MacBook Pro Touch Bar's T1 Chip Runs 'Variant' of watchOS, Also Secures Touch ID and FaceTime Camera [Updated]

In a series of tweets sent out last night, and now in an interview with The Verge, developer Steven Troughton-Smith has detailed the inner workings of the MacBook Pro's new retina Touch Bar, describing its T1 chip as "a variant of the system-on-a-chip used in the Apple Watch." This means that the Touch Bar is essentially running watchOS on the T1 chip, which macOS then communicates with through an interconnected USB bridge that "relays multitouch events back to macOS."

The developer described this software setup as advantageous for the MacBook Pro's security, since the T1 chip also acts as a layer of protection and "gates access" to the laptop's FaceTime camera and Touch ID sensor. In the series of Tweets he sent out last night, Troughton-Smith also theorized that watchOS could power the Touch Bar alone without relying on macOS to be running on the MacBook Pro, which Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi has now confirmed.

finalcutprox

"From everything I can piece together, the T1 chip in the new MacBook Pro is a variant of the system-on-a-chip used in the Apple Watch," explains Troughton-Smith, in an interview with The Verge. "Running watchOS on the T1 lets the Mac benefit from Apple's deep work on iOS embedded security, as the T1 gates access to the Touch ID sensor and, from the looks of it, the front-facing camera in the new MacBook Pro too."

Despite the use of watchOS in the Touch Bar, the T1 chip "has no fixed storage" and boots from a 25MB ramdisk, so it's not the full version found on the Apple Watch that could run the complete watchOS UI with apps. As Troughton-Smith described it, "the 'watchOS' the T1 runs is presumably only 'watchOS' by dint of the CPU it's designed for. T1 must be very similar to S1."

The developer also confirmed that the T1 chip and Touch ID sensor are paired together at the factory, so if either begins acting up, "you can't replace one without the other." What this means for the future of the MacBook Pro line could be a device that more closely bridges the gap between macOS and iOS, according to Troughton-Smith.

"Perhaps someday it could run a higher class processor, like Apple's A-series chips, and allow macOS to 'run' iOS apps and Extensions, like iMessage apps, or manage notifications, system tasks, networking, during sleep, without having to power up the x86 CPU."

Yesterday, Phil Schiller commented on the idea of Apple manufacturing a MacBook with a touchscreen, but he remained adamant that such a direct merger between macOS and iOS software wouldn't be "particularly useful." Likewise, Apple's newly published guidelines for developers describe the Touch Bar as "an input device," and "not a secondary display."

Update: TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino has shared a few more details on the T1 chip in the MacBook Pro. The T1 is the same chip that's inside the S2 in the new Series 2 Apple Watch, and is made up of the processor and the Secure Enclave.

The T1 secures the Touch ID sensor, camera, Touch Bar, and the keychain where passwords are stored. As was previously suggested, the T1 runs a modified version of watchOS.

Related Forum: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

robsp2000 Avatar
73 months ago
It seems like Mac Rumors has been infested with trolls who only cry on and on about every little detail that they think sucks. I can't even read through here anymore to find any interesting posts talking about new features. If you don't like what Apple is doing then goodbye, go get a "faster better equipped", cheaper windows computer and enjoy that experience. It's really got to be mostly trolls, forums are horrible now.
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BootsWalking Avatar
73 months ago
It seems like Mac Rumors has been infested with trolls who only cry on and on about every little detail that they think sucks. I can't even read through here anymore to find any interesting posts talking about new features. If you don't like what Apple is doing then goodbye, go get a "faster better equipped", cheaper windows computer and enjoy that experience. It's really got to be mostly trolls, forums are horrible now.
Over 90% of yesterday's comments were negative about the new MacBook Pros. Do you really think all those posters were trolls? Pethaps you're the one who should leave the forums if you can't handle objective discussion about the merits or lack thereof of an Apple product.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
powertoold Avatar
73 months ago
None of us have used Touch Bar, and at first I didn't think it'd be useful, but now that I've had a chance to digest it, I think it's an excellent idea with essentially no cons.

Basically, the Touch Bar is superior to a full touch screen because it allows for a contextual menu to show up depending on where your cursor is or what window / tab you're in. For example, I'm typing this message, and yes, if I had a touch screen, I could reach up, but with the Touch Bar, I could see a wider contextual menu that is much more accessible for my hands, which are already on the keyboard.

