New MacBook Pro could replace Touch Bar with full-size function keys

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited October 18
Apple could replace the Touch Bar in the inbound MacBook Pro refresh with a row of full-size function keys, a rumor based on schematics leaked in April claims.




Multiple rumors have floated throughout 2021 that Apple intends to remove the Touch Bar from the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. While rumors ahead of Monday's event have covered the elimination of the keyboard element, there has been little chatter about what will replace it.

On Monday, an examination of schematics stolen from Apple supplier Quanta Computer in April offers a hint that it could be quite a simple change. It is thought that Apple could be reintroducing a row of full-size function keys to the MacBook Pro keyboard once again.

The schematics, acquired by the ransomware gang REvil and reexamined by MacRumors, illustrate the keyboard as having a full-size row of keys at the top of the keyboard, one that occupied space where the Touch Bar resided.

The change to a full-size key set could be considered an improvement on the function keys Apple used in pre-Touch Bar MacBook Pro models, which instead used half-height keys for the task.

Though removing the Touch Bar may also take away a component used for Touch ID, it's possible that Apple could use the same key design it used in the 24-inch iMac keyboard to include a fingerprint reader.

A concept render based on the schematic, showing full-size function keys. [Image Source: Front Page Tech]
A concept render based on the schematic, showing full-size function keys. [Image Source: Front Page Tech]


Oddly, this is not the first time someone has hinted at the Touch Bar's removal. Renders commissioned by leaker Jon Prosser in May reused the 24-inch iMac keyboard as a stand-in for a concept MacBook Air, a suggestion that wasn't considered as a major change to the notebook.

A closer look at the leaked schematics was prompted by late rumors about the MacBook Pro lineup, including one claiming a notch will be used in the display, though not necessarily one that will include Face ID support. The schematics also pointed to possible additional ports, such as HDMI and an SD card reader, though recent reports indicate Apple pulled away from their inclusion.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    crowleycrowley Posts: 9,124member
    The TouchBar was always going to be a dead end interface when it had no desktop accessory support.  Why would developers waste time with a notebook-only experiment that wasn't even available on all notebooks and was so limited in the functionality it could offer anyway by the slim bar form.

    If I had the ear of anyone I'd suggest integrating the same ideas into the trackpad, for a larger functional area, activated by the Fn modifier key; which could then be implemented into the Magic Trackpad so that all users could take advantage.  Then you'd have yourself a built-in Elgato Streamdeck just one key away.   But I imagine the idea is dead for now.
    longpathelijahgmattinozMplsPravnorodom
  • Reply 2 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    Hopefully. I think it's a good idea.

    Also, I hated the notch yesterday, but within 24-hours the idea has strangely grown on me. Here's the current display and its bezels:



    A popular mockup doing the rounds:



    And the actual schematics shows a narrower notch:



    The beauty of the notch design here is not just that it allows for narrower bezels, it allows for even bezels, with rounded corners that fill the display in a more satisfying way. I was early on the wanting rounded corners for Mac portable displays, but I hadn't seen one mockup out there previously which successfully pulled off the design. This has now changed since the idea of this notch allows for just that: a successful rounded-corner design with narrow even bezels. It also opens up the future for the FaceTime camera and narrow bezels, when the tech shrinks a bit.

    On a personal note: if there was an option to buy a MBP without a camera, I'd choose that model. I cover and never ever ever use my camera. Ah, well, can't win 'em all.
    edited October 18 longpath
  • Reply 3 of 15
    If the notch allows a significant reduction in bezel, then I’m fine with it; but I have mixed feelings regarding the Touch Bar. On the one hand, I despise having to use multiple touches to adjust sound or brightness, on the other, I do like the odd application specific functions that have been implemented. I’m hoping the functionality is somehow retained while bringing back proper function keys.
  • Reply 4 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    longpath said:
    If the notch allows a significant reduction in bezel, then I’m fine with it; but I have mixed feelings regarding the Touch Bar. On the one hand, I despise having to use multiple touches to adjust sound or brightness, on the other, I do like the odd application specific functions that have been implemented. I’m hoping the functionality is somehow retained while bringing back proper function keys.
    An obvious evolution to the traditional function row might be Stream Deck adaptable keys. Would be awesome. Then again, would the keys feel worse under the finger resulting in a cheapened user experience somehow? Would the little moving key displays fail over time? Design is about tradeoffs. If they could bring the display right to the surface and solve reliability and feel woes then it may have some prospect, even with a moderate device cost increase? Though for now I'd be happy to get the old full size function keys back.
    edited October 18
  • Reply 5 of 15
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    ireland said:
    Hopefully. I think it's a good idea.

