Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Rumor of Cellular MacBook

Arnold Kim (2011):

One of the most requested features for Apple’s MacBook Pro line has been for the integration of some sort of built-in 3G cellular data to allow for anywhere wireless connectivity. MacBook Pro users presently need to purchase a separate Mi-Fi or 3G USB Modem in order to keep their machines connected to the internet when not near a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Apple has developed prototypes of the MacBook Pro with integrated 3G data, as evidenced by this eBay sale showing a never-released MacBook Pro prototype.

This particular machine dates back to 2007 and is a 15" MacBook Pro Santa Rosa laptop with a 3G antenna, 3G hardware and SIM card slot built in.

Tim Hardwick (Hacker News):

Apple eventually plans to build its own custom modem into cellular MacBook models that could arrive in 2028 at the earliest, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.

Apple has reportedly been working on its own modem since 2018, as it seeks to move away from Qualcomm’s component currently used in iPhones. The timeframe for launching the modem has slipped several times and is now expected to be ready around 2026, and Gurman now hears that Apple has plans for the chip appearing in other Apple devices further down the line.

Even without their own modems, I’ve never quite understood why Apple didn’t make this available as an expensive option. Personal Hotspot is not a great substitute. If it makes sense for (and fits in) an iPad, it makes sense for a Mac.


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2028 sounds like enough time for Apple to equip macOS with all the necessary features so that users will be able to manage how much data is used by the system and applications depending on the network. I might want to allow the download of updates while on Wi-Fi and have that disabled while on cellular, as an example.

I haven’t thought this through but a dialog warning me that some application has been pulling lots of data and won’t be allowed to continue until I confirm that that’s OK sounds nice.

Maybe 2028 because first they want to fix all the bugs in macOS :D

@Adrian Nier It does it already to some extent when using personal hotspot. In a very annoying way actually as there’s no way to force uploading files to Photo Library (and iCloud Drive I think). Extremely annoying that there’s no manual override.

>I haven’t thought this through but a dialog warning me that some application has been pulling lots of data and won’t be allowed to continue until I confirm that that’s OK sounds nice.

Sort of a simplified version of, yeah.

I think macOS _does_ have a notion of metered connections now, but this is a chicken-and-egg problem: unless Apple is willing to preannounce that cellular Macs are coming, there will be a period of time where developers won't adapt their apps, because such Macs don't exist. I don't think Apple cares about that, though. They didn't delay shipping Retina Macs until enough apps had better high-rest graphics.

I suspect it's "we'll offer the feature once we have our own modem" (lower licensing costs, and presumably better battery life / integration), but then that modem keeps getting delayed, so the feature keeps not appearing.

I think that Apple just hesitates to allow people to have, essentially, an iPhone in their MacBooks. They'd rather people have both an iPhone AND a MacBook computer.

I don't think anyone would give up their phone for a laptop.

Their iPad on the other hand. Absolutely.

@winmaciek This precisely. Two months away from home with iPhone and Mac with a combination of local and roamed (E)SIMs makes you painfully aware of just how utterly shitty the hotspot experience really is for anything but the shortest jaunt. Roaming utterly cripples it with no bypass, including blocking all background refreshes and backups, and non-roamed works mostly except for all these little things that don't work without an actual authentic Wi-Fi connection, like photo and drive syncing even with Low Data Mode turned *off* or iMessages in iCloud. I had to run a socks5 proxy on my iPhone under ish and tun2socks on my Mac with an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network between the two just to get around all that shit. Horrible. If Apple are doing this then they'd better have a less pathological take on the user's intelligence. Or perhaps we can just hope that the Apple-carrier relationship will permit more to users who pay twice. Mind you though it is a fairly cosy, joined-at-the-hip sort of relationship, so I dunno; carriers may have been browbeaten into selling Apple's stuff, but they sure as hell extracted concessions. Remember, "tethering" is Apple's name for "separately billable hotspot use", and "carrier settings" are Apple's way of forcing carriers into selling their phones so 5G or FaceTime over cell works.

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