Apple’s 2021 MacBook Pro brought a lot of good to the table, but there’s one big missing feature when compared to the previous few generations — a Touch Bar. With the big MacBook Pro redesign in 2016, Apple introduced a few controversial changes. It made the laptop considerably thinner, removed many of its legacy ports in favor of USB-C, and added the iconic Touch Bar above the keyboard. The Touch Bar is a small OLED strip along the entire width of the keyboard that changes based on the application being used. It can show URLs and website shortcuts, virtual function keys, and more.
The idea of the Touch Bar was that it can be more adaptive and interactive than laptops without it — but not everyone loved it. The 2021 MacBook Pro is, in most ways, a considerable upgrade over MacBook Pros that have come before it. It has a more modern design, nicer display, additional ports, and faster performance. Despite it being present on every MacBook Pro since 2016, though, the 2021 MacBook Pro doesn’t have the Touch Bar at all. Instead, it has a row of physical function keys just like any other laptop.
Why The 2021 MacBook Pro Doesn’t Have The Touch Bar
Although Apple didn’t spend too much time reflecting on the change, it did address the Touch Bar’s removal while unveiling the 2021 MacBook Pro. Early on in the presentation, Apple said, “Users value the full-height function row on the standalone Magic Keyboard. And we’ve brought it to the MacBook Pro.” Apple made it clear these keys replace the Touch Bar, saying they bring back “the familiar, tactile feel of mechanical keys that pro users love.” This is undoubtedly a move that makes most users quite happy, but Apple’s approach to the whole thing is pretty interesting.
When Apple first unveiled the Touch Bar in 2016, it hailed it as the next big thing for the Mac. It received ample stage time, was prominently featured in marketing materials, and was one of the biggest draws to the laptop at the time. While the Touch Bar had continued to be used on each MacBook Pro since then, it did seem that Apple was losing interest in it. When the M1 MacBook Pro was announced in 2020, Apple barely mentioned the Touch Bar at all. On top of that, it’s been a regular source of complaints from MacBook Pro users since its introduction. While not quite as game-breaking as the butterfly keyboard, the Touch Bar was regularly mocked for solving a problem that didn’t need fixing.
What The Future Holds For The Touch Bar
As it currently stands, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the only available MacBook that has the Touch Bar. If you buy the 14-inch MacBook Pro, 16-inch MacBook Pro, or the 13-inch MacBook Air, the Touch Bar is not included. That means the Touch Bar is still technically present in Apple’s Mac portfolio, albeit in a very limited fashion. The Touch Bar is undoubtedly endangered, but it may not be fully extinct just yet.
Against all expectations, Apple didn’t fully kill the Touch Bar with the introduction of its M2 13-inch MacBook Pro in 2022, either. In a surprising move, the company unveiled the upgraded 13-inch laptop complete with a Touch Bar at WWDC 2022. Designwise, the 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro is still very similar to those that came before it, which was likely a saving grace for the Touch Bar. There’s no telling how long Apple will hang onto the feature, which has seen little enthusiasm from buyers and reviewers over the years. As the company continues to release larger MacBook Pro variants without the Touch Bar, it would seem its days remain numbered.