After two years, Apple today quietly updated its iMac and iMac Pro line with a handful of under-the-hood improvements. On the outside, however, the iMac still looks exactly the same, featuring X-large bezels and an even larger chin along the bottom. This means it’s now been seven years since the last iMac redesign. And looking from the front, the design hasn’t changed in over a decade.
When might Apple overhaul the iMac design? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, but I see one logical explanation…
Apple first introduced the aluminum iMac in August of 2007, making it available in 20-inch and 24-inch variants. This was a major update compared to the previous plastic design of the iMac, which was available in 17-, 20-, and 24-inch screen variants between August of 2004 and August of 2007.
That means there were three years between when Apple introduced the white plastic iMac G5 and the aluminum iMac in 2007 – a pretty quick turnaround time for a major redesign of a Mac. That mid-2007 iMac, however, was only a stepping stone. Despite featuring an aluminum front-face, it still featured a back casing made of black plastic, which was a stark difference from the sleek aluminum front.
In 2009, Apple overhauled its iMac lineup with aluminum unibody design in 21.5-inch and 27-inch variants – introducing the two screen sizes that are still in use today. This design has ended up shaping the future of the iMac, with Apple focusing on iterating it rather than completely redesigning.
In October of 2012 Apple redesigned the iMac with an ultra-slim side profile and removed the SuperDrive. While the thinnest point measures 5mm, there’s still an unsightly bulge in the back to accommodate the iMac’s internals and cooling system. In 2015, the iMac was upgraded with a Retina display.
Through these changes, the overall appearance of the iMac has stayed the same: an aluminum build with black bezels and an aluminum chin. The last significant update to the iMac was the introduction of the unibody aluminum design in 2009, but even that changeover actually started in 2008.
At the time in 2012, Apple making the side profile of the iMac ultra-slim was certainly a sleek look, and hyped as a major redesign. In real-world use, however, that change has been far less notable, with the head-on appearance of the iMac remaining unchanged.
Currently, we’re in the biggest design lull of the iMac’s history, with it having been seven years since introduction of the 21-inch and 27-inch unibody aluminum design in 2012. That’s not to say the iMac is necessarily dated – it’s received semi-regular spec updates and isn’t an eyesore by any stretch of the imagination, but the design is certainly starting to show its age. And can Apple continue to charge its legendary premiums on a design that is effectively 10 years old?
So when might Apple finally redesign the iMac? I have a feeling it will correlate to the release of the new Mac Pro and Apple’s standalone display.
Generally reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in an investor note earlier this year that Apple would release its new modular Mac Pro alongside a 31-inch standalone display this year.
Last month, our own Jeff Benjamin and Michael Steeber imagined what Apple’s 31-inch 6K display might look like. Here’s that concept:
Apple’s last standalone monitor was the Thunderbolt Display, which featured a design very similar to the iMac, but was slightly sleeker since it didn’t have to house a full computer. I’d expect the same principle to continue with the company’s standalone display hinting at the eventual redesign of the iMac.
In terms of what an iMac redesign might consist of, the obvious assumption is that it will feature much slimmer bezels, and hopefully a smaller chin. While there’s a lot of hope that Apple will bring Face ID to the Mac line in some form, there’s no indication as of yet that such a move is in the cards.
There’s also the question of whether Apple will move towards ultra-wide display technology like so much of the market has. Kuo’s report certainly implied that the 6K 31-inch display would be ultra-wide, so it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise for the iMac to also move in that direction.
Kuo previously claimed that Apple was working on an iMac with an upgraded display panel, but that ultimately never came to fruition. Given that Kuo’s reports are based on supply chain indications, it’s possible that he mistook the early signs of the 31-inch display to be an iMac refresh. It’s also possible, however, that Apple pushed back a major iMac refresh to focus on the Mac Pro and 31-inch display.
It’s hard not to assume that Apple is putting all of its attention towards the new Mac Pro and accompanying display. There’s a lot of pressure on the company to do well with both products after the poorly received trashcan Mac Pro and discontinuation of the Thunderbolt Display. There’s little incentive for Apple to overshadow its rumored 6K 31-inch display and Mac Pro with a consumer iMac refresh, at least right now. Especially when redesigning the iMac would almost certainly provide at least a framework of what Apple’s standalone display will look like.
Despite its aging design, the iMac remains a popular choice among general consumers. Personally, however, I’m holding out hope for an iMac redesign in 2020 – after this year’s launch of the Mac Pro and its display. When exactly we see the new iMac is going to come down to when the Mac Pro and 31-inch display are released. The sooner we see those products, the sooner the refreshed iMac is announced, and vice versa.
What do you hope to see when the iMac is eventually redesigned? Let us know down in the comments.
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