Why it matters: I feel critics have mostly misunderstood the Touch Bar. I find it quite convenient and intuitive, and the fact that the controls change dynamically depending on window focus makes it very versatile. That said, my chief complaint is its placement. I've always felt that the graphical screen would have been better-suited under the monitor rather than above the keyboard. It appears that Apple agrees.
Last month, renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that starting with 2021 models, MacBook Pros would lose the highly criticized Touch Bar feature. Apple will reportedly use the extra internal real estate to add more ports. But it appears that Cupertino might not be ditching the Touch Bar altogether.
Patently Apple uncovered more than 70 patents recently awarded to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Among these were two reconfigurations (patent #10,921,854) of the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar that engineers might be considering.The two redesigns place the Touch Bar closer to the screen than the keyboard. The first (Fig. 6) shows it roughly in the same position (maybe slightly higher) as it is on current Touch Bar models. However, it adds a second display in a more visible location right beneath the screen.
The second possibility (Fig. 7) uses a redesigned doglegged lid, with the angled portion near the hinge housing the feature. This configuration places the Touch Bar well out of reach of the keyboard while also making it more visible. however, this odd design also makes it unclear how the MacBook lid will fold flush with the keyboard. Regardless, either of these ideas would alleviate my main Touch Bar complaint. If Cupertino can see fit to add an HDMI and at least one USB-A port, I'd be even more happy.
As always, patents are never guarantees of coming features. Apple may just want to be safeguarding itself against competitors coming up with a better idea for its technology. As a general rule, I tend to give Kuo's predictions of upcoming Apple devices more credence than Apple patents.
Image credit: Noah Densmore