    Also, I hated the notch yesterday, but within 24-hours the idea has strangely grown on me. Here's the current display and its bezels:



    A popular mockup doing the rounds:



    And the actual schematics shows a narrower notch:



    The beauty of the notch design here is not just that it allows for narrower bezels, it allows for even bezels, with rounded corners that fill the display in a more satisfying way. I was early on the wanting rounded corners for Mac portable displays, but I hadn't seen one mockup out there previously which successfully pulled off the design. This has now changed since the idea of this notch allows for just that: a successful rounded-corner design with narrow even bezels. It also opens up the future for the FaceTime camera and narrow bezels, when the tech shrinks a bit.

    On a personal note: if there was an option to buy a MBP without a camera, I'd choose that model. I cover and never ever ever use my camera. Ah, well, can't win 'em all.
    Pretty sure everyone is misreading that schematic. That's just the shape of the back case of the display, the inner curves are not the edge of the display, they're the inner bounds of the curve of the top case (the part that curves down slightly at the edges when the MB is shut) where the magnets sit. Also where would the menus in the top left/right go if the display had such a large corner radius? I don't buy it myself. 
  • Reply 6 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    elijahg said:
    ireland said:
    Hopefully. I think it's a good idea.

    Also, I hated the notch yesterday, but within 24-hours the idea has strangely grown on me. Here's the current display and its bezels:



    A popular mockup doing the rounds:



    And the actual schematics shows a narrower notch:



    The beauty of the notch design here is not just that it allows for narrower bezels, it allows for even bezels, with rounded corners that fill the display in a more satisfying way. I was early on the wanting rounded corners for Mac portable displays, but I hadn't seen one mockup out there previously which successfully pulled off the design. This has now changed since the idea of this notch allows for just that: a successful rounded-corner design with narrow even bezels. It also opens up the future for the FaceTime camera and narrow bezels, when the tech shrinks a bit.

    On a personal note: if there was an option to buy a MBP without a camera, I'd choose that model. I cover and never ever ever use my camera. Ah, well, can't win 'em all.
    Pretty sure everyone is misreading that schematic. That's just the shape of the back case of the display, the inner curves are not the edge of the display, they're the inner bounds of the curve of the top case (the part that curves down slightly at the edges when the MB is shut) where the magnets sit. Also where would the menus in the top left/right go if the display had such a large corner radius? I don't buy it myself. 
    Good question regarding the menu. Though to be fair, no one would have bought the iPhone notch design idea either. I certainly said I'd never buy a MBP with a notch design yesterday or the day before, but I remain more open to the idea today. Execution is everything for this idea. 6 hours to go.
    edited October 18 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 7 of 15
    omasouomasou Posts: 264member
    The only "function keys" that I use/d are the volume and brightness. The Touch Bar is actually more useful.
    MacPro
  • Reply 8 of 15
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,687member
    I don’t believe any macbook has ever had full size function keys. Haven’t they always been half height function keys. Even on the 17 inch MacBook Pro. 
  • Reply 9 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    mattinoz said:
    I don’t believe any macbook has ever had full size function keys. Haven’t they always been half height function keys. Even on the 17 inch MacBook Pro. 
    I believe they were full size at one time. Or perhaps I'm confusing that Macs used have no function row and the top number row was full size.
    edited October 18
  • Reply 10 of 15
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,948member
    Apple could achieve a symmetrical bezel and eliminate camera security concerns by using a pop-up periscope camera. Users who are paranoid about a user facing camera covertly spying on them could configure the camera to stay docked in its hanger. Whether Apple could pull off the mechanics of such a design is a big question.

