A week ago, Apple delivered the surprise late-October Halloween-centric Scary Fast press event. The star of the show was the M3 series, Apple’s new System-on-Chip (SoC) family that would power a new series of laptops and desktops. Apple unveiled three of the four M3 chips we expect: The base M3 model, the M3 Pro, and the M3 Max.
Apple also gave us new hardware for each chip. The M3 will power the new iMac and the base MacBook Pro 14-inch model that replaces the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The same MacBook Pro 14-inch laptop and the 16-inch version also get the M3 Pro and M3 Max chip.
Absent from the list of new Mac hardware is the M3 MacBook Air. Apple’s most popular laptop is available in 13-inch and 15-inch flavors right now, but both of them have the M2 chip inside. This begs the obvious question: when will the M3 MacBook Air launch? You might not like the answer, as you might be in for a long wait.
I said last week that the M3 MacBook Pro 14-inch is a tremendous value. The cheapest model is a much better option than the 13-inch version it replaces. It’s also an incredible alternative to the MacBook Air despite the higher starting price. At $1,599, you’d get a laptop that runs on the same SoC the next-gen Air will get but offers the same high-end screen and connector options as the other MacBook Pro flagships.
The M3 MacBook Pro also delivers great battery life, exceeding the battery estimates for the current M2 MacBook Airs.
Still, there’s no denying that the M3 MacBook Air will be incredibly appealing to buyers. And since Apple offers two screen sizes, I’d be more interested in the 15-inch variant. However, Apple won’t launch the M3 MacBook Air until later next year.
The simplest way to explain the absence of an M3 MacBook Air from Apple’s late 2023 Mac portfolio might concern that larger 15-inch variant. Apple unveiled it this summer, so updating it less than 6 months after its launch sounds counterintuitive.
But that might not be the real reason a M3 MacBook Air won’t be shipping to buyers this week, along with most M3 MacBook Pro models. It has to do with Apple’s capacity to manufacture 3nm chips.
Put differently, Apple prioritizes the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max over the Macs. The 3m A17 Pro and M3 chips come from TSMC, Apple’s sole manufacturer for these SoCs. The detail comes from a new Power On newsletter from Marc Gurman:
As for why Apple started off the M3 switch with the iMac and MacBook Pro: There is only a finite amount of 3-nanometer processors available, with much of the supply going toward the iPhone. So Apple started with two of its lower-volume machines. While the Mac Studio and Mac Pro sell in even fewer quantities, they would require a successor to the M2 Ultra, and that hasn’t yet gone into broad testing.
The iPhone is still Apple’s biggest money maker, with most buyers going for the more expensive Pro models. The iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max are the only iPhones featuring a 3nm chip, the A17 Pro. The handsets have sold out quickly during preorders, especially the larger Pro Max variant, which starts at $1,199.
The 3nm A17 Pro chip hasn’t been a bottleneck for manufacturing iPhone 15 Pros. Not that we know of. But there’s definitely not enough stock to go around. Certainly not for the M3 MacBook Air production.
I’ll also point out that the M3 Max version of the MacBook Pro (14-inch and 16-inch) will not ship until later this month. What you can buy right now are the M3 and M3 Pro versions of the laptop.
Finally, no Android vendor will have access to 3nm chips next year. TSMC is only making 3nm SoCs for Apple right now.
With all that in mind, you can buy an M2 MacBook Air right now. We already have deals giving you up to $250 in savings on the current M2 MacBook Air models. You can always trade in the M2 Air for the M3 variant next year. Per Gurman, that’s when the M3 MacBooks will arrive, though we don’t have a release window for you.