Is a 12-inch MacBook on the horizon – and if so, uh, why?

MacBook Pro on colorful orange background
(Image credit: Future)

Rumors have been floating around in recent weeks that Apple might be reintroducing a 12-inch MacBook into its product lineup, but where there's hope for some who may revel in this news, not everyone is convinced about its accuracy.

As reported by iMore, the initial murmurs started to appear just after the M2 chip was announced at WWDC 2022 by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Gurman predicted that the smaller form-factor MacBook would launch either at the end of 2023 or early 2024, though no information was provided about the nature of the laptop itself. 

As such, we have no idea if this speculated release would be a MacBook Air, a more powerful MacBook Pro, or something new entirely.

In fact, another prominent analyst has come forward to dash any expectations regarding the prediction. Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants claimed in a tweet made available only to his super followers that "We are skeptical on a 12-inch MacBook at this point. Apple's strategy for notebooks is currently 13-inches and larger. Companies in the MacBook Pro display supply chain we talked to are not aware of it".

This goes without saying, but while both of these analysts are respected in their fields and have provided accurate information in the past, take all of this with a pinch of salt. The prediction game can be wildly inaccurate and Apple loves to keep a tight lid on its product launches so either party has the potential to be incorrect in this instance.

Despite the lack of real evidence, this wouldn't be an unusual move from the tech giant as it has previously released several 12-inch laptops over the years, as both high-end and entry-level devices, though we have to question its place among the current lineup of Apple hardware.

Analysis: Is the 12-inch MacBook even relevant these days?

Apple MacBook Air (M1,2020) Rear Lid

(Image credit: Future)

The 12-inch MacBook was fantastic when it was released back in 2015. Petite laptops were nowhere near as commonplace back then, which made its offering of a small, lightweight and stylish laptop more unusual and exciting.

Apple would even have an easier time making the design work these days now that it has its own Silicon, allowing devices such as the MacBook Air 2020 to run a fanless design thanks to the first M1 chip, so it's not inconceivable to put that in a 12-inch MacBook too. 

Thing is, if a new 12-inch MacBook is targeting everyday users, why not simply buy the 2022 M2 MacBook Air? It's not much bigger at 13.6-inches and has every bit of the slimline charm of its smaller predecessor. It also feels unlikely that a 12-inch MacBook Pro would see much use as a display that small would be restrictive to the folks who typically need a Pro device - graphic designers, audio engineers, and so on.

Heck, even the iPad is equipped with Apple Silicon these days. It's a bit more restrictive running iPadOS rather than macOS, but if you really value form factor over capability then this is an ideal solution when paired with the Magic Keyboard.

Apple isn't a stranger to making hardware with niche appeal though. The current version of the Mac Pro desktop computer was so wildly expensive at launch that it was never going to permeate the mainstream market for everyday consumers, and the Studio Display appears to have been created solely with creatives in mind.

I won't speculate, but I will express a hopeful outcome - It's time for a 2-in-1 MacBook. I'm a fan of what the iPad and iPad Pro offer to artists and content creators, especially when paired with the Apple Pencil, so a macOS-powered hybrid device would genuinely have the potential to replace several of my devices, provided it can connect to more than a single display.

A girl can dream, but I refuse to speculate. We will simply have to keep watching for further evidence to support the existence (or lack thereof) of a new 12-inch MacBook in the coming months.

Jess Weatherbed

Jess is a former TechRadar Computing writer, where she covered all aspects of Mac and PC hardware, including PC gaming and peripherals. She has been interviewed as an industry expert for the BBC, and while her educational background was in prosthetics and model-making, her true love is in tech and she has built numerous desktop computers over the last 10 years for gaming and content creation. Jess is now a journalist at The Verge.