It’s time to say goodbye to Touch Bar

Microsoft fired at Apple again.

Recently, Microsoft released a new ad that compares Surface Pro 7 with MacBook Pro. The biggest complaint about MacBook Pro in the ad is about the "Touch Bar". Microsoft hopes to use this to compare the power of Surface Pro 7's touch function.

Why can't you give me the entire touch screen?

However, this complaint may soon become obsolete. According to a report by Bloomberg and well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple will make major adjustments to the next-generation MacBook Pro, including removing the Touch Bar and replacing the function buttons.

Touch Bar is part of the keyboard, but used as a screen

The MacBook Pro launched by Apple in 2016 has inspired many loyal Mac users. After all, the weight and thickness are smaller, and the new mold design looks good.

Of course, in addition to the confusing Touch Bar, Apple replaced the function buttons on the original computer with a long strip of OLED screen. In addition to fixed function buttons, it can also customize related buttons.

▲ Touch Bar is composed of three parts, ESC button, application area and system control shortcut button.

Once the new design was released, some interesting operations also appeared, such as sending emoji expressions, browsing pictures in a manner similar to cover flow, etc. At the same time, there were many doubts about it, and many users thought it was a tasteless one.

Looking back at Apple's history, it did a lot to cut the keyboard and replace it with a screen.

As early as 2007, Steve Jobs compared Nokia, Moto Q, BlackBerry and other mobile phones at the initial iPhone conference, ridiculing their full keyboard design. In Jobs's opinion, there is no need for so many buttons.

Whether you use it or not, these keyboards are there. They cannot adjust themselves according to the application, and it is impossible to realize your good ideas later.

To solve this problem, Apple removed the keyboard and replaced it with a screen, which is the original iPhone.

So why after a period of development, the iPhone’s large screen is recognized by people, while the Touch Bar is still widely controversial?

The answer has to be found from the Touch Bar itself. The first thing you need to admit is that it is a screen and part of the keyboard, not part of the screen.

By comparison, you will know that before and after removing the keyboard, the mobile phone requires the addition of eyes to complete the interactive feedback. There will be no conflict in interaction or efficiency. The conversion is very natural. You only need to replace the original physical keyboard with a virtual keyboard. Display other valuable content when the keyboard is needed.

But the Touch Bar is different. It is an extension of the keyboard on the MacBook Pro, and its interaction method itself conflicts with the keyboard.

Put it in the operation process of the entire computer and you will find that it is often interrupted because you have to look at the Touch Bar screen often, such as selecting emoji expressions, adjusting volume, etc.

Although the keyboard is fixed, it is also familiar to people, so you can operate without looking at it, not to mention that it has obvious ups and downs.

In addition, there is a problem of accidental touch, because the feedback of the screen needs to be observed by the human eye, and the keyboard is often informed by touch. It is easy to accidentally touch the Siri button when pressing the fingerprint recognition button without looking at the screen, and the more frequently used Siri button The frequency of accidental touches of the ESC button is even higher.

▲ Physical ESC button. Picture from: 9To5Mac

Later, Apple re-used the physical ESC button in the 16-inch MacBook Pro released in 2019, and added a certain distance between the fingerprint recognition button and the ESC button and the touch bar on the screen to reduce false touches.

After all, the computer is still a productivity device for most people. People definitely don’t want to be interrupted frequently in the work process. This causes the Touch Bar not only to interact with the keyboard, but also to increase the cost of learning. .

Originally, this is not an unsolvable problem. Both computers and mobile phones have a certain learning cost, but as long as they can create a certain value, people are still willing to spend time to learn.

▲ Sending emoji is one of the most common operations on the Touch Bar

Another problem with the Touch Bar is this. There are not many corresponding adaptation applications, or the experience enhancement provided by many adaptation designs is not obvious enough and the value is not high enough to allow people to migrate.

Food is tasteless, but it is a pity to discard

When Apple just launched the Touch Bar design, both users and application developers had a lot of interest in it. Apple also adapted multiple system applications. For example, Safari will display web page thumbnails, and users can quickly switch through it. .

The productivity application Final Cut Pro is also adapted. The Touch Bar can display cuts, select clips, import materials, etc. The most concerned thing should be the operation of sliding the time bar.

▲Final Cut Pro adapts to the operation options of the Touch Bar, including multiple options such as editing and selection

It can be said that Apple hopes to use this slender screen to change the way people interact with computers, from buttons to sliding and touching. In fact, not only Apple wants to change the way the keyboard interacts with the computer, Logitech once introduced a Craft keyboard with a knob.

Even Logitech also specifically cooperates with Adobe, users can use the knob to adjust the brush or select the size when using Photoshop.

Adobe has also adapted similar functions to Apple's Touch Bar, and even more. Common layer properties, brushes and painting properties can be set, and the size of the brush can be adjusted by sliding.

