trying to give buyers an additional reason to move to the higher tier.

Production on track for September
Despite earlier reports that the iPhone 12 could see delays that push the release into October or even 2021, a new Bloomberg report says that the struggles Apple and the rest of the world is facing due to the coronavirus “have yet to severely derail the 5G iPhone launch in the fall.” As Mark Gurman and Debby Wu explain, Apple generally shores up its next iPhone design shortly after the release of the current model and eyes April as a start date for mass production of the new cases. The report notes that Apple has already built “a limited number of test versions of the new models.” However, with so much uncertainly, it’s still possible that the timeline “could slip,” Bloomberg cautions. 

3D Time-of-Flight rear camera
A report in Fast Company says Apple will incorporate a 3D depth-sensing camera in the iPhone 12, citing “a source with knowledge.” 

We’ve heard this rumor before, both from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, and in a research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

VCSEL stands for Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser. It’s a type of semiconductor that emits a low-power laser (usually infrared, so humans can’t see it). It’s used in a lot of consumer devices today for simple range-finding; to assist in augmented reality, Apple would use a more complex chip that fires a big grid of lasers, then measures the time-of-flight for that light to determine distance. Effectively, this would produce a low-res “image” where each pixel has depth info rather than color.

It’s an efficient way to get a much more accurate 3D representation of the scene in front of the camera, which is useful in computational photography and especially in augmented reality.

Delayed ship date
2020 is the year of the coronavirus and how it is affecting everything, including the shipment of the new iPhone. DigiTimes reports that the next iPhone could see a ship date in October, about a month later than the usual September time frame. Apple recently put travel restrictions on its employees, which in turn affects production schedules. A report from Bloomberg states that a Bank of America analyst also believes the iPhone will be delayed.

Given the circumstances, a delay seems totally plausible, though a Reuters report says that there’s still time for Apple to get back on track with its iPhone schedule.

Refreshed Face ID
CNBC has a summary of a new report from a Barlcays analyst that corroborates some of the rumors we’ve already heard about the iPhone 12. But there’s one sort-of-new nugget in there: The analyst says the iPhone 12 will feature a “refreshed” Face ID system, but offers no clues on what that might mean.

The Face ID system has gone through a few minor upgrades already—with iOS 13 it got a little faster, and the iPhone 11’s TrueDepth module has an improved standard color camera, but not an improved depth-sensing system. The faster processor in the iPhone 11 helps make Face ID unlocking faster, too.

The report also says the high-end “Pro” models will feature a time-of-flight depth sensor on the rear camera array, which we’ve heard several times before. Finally, it furthers the claim that Apple might ditch the Lightning connector on the 2021 iPhone in favor of exclusively wireless charging. That idea seems a little dubious, to us: It would nearly kill the entire CarPlay market, as very few vehicles support wireless CarPlay and even if support for that feature improved dramatically, people don’t upgrade their cars that often. Apple would have to ship wireless chargers in the box, and let’s face it, as convenient as wireless charging is, it’s still too slow to be the only means of charging one’s phone. Apple would have to make wireless charging a lot faster.

New A14 processor
a14 preview 3dmark
We predict a significant bump in graphics performance on the A14.
All models of the iPhone 12 are all but certain to have a new application processor, which Apple will likely call the A14. It is well-known that this processor is being produced by TSMC on its new bleeding-edge 5nm EUV manufacturing process. 

We’ve done some of our own analysis on Apple’s recent A-series processors and the capabilities afforded by the new manufacturing process to predict what we might expect from the A14.

Disputed 5G iPhone release schedule
If there’s one thing we’re certain of with the iPhone 12, it’s that it will be packing a 5G modem. The next-gen network will be much more robust than it was at the end of 2019, and the next iPhone will be ready for it.

Just how ready is up for debate, however. While previous rumors have suggested that 5G might be limited to the “pro” models, a new report says that the 5G iPhones will launch in phases. As reported by MacRumors, Susquehanna analyst Mehdi Hosseini “expects 5G-enabled iPhones to launch in two phases, including sub-6GHz models in September 2020 and mmWave models in December 2020 or January 2021.”  That means people who want the best possible iPhone 12 might have to wait months to get it.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, on the other hand, expects there to be four 5G models, all with both sub-6GHz and mmWave support, all launching at essentially the same time: late 2020. He said as much in a research note in December, and followed up with another note in January to say they’re still on track.

