M3 MacBook Air Release Date and Price Analysis

Apple released the M3 family of chips back in October of 2023, but they started with the 14” M3 MacBook Pro and haven’t yet released the M3 MacBook Air. When will they release it? Will there be any significant changes? And how will it be priced? We’ll take a look at both rumors combined with historical data to determine the answers. Let’s analyze!

Release Date

First, when will the M3 MacBook Air be released? The latest rumor on Dec 6, 2023 from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says the M3 Air will release in March of 2024. Back in Oct, 2023, Gurman reported that the M3 Air was in the “engineering verification testing” phase, which put it on track for a launch between Spring and Summer of 2024.

Looking at historical dates, the 13” M2 Air launched in June 2022, while the M1 Air was launched in Nov 2020, making it 20 months between the M1 and M2 Air releases. March of 2024 is 21 months from the 13” M2 Air launch date, so that lines up well, but complicating things is the 15” M2 Air, which was launched in June 2023, making it only 9 months old by March of 2024.

However, it wouldn’t make sense for Apple to update just the 13” Air without updating the 15” Air, as that would depress sales of the 15” significantly, so they should update both at the same time. Apple has shown it isn’t afraid to ditch the M2 chips less than a year after release, as the M2 Pro and Max MacBook Pros were released in Jan 2023, yet replaced just 9 months later by the M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pros in Oct 2023.

So from both rumors and historical analysis, it seems a March 2024 release date for the new M3 MacBook Air is pretty likely.

Spec Upgrades

Next, let’s talk about what upgrades we can expect with the M3 MacBook Air. Since Apple just refreshed the design of the MacBook Air body with the M2 Air, and released the new 15” form factor Air in 2023, it’s fairly safe to say that the M3 shouldn’t see any major external changes.

In other words, it should just be a spec update to the M3 chip. Logically speaking, we can expect that Apple won’t let the MacBook Air have higher starting specs than the MacBook Pro.

From the M3 iMac and MacBook Pro, we know there are 2 configurations of the M3, the low one being the 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU config, and the higher still having an 8-core CPU but with a 10-core GPU. This happens to be the same core counts as the M2 Air, so we can expect the same with the M3 Air, including the $100 upgrade price for the extra 2 GPU cores.

For memory, the MacBook Pro starts with 8GB, so that should also be the case for the M3 Air, unfortunately. Both M2 Air and M3 MacBook Pro support upgrading to 16GB or 24GB of memory, so the same should be expected on the M3 Air. Each 8GB of memory should continue to cost $200.

For storage, the M3 MacBook Pro starts at 512GB, but the Apple Silicon MacBook Airs have historically started with 256GB until now. Storage is one area that Apple is both extremely stingy on and also heavily structures its pricing around. It’s the primary way to get people to pay more for larger capacity iPhones and iPads, and high storage capacities on Macs are charged at a premium to bring up the price to insane levels. Therefore, I expect the M3 Air will also start at 256GB to help differentiate it from the Pro. Once again, storage should be upgradeable all the way up to 2TB, same as on the M2 Air and M3 MacBook Pro. Storage upgrade costs should remain consistent, with the initial upgrade to 512GB being the worst $/TB ripoff in the history of computing.

Finally, we should see a Wi-Fi upgrade. The M2 Air had Wi-Fi 6, but the M3 MacBook Pro and M3 iMac both support Wi-Fi 6E, so the M3 Air should as well. Bluetooth remains at 5.3.

Other specs probably won’t change from the M2 Air.

Starting Price

So how much will the M3 MacBook Air cost? Currently, Apple still sells the M1 Air in order to hit the starting price of $1000, while the M2 Air is $100 more, starting at $1100. The $1000 price point is attractive enough for them to keep, but I see 3 possibilities here.

The first scenario is that Apple keeps the M1 Air around to hit the sub-$1000 price, and instead replaces the M2 Air completely with the M3 Air. This isn’t impossible, as Apple has kept several generations of lower-end iPhone and also iPad models around in order to cover various price points. With the Mac, they wouldn’t want to go lower than $1000, so there’s not much room in between the $1000-$1600 price range for them to have M1, M2, and M3 chips in play, especially as there are 13” and 15” sizes to consider as well.

If they go this route, Apple would keep the M1 Air at the $1000 price point, but because the M3 is 35% to 65% faster than the M1, they could use this as an opportunity to increase the starting price of the M3 Air back up to $1200. That was the price the M2 Air was introduced at, but the 13” M2 Air dropped to $1100 after the 15” M2 Air was introduced in June 2023 at $1300 in order to give a $200 price difference between them.

But with the M3 MacBook Pro starting at $1600, the price range Apple can charge for and needs to fill up with the MacBook Airs is much higher than in the past when the previously oddly placed 13” M2 MacBook Pro’s price point of $1300 was still a consideration. If we keep the $200 price point difference between 13” and 15” models, then that makes a perfectly uniform step up from the M1 Air at $1000, 13” M3 Air at $1200, 15” M3 Air at $1400, before getting into the 14” M3 MacBook Pro at $1600. Beautiful!

There is an argument against this, however, which leads into scenario #2. And that reason is that Apple could potentially ramp down on the old body design of the M1 Air if they no longer sold it. Since the M2 and M3 Airs share the same body, producing just that could save them on costs. Therefore, it is possible that Apple chooses to stop selling the M1 Air and just offer the 13” M2 Air at the $1000 price point.

If they do this, the question becomes whether they will continue to offer the 15” M2 Air at $200 more, which would only be $1200 at that point. I’m guessing no; if Apple chooses to get rid of the M1 Air, they would only sell the 13” M2 Air at the $1000 price point, but to get the 15” Air, you would need to get the latest M3 chip. That’s because the $1200 price point would be too low, and and many wanting a 15” computer would just pay less for the M2 version. It would also step on the $1200 price point of the 13” M3 Air, confusing the advertised prices.

Ultimately, I don’t think Apple would do this, although Apple does still sell the iPhone 14 series with the 14 Plus at the same price point as the iPhone 15, so it is possible.

Finally, scenario #3 is that Apple doesn’t change the price, but strictly drops in the M3 Air to replace the M2 Air at the existing price points of $1100 and $1300. This could be considered to be the most consumer-friendly strategy, and if they combined it with keeping the M1 Air at $1000 instead of putting the M2 Air there, that would drive up sales significantly for the M3 Air, as you get a much better machine for only $100 more.

So in conclusion, if Apple wants to maximize long-term profits, I think scenario 1 makes the most sense, and you should be prepared to pay $1200 or $1400 for an M3 Air. If Apple wants to boost market share and short-term sales of the new M3 Air, then they will keep the M1 Air around and replace the M2 Airs with the M3 at the same price points. Given that Apple loves profits and the recent inflation, my prediction favors scenario 1.

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