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 Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
51 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)
Avatar
51 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)
Avatar
51 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)
Avatar
51 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)
Avatar
51 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)
Avatar
51 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)

Top Stories

Here's How You Can Download iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Around the World [It's Out]

Wednesday September 16, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Apple's official public release of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 dropped on Wednesday, September 16, just a day after the company released the Golden Master to third-party developers. Also set to be made available to the general public for the first time are watchOS 7 and tvOS 14. Getting Started With iOS 14 Video Click image to watch iOS 14 Getting Started While that's left a lot of developers...

When Will the iPhone 12 Launch? Here's What We Know

Wednesday September 16, 2020 6:12 am PDT by
Yesterday's "Time Flies" Apple event saw the release of the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch SE, iPad 8, and iPad Air 4, but no new iPhone models. Rumors before the event strongly alleged that it would not see the unveiling of new iPhones, with many reports pointing to an October launch. The lack of new iPhone models yesterday seems to confirm that the iPhone 12 lineup will not appear...

Apple Releases iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 With Home Screen Redesign, App Library, Compact UI, Translate App, Scribble Support, App Clips, and More

Wednesday September 16, 2020 12:48 pm PDT by
Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple's software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To ...

Apple Updates AirPods 2 and AirPods Pro Firmware to Version 3A283

Monday September 14, 2020 11:24 am PDT by
Apple today released new 3A283 firmware updates for the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. The second-generation AirPods are being updated from the 2D15 firmware they were previously running, while the AirPods Pros are being updated from the 2D27 firmware they had installed previously. Apple does not provide details on what's included in refreshed firmware so we don't know what's ...

Spotify Says Apple One Bundle Will Cause 'Irreparable Harm to Developer Community'

Tuesday September 15, 2020 12:26 pm PDT by
Apple today announced Apple One, a series of new subscription bundles that provide access to various Apple services at a combined monthly price. In response, Spotify sent out statements (via Peter Kafka) to the press decrying Apple's anti-competitive behavior and calling on "competition authorities" to stop Apple before it is able to cause "irreparable harm" to developers.Once again, Apple...

iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 Will Be Released September 16

Tuesday September 15, 2020 11:06 am PDT by
Apple today announced that iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 will be officially released on Wednesday, September 16. Apple has seeded the final Golden Master beta versions of each update to developers in advance. ‌iOS 14‌ and iPadOS 14 introduce dozens of new features, including a redesigned Home Screen that supports widgets on the iPhone and iPad for the first time. For more...

New AirPods Pro Firmware Introduces Spatial Audio Support and Automatic Switching

Monday September 14, 2020 12:22 pm PDT by
The new 3A283 firmware that Apple released for the AirPods Pro today appears to introduce support for Spatial Audio, a new feature coming to the higher-end AirPods with iOS 14. Multiple reports on Twitter and the MacRumors forums indicate that the firmware update adds a "Spatial Audio" option to the Control Center, which can be activated to enable the feature. Note that using Spatial Audio...

Apple Releases Safari 14 for Mac Ahead of macOS Big Sur Launch

Wednesday September 16, 2020 1:40 pm PDT by
macOS Big Sur didn't launch alongside iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 today, with the update coming later this fall, but Apple did release the Safari 14 update for macOS Catalina and macOS Mojave users. Safari 14 brings improved performance, customizable start pages, a Privacy Report to see which cross-site trackers are being blocked, and a new tab bar design that provides tab...

Full Transcript of Apple's 'Time Flies' Event With Apple Watch and iPad Updates

Tuesday September 15, 2020 8:46 am PDT by
Apple's virtual "Time Flies" event kicks off today at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time, with Apple expected to debut new Apple Watch and iPad models, but it appears we may not see the iPhone 12 until next month. While we're not expecting to see new iPhones today, Apple's software updates for its various platforms are likely nearly ready for launch, so we may be hearing more about them today. Check...

Everything Apple Announced at Today's iPad and Apple Watch Event in Just Seven Minutes

Tuesday September 15, 2020 2:19 pm PDT by
Apple today held its annual September event, but this year was a bit different because no new iPhones were announced. The "Time Flies" event focused on the Apple Watch Series 6 and the iPad Air, and saw the debut of a new Apple One services bundle. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. It took Apple an hour to introduce the new devices, but we've recapped the event in...