Kuo expects 5G support in iPhone models to vary by region/country. Some would get only sub-6GHz support, others sub-6GHz and mmWave, and some countries where carriers don’t offer significant 5G support might see the feature disabled entirely.

While millimeter-wave networks are significantly faster than their sub-6GHz counterparts, mmWave is also extremely limited in scope. Verizon is leading the way with some two dozen cities, but the coverage is extremely limited, with some areas barely extending past a block or two. 

As it stands, 5G has had a very confusing rollout, and it would be up to Apple to simplify things for consumers. Selling a 5G iPhone but promising an iPhone with better 5G a few months later won’t do that. If mmWave isn’t going to available at launch, it might be better to just cut it completely from the iPhone 12 and stick to sub-6GHz rather than give consumers a choice they don’t understand.

Thinner, more efficient OLED
A report from Korean publication The Elec states that LG is upgrading its OLED production lines at the E6 facility where the displays for the current iPhone 11 Pro are made, and from which we assume the iPhone 12’s high-end models will get their OLED displays.

The upgrades we can expect are twofold. First, the touch sensors will be integrated into the display itself, rather than requiring a separate touch layer. This makes the entire display-and-touch assembly in the phone thinner, and less expensive to manufacture. 

Second, the backplane responsible for turning the individual OLED subpixels on or off is said to be switching to low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) technology. This uses a little less power (about 15 percent less) than the LPTS technology currently used on iPhones. Apple recently switched to OLED displays with LTPO technology in the Apple Watch in order to help prolong battery life.

Sensor-shift image stabilization
A new report from DigiTimes (which has a spotty record on future iPhone predictions) says that the 5G iPhones due in 2020 will implement image stabilization via sensor-shift technology.

Current optical image stabilization in iPhones uses a gyroscope to move an entire camera array—sensor and lenses—in order to reduce small shakes and vibrations. In addition iPhones employ electronics image stabilization when recording video, using the phone’s motion sensors to shift the recorded area on the sensor in order to counteract vibrations.

Some sites are reporting that sensor-shift stabilization would bring image stabilization to the ultrawide camera on the iPhone, where it does not currently exist in the iPhone 11. This is not necessarily the case; the “lenses” the back of the iPhone (Wide, Ultrawide, and Telephoto) are not merely lens arrays that point at a single sensor. They are entire camera modules, with their own independent sensors and lens arrays.

For sensor-shift technology to apply to the ultrawide camera on an iPhone, it would need to be independently applied to that camera’s sensor, just as the current optical image stabilization and could have been, if Apple chose to. 

The main benefits of a sensor-shift technology for image stabilization is that a fixed nonmoving lens array is subject to fewer compromises and could be of higher quality, and that the iPhone could make deliberate sup-pixel shifts to the sensor to take multiple exposures that are combined to provide higher resolution photos.

Sensor-shift technology is fairly common in higher-end mirrorless and DSLR cameras.

Larger batteries due to new circuitry
After rumors of a new design, new models, and new displays, this rumor is decidedly ho-hum: The 2020 iPhones are tipped to have bigger batteries due to new battery protection circuits. According to the Korean publication The Elec, the iPhone 12 will use customized Protection Module Packages circuits instead of the Protection Circuit Modules used in the iPhone 11. That will reportedly free up more space inside the phone, which could be used to make the battery bigger. With the presumed launch of a 5G modem inside all 2020 models, the iPhone will need as much battery life as it can get, as those modems generally use more power than LTE ones.

The Elec reports that supplier ITM Semiconductor is building two new plants to handle the capacity, which is expected to reach 110 million per month. Officials say work on the plants should be completed by the end of the year. ITM also supplies battery protection circuits for the AirPods Pro.

5 new iPhone models in 2020
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo issued a research note where he predicts that Apple will release five new iPhones in 2020: 5.4- and 6.1-inch models each with a dual-lens camera; 6.1- and 6.7-inch models with triple-lens cameras and “time of flight sensors”; and a 4.7-inch model. (Kuo also has thoughts on the 2021 iPhones.)

How to use your iPhone as a webcam for video conferencing and virtual meetings

Just because you’re working from home now doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to meetings. And just because you don’t have a spare webcam around doesn’t mean you need to peel back the tape that’s covering your laptop’s camera—as long as you have an iPhone or an iPad, you can easily turn it into a makeshift webcam.