However, these adjustments obviously failed to gain popularity. As far as the productivity application itself is concerned, it is indeed relatively small and the scope of influence is limited.

I once asked friends who use MacBook Pro 16-inch editing. The Touch Bar is just an icing on the cake for them. The most used function is to slide the editing time bar or preview videos for friends and colleagues.

It does have a certain value, but compared with the entire operation process, it only accounts for a small part.

Regardless of whether it is Touch Bar or Logitech’s keyboard, although the experience has been improved to a certain extent, it is still not very good compared with the traditional keyboard and mouse interaction method. After all, many operations can be replaced by shortcut keys, with more shortcut keys. Muscle memory is also faster than sliding the screen afterwards.

Specialized and efficient methods have failed to affect the public, so what about large-scale methods. Unfortunately, it has not been popularized. Although a large number of applications such as Microsoft Office and NetEase Cloud Music are adapted to the Touch Bar, most of them are button operations.

Like the "Rearrange Objects" function on PowerPoint for Mac, you can click to display all the layers on the PPT, and then quickly select the one that needs to be edited. NetEase Cloud Music also plays and displays lyrics.

In the final analysis, the Touch Bar is only a very small screen, which can display very limited content, which is why it mostly displays buttons.

Although the MacBook Pro has gained more flexibility by replacing the function keys on the screen, the screen is too small, and the content cannot be changed much after flexible adjustment. Like the Asus Lingyao X2 Pro, the screen is large enough and the content displayed is enough More, it can be used as a secondary screen.

▲ ASUS Honor X2 Pro with dual-screen design

To paraphrase a MacBook Pro 2020 user close to me, it is:

I love and hate the Touch bar. The operation of reading lyrics is really good, but the screen is still too small.

There are few useful and interesting applications, and the efficiency improvement is not obvious. It can be described as "chicken ribs, tasteless to eat, but a pity to discard them."

Time to say goodbye to Touch Bar

After nearly 5 years of development, the actual performance of the Touch Bar is still not satisfactory. The reason why the design has not been changed for so long is probably related to Apple's own product update strategy. After all, the last major update of the MacBook Pro series It is already 2016.

At that time, the updated theme of the MacBook Pro was obviously thin and light. The entire system was changed to a USB-C interface, butterfly keyboard, Touch Bar, etc., making the body a lot smaller in weight and thickness than the 2015 model.

▲ Comparison of MacBook Pro data before and after the update

Soon after the product was released, some analysts said that the short-stroke, compact butterfly keyboard will gradually change the keyboard habits of MacBook users. Together with the Touch Bar, Apple will eventually "replace the physical keyboard with a touch panel with press feedback." The goal.

As a result, everyone has seen that the butterfly keyboard has frequently overturned. Apple has made many design adjustments to it, and finally switched to the scissor keyboard, and now it is the Touch Bar's turn.

According to iFixit's comparative disassembly diagram, it can be found that the mold design of MacBook Pro and MacBook Air has hardly changed. The original fan position of MacBook Air has even been replaced with a metal expansion board, and the internal space is not fully utilized.

Coupled with the excellent performance of the M1 chip in terms of energy consumption, it is normal operation for the next generation of MacBook products to change the mold.

According to a report released by Bloomberg, the MacBook series will usher in major changes. The screen borders will be further reduced, while the MacBook Air series will be adjusted in a lighter and thinner direction. This is actually a solution to the problems left by the last MacBook series adjustment.

Starting from MacBook Pro 2016, the thickness and weight between MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are getting closer and closer, and the weight difference is only more than 100 grams. Although the wedge design of MacBook Air will appear lighter and thinner, but the thickness between the two The gap is not obvious.

▲ The difference in weight and thickness between MacBook Pro and MacBook Air currently on sale is not large

The next generation of MacBook Air pursues thinner and lighter. It is precisely to solve the similar problems between the two. The design of MacBook Pro is more focused on productivity, rather than extreme thinness.

The report clearly mentions that the next generation of MacBook Pro will remove the Touch Bar design and reuse the traditional physical function buttons, in addition to MagSafe magnetic charging port, increase memory card interface, 4 USB 4 interface and other changes.

Replacing physical buttons and adding interfaces is obviously beneficial to professional content producers. The executive Phil Schiller, who served as Apple's vice president, mentioned professionalism when he changed back to the scissor keyboard design on the 16-inch MacBook Pro in 2019. User feedback on the new keyboard is very enthusiastic.

The emergence of Touch Bar bears Apple’s ambition to replace physical keyboards with touch screens, but awkward interactions, insufficient functions, and small screens have restricted its performance, and ultimately can only be reduced to a tasteless experience. It has not been able to open the gap with the previous physical function buttons.

In the context of the next-generation MacBook Pro emphasizing productivity, the Touch Bar is no longer necessary.

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