A key 2021 MacBook Pro 16 part may just have been spotted online

Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro, expected to switch to the most potent version of Apple Silicon we've seen so far, could have been spotted cropping up in new filings for the first time. The flagship notebook would not only give Apple's homegrown chips their most pro-user focused launch so far, but is widely believed to bring a considerable change in design after years of MacBook Pro iteration.

The debate between Apple and its users – which can often seem pretty one-sided – about just how flexible the existing MacBook Pro 16 is has been going on for some years now. Apple's decision to switch entirely to USB Type-C, with Thunderbolt 3 on the most recent version of the laptop, was billed as being more flexible as well as permitting greater maximum bandwidth.

However the reality is that many people still rely on things like USB Type-A accessories and peripherals, along with ethernet and SD cards. To work with those you need either dongles or some sort of dock – such as the recently-launched Linedock 16 – which adds cost and complexity, and takes up extra space in a bag or on a desktop. At the same time, equally controversial features like the Touch Bar have remained, despite questions among users as to whether Apple's touchscreen strip are genuinely useful.

One of the major factors driving interest in the 2021 MacBook Pro 16 predicted to be launched later this year, then, is the chatter of a big change to ports and controls. Earlier leaks have indicated Apple will bring back both an SD card slot and an HDMI output, instantly doing away with the requirement for two of the most commonly-carried dongles. A magnetic power cable is also tipped, lending some MagSafe reassurance.

As for the Touch Bar, rumors have also suggested that the touchscreen strip could be retired as well.

New regulatory filings in China, spotted by MacRumors, are believed to be for batteries to be used in the new notebooks. The listings, by Sunwoda Electronic – an Apple supplier – are for an 8,693 mAh / 11.45 V pack with model number A2527. That, the site points out, is similar to the 8,790 mAh/11.36 V battery used in the current-generation of 16-inch MacBook Pro.

While the battery would be very slightly smaller, it's entirely possible that the switch to Apple Silicon would bring with it the sort of power frugality improvements we've already seen in the Apple M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13. That could help offset a reduced battery, and still allow Apple to adopt a new design which is said to be flatter than the current notebook.

When, exactly, we could see it officially announced is unclear. Different leaks have pegged different timescales, with some chatter suggesting Apple might reveal the 2021 MacBook Pro 16 as soon as WWDC 2021 which begins next week. Other reports have pegged the unveil for sometime over the summer.

The specific chipset inside the new MacBook Pro 16, meanwhile, is widely believed to be the Apple "M2": the second version of the in-house SoC design. That's expected to be more powerful than the current M1, as Apple tries to replace Intel's range of CPUs across its consumer and professional Mac models.