There are a few different apps you can use, but we recommend Kinoni’s EpocCam Webcam. Not only is it easy to set up, but the free version with ads and occasional watermarking works with both Mac and PC (iVCam is a good option if you’re using Windows, and NDI just made its $20 HX Camera app free for 60 days). Any iOS device that’s running iOS 10.3 or later will work, so even if you have an old iPhone 5 or iPad mini 2 in a drawer, it’ll work.

zoom iphone webcam
IDGEpocCam will appear as an option in Zoom's video settings.
To get started, first download the EpocCam app on your iPhone or iPad. Then head over to your Mac or PC and visit to download the driver for macOS (10.12 and later) or Windows (Windows 7 and later). Follow the steps to install and then restart your machine just to be sure it’s recognized.

[ Further reading: The best streaming TV services ]
Once you’re up and running, go back to your iPhone and launch the EpocCam app. Don’t be worried if all you see is a black screen with an image of a laptop and a phone pulsing circles—that means the app is searching for your computer. Once you launch an app on your computer that supports video, the EpocCam app will activate and bean video over Wi-Fi to your computer. For example, if you’re using Skype, go to the Audio & Video settings, and select EpocCam from the drop-down menu above the video screen. You can use this Github site to test the connection; Mac users can also download the EpocCam Viewer for Mac to test it. 

If you’re using the free version of EpocCam, the video will be limited to 640x480 at 30fps, but you can download EpocCam Webcamera for Computer for $8 to raise it to 1080p Full HD video. And if you’re looking to run more than one stream simultaneously (as well as the same HD features as EpocCam Webcamera), EpocCam MultiCam is available for $20. However, you'll need a separate microphone, as EpocCam disables it on the iPhone while the camera is running.

skype iphone webcam error
IDGIf you don't see an image when you select the EpocCam, you probably just need to launch the app on your iPhone.
A few troubleshooting tips: If EpocCam isn’t listed as an option, try installing the driver again. If it still doesn’t work, make sure your iPhone and computer are both connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Also, if you see a black screen with a spinning loading icon in the video window and the iPhone app is open, try quitting the apps on both your iPhone and computer and relaunching. If that doesn’t fix it, try restarting your computer.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details

16-inch MacBook Pro: What you need to know about Apple’s laptop

For the first time in nearly a decade, a brand new MacBook Pro may be on the way. Rumors have been ramping up for months regarding a brand new 16-inch flagship notebook, expanding Apple’s laptop lineup beyond the 13- and 15-inch models its been selling since 2012. Here’s everything we know so far.

It’s here: 16-inch MacBook Pro
Apple revealed the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro in November of 2019. To learn more about the laptop, click on an article below.

News announcement: Apple’s new 16-inch MacBook Pro features a larger display, a new Magic Keyboard, and booming sound
16-inch MacBook Pro 2.4GHz 8-core Core i9 (2019) review: The Mac laptop that gets it right
The new MacBook Pro is nice, but it’s missing a few things I still want
The latest rumor: Touch Bar and Touch ID
According to a report by 9to5Mac, the macOS 10.15.1 update contains an image that shows that the new 16-inch MacBook Pro has a separate Touch ID button that sits next to the Touch Bar. Earlier reports said that the laptop also has a dedicated Escape key.

[ Further reading: Learn more about macOS Catalina ]
DigiTimes (which has a shaky reputation with its reports) said that Apple’s rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro will be available by the end of October. DigiTimes said that Quanta Computer has begun production of the laptop to Apple. Since we’re near the end of October, it looks like we’re looking at a much later ship date.

catalina 16mbp
MacGenerationIs this image from macOS 10.15.1 beta 2 the rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro?
A report from the French website MacGeneration found images of a laptop that looks a little different from Apple’s current offerings. Could this be the rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro?

Obviously, a 16-inch MacBook Pro would represent the biggest Apple laptop since the 17-inch MacBook Pro was retired in June 2012. While we’re holding out a sliver of hope for the first MacBook with an OLED display, Apple will likely stick with LCD for the 16-inch model, reportedly sticking with the same True Tone Retina panel and bumping the resolution slightly to 3072x1920.