People are complaining that they'd need to look down at the Touch Bar, but over a short time, you'd get used to the Touch Bar options on your commonly used apps, and since the Touch Bar is color coordinated, you can easily tap it without looking.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TMRJIJ Avatar
73 months ago
It seems like Mac Rumors has been infested with trolls who only cry on and on about every little detail that they think sucks. I can't even read through here anymore to find any interesting posts talking about new features. If you don't like what Apple is doing then goodbye, go get a "faster better equipped", cheaper windows computer and enjoy that experience. It's really got to be mostly trolls, forums are horrible now.
A MR member with class. Respect.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rolsskk Avatar
73 months ago

People are complaining that they'd need to look down at the Touch Bar, but over a short time, you'd get used to the Touch Bar options on your commonly used apps, and since the Touch Bar is color coordinated, you can easily tap it without looking.
You can now feel colors??
[doublepost=1477670019][/doublepost]
It seems like Mac Rumors has been infested with trolls who only cry on and on about every little detail that they think sucks. I can't even read through here anymore to find any interesting posts talking about new features. If you don't like what Apple is doing then goodbye, go get a "faster better equipped", cheaper windows computer and enjoy that experience. It's really got to be mostly trolls, forums are horrible now.
You mean new features such as

* No SD Card Slot
* No USB-A ports
* No MagSafe
* Increased Price Points

* EmojiBar
* Anorexia Obsessed Jony Ive

I'd honestly like to hear what you think what are the new features that are worth talking about with this release.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
F4C4 Avatar
73 months ago
I guess Apple wants to be a cellphone and smartwatch maker...

I'm more excited by Microsoft new stuff like the Surface Studio... that's a sign that something is really wrong with how Apple is managing the Mac.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
anker 563 dock ports

Anker's Latest USB-C Docking Station Brings Triple-Display Support to M1 Macs

Wednesday May 18, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
While Apple's early M1-based Macs can only officially support a single external display, there are ways around the limitation. Anker is launching a new 10-in-1 USB-C docking station today which delivers just that. The Anker 563 USB-C dock includes two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort port, and it leverages DisplayLink to carry multiple video signals over a single connection. Given that this hub...
macOS Monterey 2

Apple Releases macOS Monterey 12.4 With Support for Studio Display Webcam Update

Monday May 16, 2022 10:10 am PDT by
Apple today released macOS Monterey 12.4, the fourth major update to the macOS Monterey operating system that launched in October 2021. macOS Monterey 12.4 comes over two months after the launch of macOS Monterey 12.3, an update that added Universal Control. The ‌‌‌‌‌macOS Monterey‌‌ 12.4 update can be downloaded on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System...
Whatsapp Feature

WhatsApp to Let Users Leave Group Chats 'Silently' and View Rich Link Previews in Status Updates

Tuesday May 17, 2022 3:07 am PDT by
WhatsApp is working on a new feature that will allow users to "silently" leave group chats hosted by the messaging platform instead of all members of the group being notified when they do. As it stands, when someone leaves a group chat, WhatsApp announces their exit to the entire group, making the act of leaving very public. It's not possible right now to leave a group quietly, but WhatsApp...
apple data auction iphone privacy ad

Apple Highlights iPhone's Latest Privacy Features in New 'Data Auction' Ad

Wednesday May 18, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new ad highlighting iPhone privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection that are designed to give users more transparency and control when it comes to their personal data being collected. The ad revolves around a young woman named Ellie who discovers that her personal data is being sold at an auction house, with bids being placed on her...
airpodsproinear

Apple Facing Lawsuit After AirPods Allegedly Ruptured Child's Eardrums With Amber Alert

Tuesday May 17, 2022 11:40 am PDT by
Apple's AirPods ruptured the eardrums of a 12-year-old boy in 2020 when a loud Amber Alert was issued, according to a lawsuit filed against Apple in California (via Law360). The child, identified as B.G. in the filing, was watching a movie on Netflix on his iPhone in 2020 while wearing AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro were allegedly set at a low volume, but an Amber Alert sounded without warning ...
apple store palo alto

Apple Reinstating Employee Mask Mandate at Approximately 100 U.S. Retail Stores

Tuesday May 17, 2022 11:11 am PDT by
Apple retail employees at around 100 stores will need to go back to wearing a mask while working, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Apple is mandating masks for employees again due to a rising number of COVID cases across the United States. Customers who visit an Apple Store are not required to wear a mask at this time, but Apple is continuing to recommend masks for all Apple Store...