Apple developing custom Mac chip, but it won’t replace Intel

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2016 MacBook Pro
The new MacBook Pro already uses a secondary ARM chip.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple is developing a custom ARM chip for future Macs, but it won’t replace the Intel processors that have been powering its computers since 2005, according to a new report.

Instead, the chip is expected to work alongside a machine’s primary CPU, handling “low-power mode functionality.”

Development of the chip, internally codenamed T310, started last year, according to Bloomberg. Sources familiar with the matter claim that it will be similar to the one that powers the Touch Bar and Touch ID sensor in the new MacBook Pro.

It’s thought Apple’s plan is to offload more functionality to the second processor, including Power Nap, which allows Macs to retrieve emails, install software updates, and synchronize things like the calendar while the lid is closed or the machine is asleep.

Although Power Nap requires very little power when using an Intel CPU, Apple’s custom chip would reportedly make it even more efficient.

“The new version in development would go further by connecting to other parts of a Mac’s system, including storage and wireless components, in order to take on the additional responsibilities,” the report continues.

Given that low-power mode already exists, it’s thought Apple will launch the chip with little fanfare. It does not market the ARM processor that powers the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pro, and that could be the case with this one, too.

Apple’s A-series processors for iPhone and iPad are already based on ARM technology, and for years, the company has been rumored to be developing ARM processors for Macs that will eventually replace Intel.

However, ditching Intel entirely wouldn’t be an easy task; existing applications built for Macs with Intel processors wouldn’t work on an ARM chip. It looks like Apple is now looking to deliver the best of both worlds.