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A Thought on Rapidly Changing Expectations

I recently bought a Macbook Air M2 15″ computer. It replaced a Macbook Air M1 13″ that had a damaged screen (I damaged it, by spilling coffee on it and not cleaning up the screen fast enough). I vaguely remember being blown away by how much longer the battery life on the Macbook Air M1 was, compared to the 2016 era Macbook Pro Intel i5 notebook it replaced. By the time I sold the MBP 13″, I was lucky if I could get about 6 hours on a charge on that computer, and I was charging it almost every day.

The MBA M1 13″ was delivering 13+ hours easily and that was with some heavy lifting in Photoshop and Lightroom; I would only charge it every two or three days, something I got used to very quickly. I got very used to that routine, and to be honest, forgot that the ‘norm’ in my mobile computing life was charging 1 or 2 times a day, prior.

The new Macbook Air M2 15″, with a larger screen, more memory, more SSD space easily gives me 15 to 17 hours of use between charges. I’ve only had it for a few weeks, but I can go as much as 4 days between needing to charge it, depending on my normal use of 3-5 hours a day (the rest of my computing time is done on a desktop Mac Mini M2 Pro). I notice it lasts even longer than my M1 MBA, but it’s a case of charging every 3rd or 4th day of use, instead of every 2nd or 3rd day of use.

And it’s become very normal for me. In a very short time period.

I knew when I bought the Macbook Air M2 with 16gb of ram and a 512gb SSD drive, I might migrate it to being also my desktop Mac, meaning I’d sell the Mac Mini M2 Pro, and reconfigure my desktop setup to accommodate the daily removal of the MBA notebook from my desktop monitor, and USB-C hub system. I’m still contemplating this move. The Macbook Air M2 is a powerful beast, and can easily serve as my desktop computer, driving the Dell ultrawide monitor I have, and my peripherals with ease.

Part of this plan meant I needed a “focus device”. I’ve written about focus devices before (my attempt to get one in a Chromebook, which I’ve since given up on); but in short; I get distracted easily and I feel I need a “writing and research only” computing device that I don’t watch media on, don’t play games on, don’t even edit photos on.

I always loved the form factor, size, and keyboard on the Macbook Airs from 2010 through 2017; I debated buying a MBA 13″ Early 2015 model to use entirely as a focus device, given fully loaded ones can be found on eBay these days for $200 or less. But then I remembered a Macbook Air I never owned: the smallest notebook computer Apple ever made: the Macbook Air 11″. So I bought one (I wrote about it here). I love this little device.

Except for the battery. The unit I bought had about 400 cycles (actually more) on its OEM battery, and only held about 73% of its normal charge. Just using it with Pages or Google Docs, and viewing the occasional Youtube video (for research), I was lucky to get about 3 or 4 hours out of it.

The first change I made to the MBA 11″ was to buy a new replacement battery. I installed it, and I’m happy to report after the initial conditioning, the new battery is fairly close to the original ‘spec’ for the Macbook Air 11″ in terms of battery performance. Which means my MBA 11″ Early 2015 model will run about 5-6 hours, with some media use.

And therein lies the old expectation, that is no longer, I guess, “acceptable”.

You see, Apple “claimed” the Early 2015 Macbook Air 11″ (with it’s smaller battery than the 13″ model) should get 8 hours of battery life. Real world testing from reviews at the time showed 6 hours was more the norm. And almost every reviewer felt that was “really good battery life”.

And they were right! I have been using Macs since 2009, when I started a switch from Intel PCs and Windows to the Mac ecosystem. My first Mac was the aluminum 24″ iMac, and my first mac notebook was the Macbook Air 2nd gen in 2011. I remember that Macbook Air having crazy long battery life (IIRC, around 7.5 hours) compared to my previous “ultralight” Windows OS notebooks that I could barely eek out maybe 5 hours on. After a few years, the MBA 13″ was back down to the battery life I remembered from the Windows notebooks – about 5 or 6 hours.

Which also is its own point: As I went through Thinkpads, Fujitsu Lifebooks, and a Toshiba ultralight notebook in the 2000s, and then the Macbook Airs of the 2010s, to the Macbook Pro of 2016, I just came to expect as normal that a notebook’s battery life was 5 to 7 hours under good use, and you needed to charge it every day if you used it all day long in your work. Apple used to say “All day battery” when referring to their devices that had 8 or more hours of battery life.

Yet in just a few short years, our expectations about battery life on notebook computers, at least in the Mac sphere, have increased dramatically. Now, if your computing device doesn’t give at least 12 hours or more, it isn’t great. I’m already getting extremely used to the MBA M2 15″‘s 15+ hours.

So much so, that, even though my new focus device, an Early 2015 Macbook Air 11″, with its brand new battery is back to its original spec for battery life, it is my biggest annoyance with the device. “Man, I gotta charge it already!??!”. Just in the time it took me to type this post, edit the photo, and queue it up in WordPress (about 1.5hr), my battery dropped 22%.

Amazing how our expectations can change so quickly, even after decades of expecting (and accepting, without thought) something less.



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