In 2016 Apple introduced new MacBook Pro models that featured the Touch Bar. A narrow touch-sensitive glass display at the top of the keyboard. Apple promised it would offer intuitive new ways to interact with content. But with their latest MacBook Pro release, the Touch Bar was removed. And there are a few reasons for this.
Officially, Apple gave a generic justification. Saying, “Users value the full-height function row on the standalone Magic Keyboard. And we’ve brought it to the MacBook Pro. The physical keys replace the Touch Bar. Bringing back the familiar, tactile feel of mechanical keys that pro users love.”
This is essentially marketing-speak for, “the Touch bar was a bad idea so we’re removing it.” But where exactly did it go wrong? Well, the first problem was that Apple never improved on its functionality. Some users appreciated the shortcuts it offered, like quick access to emoji while chatting or tool adjustments in photo editing apps. But its functionality was never expanded. Leading to the lukewarm reception of the feature among users. Apple was relying on third-party developers to utilize the Touch bar in their apps. But that didn’t happen in most cases since the feature was limited to MacBook Pro models.
So spending extra time developing a Touch-Bar-enabled Mac app that only benefited a fraction of users didn’t make sense. The Touch Bar also came with compromises. Like turning the row of physical function and escape keys into touch-sensitive buttons. Something that frustrated users who complained about mistypes and the constant need to look down at their keyboard, slowing down their workflow. Now the escape button was later placed back into a physical key with the 16-inch MacBook Pro, but the Touch bar remained underwhelming to users. Who found it more of a nuisance than a convenience.
So from Apple’s perspective, continuing to include the Touch Bar would be a mistake. Since it’s not a feature user’s value, it adds significant cost, and it weighs more than a traditional row of keys.