    Personally, I have zero concerns about the thickness of the top shell of the MacBook Pro. For me, the overall weight is what matters most. Thin top shells tend to be a recipe for screen breakage. Adding a couple of millimeters to the top shell to accommodate a pop up camera and better protect the screen from physical damage would be a very good thing.  
    edited October 18
  • Reply 11 of 15
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    dewme said:
    Apple could achieve a symmetrical bezel and eliminate camera security concerns by using a pop-up periscope camera. Users who are paranoid about a user facing camera covertly spying on them could configure the camera to stay docked in its hanger. Whether Apple could pull off the mechanics of such a design is a big question.
    Given an option between a pop-up camera design and no camera I'd choose no camera.
    edited October 18
  • Reply 12 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,441member
    crowley said:
    The TouchBar was always going to be a dead end interface when it had no desktop accessory support.  Why would developers waste time with a notebook-only experiment that wasn't even available on all notebooks and was so limited in the functionality it could offer anyway by the slim bar form.

    If I had the ear of anyone I'd suggest integrating the same ideas into the trackpad, for a larger functional area, activated by the Fn modifier key; which could then be implemented into the Magic Trackpad so that all users could take advantage.  Then you'd have yourself a built-in Elgato Streamdeck just one key away.   But I imagine the idea is dead for now.
    Agreed. In 4 years I've found the touch bar to be of marginal use at best, and right on cue I had to reboot my MBP yesterday because the touchbar quit working and I had no escape key. That hassle right there outweighed the minimal use I've gotten out of it in the last 4 years.
    muthuk_vanalingamelijahg
  • Reply 13 of 15
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    ireland said:
    elijahg said:
    ireland said:
    Hopefully. I think it's a good idea.

    Also, I hated the notch yesterday, but within 24-hours the idea has strangely grown on me. Here's the current display and its bezels:



    A popular mockup doing the rounds:



    And the actual schematics shows a narrower notch:



    The beauty of the notch design here is not just that it allows for narrower bezels, it allows for even bezels, with rounded corners that fill the display in a more satisfying way. I was early on the wanting rounded corners for Mac portable displays, but I hadn't seen one mockup out there previously which successfully pulled off the design. This has now changed since the idea of this notch allows for just that: a successful rounded-corner design with narrow even bezels. It also opens up the future for the FaceTime camera and narrow bezels, when the tech shrinks a bit.

    On a personal note: if there was an option to buy a MBP without a camera, I'd choose that model. I cover and never ever ever use my camera. Ah, well, can't win 'em all.
    Pretty sure everyone is misreading that schematic. That's just the shape of the back case of the display, the inner curves are not the edge of the display, they're the inner bounds of the curve of the top case (the part that curves down slightly at the edges when the MB is shut) where the magnets sit. Also where would the menus in the top left/right go if the display had such a large corner radius? I don't buy it myself. 
    Good question regarding the menu. Though to be fair, no one would have bought the iPhone notch design idea either. I certainly said I'd never buy a MBP with a notch design yesterday or the day before, but I remain more open to the idea today. Execution is everything for this idea. 6 hours to go.
    That is true, and the iPhone X has corners with large radii. I don't think the notch would be an issue either, it's more the rounded corners for me. Also the notch wouldn't need to be more than an index-finger size, since there is one camera and nothing else.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    ireland said:
    mattinoz said:
    I don’t believe any macbook has ever had full size function keys. Haven’t they always been half height function keys. Even on the 17 inch MacBook Pro. 
    I believe they were full size at one time. Or perhaps I'm confusing that Macs used have no function row and the top number row was full size.
    I think the last time they were full size was on the Titanium PowerBook G4, the aluminium ones after that went with the narrow keys. The full-size desktop keyboards have full-sized function keys, though the ones without the numpad don't.
  • Reply 15 of 15
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,506member
    Well seems I was wrong on the corners/notch! It's... pretty notchy.
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