Why you should expect a new M-series Mac chip every year


Expect a new M-series Mac chip every year
New M-series processors should start arriving like clockwork.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

A recent report that the Apple M4 Mac processor will launch this fall — only a year after the debut of the M3 — met with some surprise and skepticism. But it shouldn’t have — Apple’s goal to refresh the chip line every year is ambitious but achievable.

Just because Intel can’t bring out new generations of its processors annually doesn’t mean Apple and TSMC can’t.

Apple M4 Mac processor in 2024, M5 in 2025, etc.

Apple began transitioning away from Intel chips in late 2020 with the M1. This was followed by the M2 series, which began in mid-2022. Then the first M3 versions premiered in late 2023. With roughly 18 months between M series refreshes so far, it’s understandable that there’d be some skepticism that the M4 will launch a year after the M3.

But that’s reportedly Apple’s goal.

“Apple has been trying to move its Mac chip upgrades to an annual refresh cycle — like the iPhone — and, if all goes to plan, that will start in 2024,” said Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter.

Gurman’s sources inside Apple allow him to make generally accurate predictions about the company’s upcoming products.

Offering annual Mac processor upgrades is an ambitious proposition. It’s a goal Intel couldn’t match. In fact, one of the reasons Apple dropped Intel processors from macOS desktops and laptops is that multiple years often elapsed between new generations of its Core chips, even though the company regularly pumped out small tweaks to its designs. And sometimes the improvements between generations proved minor.

Making M series more like iPhone chips

The idea that Apple will bring out new Mac processors annually shouldn’t meet too much skepticism because, as Gurman noted, the company introduced a new generation of iPhone chips every year for more than a decade.

That means it already designs a new CPU core every year. Now that both Mac and iPhone processors use the same CPU core, each new design can go into the M series just as it’s integrated into the A series for iPhone.

The earlier delays can be chalked up to growing pains as Apple learned about making its own Mac processors.

With TSMC expertise, of course

A-series and M-series processors carry the Apple name, and the chips are designed in Cupertino, but they are produced by TSMC using technology the chipmaker develops.

The Taiwanese foundry generally has been able to shrink the components of Apple’s A- series chips every couple of years, allowing the devices they power to work faster while generating less waste heat. Recently, the M series also benefitted from that expertise.

TSMC went from a 7nm production process in 2018 down to the current 3nm process that debuted in the A17 and M3 in 2023. This autumn, the A18 and M4 are expected to be made with an improved version of the 3nm process, but Apple’s 2025 chips should be manufactured with a 2nm process.

Today’s M3 already makes Macs very fast. Annual M-series updates should keep Mac at the forefront of computer performance. Assuming Apple and TMC can meet that goal, of course.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.