The rumoured 12-inch MacBook makes no sense

Apple discontinued its 12-inch MacBook back in 2019, leaving the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air as the smallest devices in its laptop range. There's been speculation about whether it could make a return ever since, especially after Apple began making laptops with its own silicon in 2020. And the rumours aren't going away.

The latest suggestion is that Apple's moving forward with early production models of a revamped version of the smaller laptop. But I'm really not convinced that the move would make sense. For Apple's current lineup, see our pick of the best MacBooks. We also have a guide to the best mouse for MacBooks.

12-inch MacBook (2017)

Blast from the past? The 2017 version of the 12-inch MacBook (Image credit: Apple)

According to Korean blogger yeux1122, a source at one of Apple's component suppliers in Taiwan has said that Apple is considering a new 12-inch MacBook. The suggestion is that although no definite decision has been taken, production activities are underway. It's said that Apple will decide whether the device will progress to mass production in the second half of the year.

According to MacRumors, the blogger in question has a mixed track record on the accuracy of their Apple tips, but it's not the first time we've heard that a 12-inch MacBook may return. Bloomberg's regular Apple rumour reporter Mark Gurman suggested more than six months ago that Apple had plans for a 15-inch MacBook Air and a 12-inch MacBook for release in late 2023 or early 2024.

However, Gurman has since said that plans for the 12-inch laptop have been put on hold if not dropped completely. Other analysts, including Ming-Chi Kuo said they had heard nothing about the device.

So should we believe the latest rumour? Launched in 2015, the original 12in MacBook was Apple's first fanless design, and it was super slim and light, weighing less than 1kg (a good 300g less than the latest MacBook Air). But the device was discontinued in 2019 after a single update in 2017.

The 2015 12-inch MacBook in gold

(Image credit: Maurizio Pesce via Wikipedia)

Bringing it back now would make sense at least in terms of naming conventions. We currently have a MacBook Air and three sizes of MacBook Pro, but no vanilla MacBook. That differs from the iPad, in which we have a standard model as well as the more expensive Air and Pros.

But that's about all that would make sense. It's hard to see who a non-Air/Pro MacBook would appeal to and how it would differ enough from the other devices, other than by being smaller. People go to MacBooks for outstanding performance and specs, and I'm not sure if the interest is still there for a non-premium Apple laptop. And then there's the fact that Apple itself seems intent on encouraging people to opt for more expensive devices, which makes me doubt its interest in producing a cheaper, smaller laptop.

Differentiating between the two cheapest MacBooks – last year's M2-chipped MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Air – is already difficult enough, with their specs and price so close to each other. Then there's the size. Twelve inches is small for a laptop, and while that can be handy for travel, judging by comments from Apple fans in recent years, people are more keen on the idea of an iPad Pro with a laptop operating system then they are a smaller laptop. 

That said, I'd have said there was no demand for a slightly larger, more expensive standard iPad, but the 10th-gen iPad seems to be doing OK. Like with all Apple rumours, we'll have to take this with a pinch of salt for now and see what Apple finally launches. 

Also this week, we've heard more convincing rumours of an iPad docking accessory to turn the device into a home display and of an iPhone subscription plan, which sounds great (for Apple). If you can't hang around to see whether the 12in MacBook emerges, see the best prices in the current range below.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.