MacBooks could soon fall behind the iPad Pro in this important way

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The dynamic balance between the Mac and the iPad may be about to shift again. Both the MacBook Air and iPad Pro will reportedly get updated this spring, boosting performance with the inclusion of the new M3 chip.

But a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman indicates that a new “landscape Face ID camera” may be in the works for the iPad Pro, potentially taking away one of the main advantages that MacBooks have over iPads. With so much of work happening in video calls, the iPad Pro might become a far better laptop replacement in this new generation.

The dream experience

A person uses an M1 iPad Pro with a keyboard case while sat at a desk.
Apple

There are all sorts of reasons why the iPad Pro might not be a great replacement for a MacBook, but the position of the camera is definitely near the top of the list. If you’ve ever tried to take a video call from an iPad, you know exactly what I mean. While the camera and screen work in landscape mode, the position of the camera over to the left creates a very awkward angle for video calls. It’s always plainly obvious that you’re taking a call from an iPad, your eyes appearing to look just off-screen.

It’s a shame too, because the iPad would otherwise be a great device for taking video calls, whether that’s for work in Teams or Zoom, or personal calls on FaceTime. The camera is high resolution and it provides a crisper image than what you get on a MacBook Air — especially compared to older models with 720p screens.

If the report from Gurman is to be believed, Apple appears to be moving the Face ID camera from its iPhone-like position to more of a laptop-like position — aka, from portrait to landscape. This would make a ton of sense, especially since the iPad Pro is meant to be used in tandem with the Magic Keyboard as a 2-in-1 laptop. Docked in place, it makes very little sense for the camera to be positioned where it currently is.

In other words, all that could make the iPad Pro a much better laptop replacement. The addition of a Face ID camera in a proper location would go a long way toward being able to ditch MacBooks entirely.

To make things worse, the MacBook line faces an even larger challenge with its cameras that doesn’t appear to be getting solved this year.

Face ID on the Mac

Apple's 15-inch MacBook Air placed on a desk.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

The current crop of MacBooks offers decent webcams, but the lack of Face ID, which iPads have offered for years, has become increasingly glaring. This situation leaves one looming question: Will the MacBook get Face ID? The answer to that is murky, but there are some clues littered here and there.

We know that Apple is at least considering bringing Face ID to the Mac because the company has been awarded a bunch of patents detailing exactly that. That’s not a guarantee that it’s coming by any means, but it suggests Apple is taking the idea seriously.

It also just makes sense. Using Touch ID on your Mac is secure, but it interrupts your workflow by requiring you to lift your hand off your keyboard or mouse. Face ID is more secure than Touch ID and less disruptive, as it only asks you to look at its sensors to unlock your computer.

That makes it a very elegant, Apple-like solution to the type of security problem the company loves fixing. As far as new feature ideas go, it feels tailor-made for Apple.

If Gurman is correct and the iPad Pro’s March update features a proper landscape Face ID camera, it will be brilliant news for the iPad — but will make the lack of Face ID on MacBooks even more blatant.

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