Ever since the original MacBook Pro, Apple has identified the notebooks based on the time of year in which they were released.
- Early: January-April
- Mid: May-August
- Late: September-December
The first MacBook Pro with a Retina display, for example, has a "Mid 2012" model name because it was released in June of that year.
Apple continued this trend when it launched its latest MacBook Pro lineup in October. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, along with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with a standard row of function keys, were described as "late 2016" models on Apple's website and support documentation.
Just recently, however, Apple appears to have dropped the "late" portion of "late 2016" when referring to its latest MacBook Pro models, as spotted by Apple blog Pike's Universum. Apple now simply identifies all of its latest MacBook Pros as "2016" models on its tech specs pages and under "About This Mac" on the second macOS 10.12.4 beta.
The latest MacBook Pro models are still identified as "MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2016)" or "MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)" under "About This Mac" on earlier macOS Sierra versions for some users. Apple also has a few support documents that still refer to a "late-2016 MacBook Pro" in sentence usage on its website.
Given that Apple only refreshed its MacBook Pro lineup once last year, it is reasonable to assume that "late" was an unnecessary descriptor; however, Apple still refers to its latest 12-inch MacBook as "Early 2016" despite there being no other updates to that notebook last year. The same applies to the "12-inch MacBook, Early 2015."
Apple has also yet to remove "Mid" from its "Mid 2014" MacBook Pro, despite the fact that it was the only MacBook Pro model released in 2014, so this appears to be a clear deviation from the company's traditional nomenclature. We've reached out to Apple for an explanation, and we'll update this article if we hear back.
Update: MacRumors reader Peter Cao tweeted us a screenshot that shows "Late" has indeed been dropped under "About This Mac" on a 2016 MacBook Pro running the second macOS 10.12.4 beta.