Yesterday, Apple announced its discontinuation of its Thunderbolt Display. A few thoughts have struck me about this.

First, I use the Thunderbolt Display every day along with my 15” Macbook Pro. I bought my first display in late 2012 and when it died in fall 2015,1 I purchased a used one from a friend. Having used the device for thousands of hours I can say that the Thunderbolt Display is the most buggy piece of hardware that I’ve ever owned from Apple. It only has to do one thing from the user’s perspective — connect to a Macbook Pro — but my experience and Apple’s forums are filled with situations in which it sporadically won’t connect, even when resetting the connected computer’s NVRAM and SMC. I’ve had this problem with two displays and multiple Macbook Pros connecting to them, so it can’t be written off as a lemon anomaly. The Thunderbolt Display is not a good representative of Apple’s usually very reliable hardware. From this perspective it makes good sense that the company is deprecating the product.

Second, I take issue with the statement that “There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users.” My experience with third-party monitors is that the size of everything on the screen is incorrect and the color balancing is noticeably different. These things are adjustable but it’s hard to get them to match a Thunderbolt Display. For someone who’s doing anything involving color such as graphic or web design, this is debilitating. I’d like to think that PR said this as a cover-up statement to bridge the gap between now and September when Apple introduces a retina Thunderbolt Display. People need Apple displays.

This brings me to the third point, which is that we don’t know if Apple is going to ever produce a new external display or not. I’m optimistic that it will but it’s pure speculation at this point. It’s perplexing that Apple would go a period of months without having any external monitor on the market if it plans to re-introduce an improved version. You would never see the company do this with its watch, phone, tablet, or computer product lines. Imagine if the company issued a PR statement concerning a temporary discontinuation of the iPhone and that “There are a number of great third-party smartphones available to consumers.” Apple would never do that, so why would it do it for the Thunderbolt Display? Are there truly few enough buyers that it doesn’t matter? If so, how does it make business sense to create a new retina version? If Apple is going to release a new display in the future, I’m struggling to envision a scenario in which it would make sense to first deprecate the old one before the new one is out.

  1. The pixel display was shot and repairing it with taxes would bring a $900 bill. It would have made more sense just to buy a brand new one for $999. A three year lifetime seems woefully short for a product in this price range. Apple has no buy-back program for it, but at least it offers a free recycle. ↩︎