With the first new size in eight years, it seems likely that Apple will also usher in a new MacBook design to go with it. Way back in February, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted the new model would have an “all-new design,” so we’re inclined to believe him, especially since his other two rumors at the time—a modular Mac Pro and a 31.5-inch display—were on the money.

But there have been few details about what that might mean. We’d love to see the latest DigiTimes report of bezels as thin as the iPad Pro come true—which would still leave room for Face ID—as well rounded display corners and a trimmer and lighter chassis. And while we’re dreaming, we wouldn’t be opposed to the return of the light-up Apple logo either, but we’re not holding our breath for that.

2018 macbook proDan Masaoka/IDG
Our fingers are crossed for the return of the light-up Apple logo.
The MacBook keyboard has been a source of headaches, hand-wringing, and hatred, and rumor has it that Apple has finally gotten the message. After trying to fix the butterfly keyboard several times over recent MacBook releases, Kuo is predicting that Apple will be abandoning the mechanism it introduced in 2015 in favor of the more traditional scissor mechanism. He reports that the new mechanism will use “a glass fiber for a reinforced structure” and will likely be thicker than the existing keyboard, but we’re willing to bet that no one will notice or care—as long as it’s quieter, more durable, and won’t be nuked by a speck of dust.

macbook pro 2018 keyboardDan Masaoka/IDG
The MacBook Pro keyboard needs to go.
One thing is certain about the new MacBook’s keyboard, however: the Touch Bar will be standard. Apple’s recent 13-inch MacBook Pro update eliminated the only non-Touch Bar Pro, so there’s no turning back now. For better or worse, the Touch Bar is here to stay.

Processor and specs
MacRumors reports that IHS Markit analyst Jeff Lin says that Apple will use ninth-generation Intel Core processors in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Code-named Coffee Lake, the processor has a 2.4GHz base clock speed, Turbo Boost of up to 5.0GHz, and supports up to eight cores.

Apple currently uses a ninth-generation eight-core Core i9 processor in its $2,799 15-inch MacBook Pro, but that processor is clocked at 2.3GHz, and supports Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz.

As for Intel’s upcoming tenth-generation Ice Lake processor, it won’t be in Windows PCs until the end of this year—Apple always follows a few months behind. Macworld’s Jason Cross recently wrote about the tenth-generation Intel Core processor and what to expect for the Mac. 

Apple could opt for a higher base configuration of graphics card, but it’s likely that the Radeon Pro Vega 16 and 20 will remain as BTO options, lest the entry level price enter the stratosphere. The same goes for RAM and storage, which will likely start at 16GB and 512GB, respectively, with options to go much higher.

Apple has decided that four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports are the standard for a pro machine, and that’s unlikely to change. Don’t expect the return of an SD card slot or a USB-A port. Let’s just hope Apple doesn’t decide to dump the headphone jack.

macbook pro ports
Leif Johnson
USB-C is here to stay.
Price and availability
Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops don’t come cheap. The 13-inch version starts at $1,199, while the 15-inch doesn’t come cheaper than $2,249. We’ve heard rumors that the 16-inch model will start as high as $2,999, according to the Economic Daily News, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s the case.

Consider this: the most expensive non-BTO 13-inch MacBook Pro is $1,899, leaving $350 between it and the 15-inch MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro tops out at $2,599 before any options. Apple the same scale and you’re at $2,949. So if you want one, you should probably start saving now. The new laptop is expected to launch sometime in the fourth quarter, likely mid- to late October.

13-inch MacBook Pro review: Updates make the new entry-level models worthy of the Pro name

Apple’s recent revamp of its MacBook lineup makes it a lot easier to understand the target audiences for Apple’s laptops. And with the release of the new 13-inch 1.4GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro, Apple also made it easier to pick a 13-inch model.

It’s easier now because you don’t have to decide if you’re willing to sacrifice any features when picking an entry-level model over the higher-end ones. Before the newly-updated base model was released, there was a division within the four 13-inch models. Apple offered two entry-level models without the Touch Bar, and two high-end models with it. (The entry-level models were missing some other features, as well, but the main missing feature was the Touch Bar). So when it came down to picking a 13-inch MacBook Pro, you had to consider whether you were willing to give up some features for the lower price.

The Touch Bar-less models are no more—they now have the Touch Bar and those other missing features at the same prices as before. Now, it basically comes down to processor speed, storage capacity, and price.

