Apple swipes left on the last Touch Bar Mac, replaces it with a pricier 14″ model

Proper function keys are the norm once more and the dream of a touchscreen Mac appears to be dead

Comment Apple appears to have decided its controversial Touch Bar is no longer needed as on Monday the last machine that included it – the 13-inch MacBook Pro – vanished from iGiant's site.

Introduced in 2016 alongside some slimmed down, USB-C-only, MacBook Pros, the Touch Bar – an OLED display strip situated at the top of the keyboard – was Apple’s only attempt at a touch-enabled Mac interface.

The Touch Bar occupied the top-of-keyboard space where a row of Function keys would usually be found. The device could display shortcut keys to control screen brightness, audio volume, and media playback, or be made to display standard Function keys.

The Touch Bar could also dynamically display controls relevant to whichever application Mac users were working in. When using Adobe Photoshop, for example, the Touch Bar would show useful controls and shortcuts specific to that application.

It was a slick idea in concept, but it was far from perfect. In addition to the occasional glitch, and overall lack of consistency from one piece of software to another, the Touch Bar meant Apple made the questionable design decision to omit a physical ESC key. While the hardware escape key was eventually added back in later revisions, Function keys still had to be accessed by holding down the Fn key.

With that said, the Touch Bar may have been the most reliable part of that generation of MacBook keyboard. The butterfly switches found on most Touch Bar models up until 2020 failed with such frequency that it was the subject of a class action lawsuit that eventually netted a $50 million settlement from Cupertino.

Personally, my biggest gripe with the Touch Bar during the two years I used it was the overall lack of tactility. Because it replaced the top row of keys with an indistinct plate of glass, and its contents changed depending on what you were doing, using it required looking away from the screen and down at the keyboard.

Customers could customize the Touch Bar to behave more like past MacBook keyboards. However, doing so kind of defeated the purpose of having a context-aware human interface device attached to your laptop. Apps like BetterTouchTool allowed you to customize the Touch Bar exactly to your liking, and if you really wanted there was even an app to put Nyan Cat on the tiny screen.

Despite this, the Touch Bar persisted long after Apple abandoned the concept on its flagship MacBook range. The feature's days have been numbered since the launch of Apple's redesigned 14- and 16-inch MacBooks in late 2021, which brought back the physical Function and shortcut keys.

For the past two years, Apple has effectively kept the Touch Bar Mac on life support. The system received its final heart transplant last year with the launch of Apple's M2 SoC.

On Monday, Apple announced its M3 family of processors alongside refreshed iMacs and MacBook Pros. However, the 13-inch MacBook Pro wasn't one of them. Apple's entry-level MacBook Pro had been replaced by a stripped down 14-inch model with an M3, 8GB of memory, 256GB of storage, two USB-4 ports, a single cooling fan, and a higher starting price of $1,599.

Those mourning the demise of the Touch Bar, the feature still technically exists in software, accessible when using Apple's Sidecar feature to turn an iPad into an external display. ®

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