Apple last updated the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro in 2017. If you have an older MacBook and have been holding out on an upgrade because you’ve been waiting to see what Apple does with these models, you won’t be disappointed—unless you really don’t care for the Touch Bar. The new 13-inch 1.4GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro offers an attractive performance boost over its predecessor, especially with software that takes advantage of multiple processor cores. Combine the performance and the new features, and you have a laptop that now feels like a true member of the MacBook Pro family.

Introducing the Touch Bar

Apple introduced the world to the Touch Bar in the 2016 MacBook Pro, but left it off the two most affordable 13-inch models. In case you’re not familiar with the Touch Bar, it’s a strip of touchscreen that replaces the top row of Function keys you find on a typical keyboard.

Introducing the Touch Bar

Apple introduced the world to the Touch Bar in the 2016 MacBook Pro, but left it off the two most affordable 13-inch models. In case you’re not familiar with the Touch Bar, it’s a strip of touchscreen that replaces the top row of Function keys you find on a typical keyboard.

One of differences between Apple’s two laptop lines: the MacBook Pro (left) has the Touch Bar, while the MacBook Air (right) has Function keys.
I don’t find the Touch Bar to be the UI innovation it’s touted to be. But perhaps the opposite is true for you; maybe you love it, or if you haven’t used the Touch Bar before, will discover that your love it.

Touch ID and T2
Besides the Touch Bar, the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro now has Touch ID, a fingerprint sensor located on the right end of the Touch Bar. It was already available on the other MacBook Pro models, even the MacBook Air.

If you’ve used Touch ID on the iPhone or iPad, then you’ll be right at home with Touch ID on the Mac. You can use it whenever you need to enter a password, like when you’re logging back into your Mac after putting it to sleep, when you’re shopping online, or when you Mac asks you to authorize a change. (When you first log into your Mac after turning it on, you’re required to type in your password. After that, you can use Touch ID for the rest of that use cycle, until you shut down your Mac.)

When Touch ID first became available on the Mac, I didn’t think much of it. I use a password manager and quickly access it though a menu bar icon. Most of the time, this is a fast, easy way to access and enter passwords when needed. But the more I used Touch ID on the Mac, the more I have come to appreciate it. For example, when logging into a website, clicking on the username box triggers a pop-up that shows the recorded user names that are logged into Keychain. If there’s a fingerprint icon, you can use Touch ID. Press the Touch ID button, and you’re in. It’s a more efficient way than using my password manager—it’s only saving a few seconds, sure, but it’s very satisfying.

Touch ID makes it much easier to log into places where a password is required.
Touch ID is managed by the T2 coprocessor, which provides a secure enclave for your fingerprint data, and also handles several other security features. The T2 handles disk encryption, and support’s Apple’s Secure Boot feature, which checks to make sure you are running a legitimate, trusted Mac or Microsoft Windows operating system. The T2 also handles the image processing of the MacBook Pro’s built-in FaceTime HD camera, which is still at a disappointing 720p resolution.

Keyboard and Thunderbolt 3
The new MacBook Pro sports the third-generation butterfly-switch keyboard that’s found in the other MacBook Pros and the MacBook Air. This version of the keyboard has a silicone membrane to help keep dust out and to help dampen the sound the keys make as you type.

The third-generation version is an improvement, as least when it comes to noise suppression. It’s not as loud as the previous keyboard—but it’s still very loud, which tells you the previous keyboard was really loud. I never had mechanical problems with the previous keyboard, so I can’t definitively say that the third-generation is better in this regard. But there have been numerous reports of keyboard problems, and while Apple has said that a vast majority of its customers enjoy the butterfly keyboard, the company does have a Keyboard Service Program that will replace the keyboard for free if a laptop is eligible. (Yes, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is included in the eligibility list.)

My main problem with the keyboard (besides the noise) is that it’s uncomfortable to type on. There’s not enough key travel for my liking and it feels like I’m banging my fingers on a hard table. Sometimes my knuckles are a little sore after extended use. There’s something about the key spacing that doesn’t work for me, either. I make more typos using this keyboard than I do with other keyboards. 

Rumors have been floating around that Apple may be developing a new scissor-switch keyboard for MacBooks in the near future. So if you want to take a wait-and-see approach towards a new laptop with a keyboard change, you’ll have to wait a while.