Apple's Path to Arm-Based Macs Could Start With a New 12-Inch MacBook

Fudge, a leaker who goes by @choco_bit on Twitter, often shares details on upcoming Apple products. With Apple's Arm-based Macs that use custom-made chips on the horizon, Fudge today shared some of his thoughts on how, why, and when Apple will roll out Arm-based Macs, including some speculation on how apps, Boot Camp, and other features might be impacted.


Apple has been following a multi-step approach to the rollout of Arm-based Macs, which began in 2016 with the inclusion of the T1 coprocessor in the MacBook Pro, which was later updated to the T2 coprocessor. These chips, which are Arm-based and Apple-designed, manage important security and controller functions and have served as important steps in the transition to a machine fully powered by Arm chips.

Unification between iOS and macOS is also something that Apple has been working towards with its Mac Catalyst project. Apple isn't merging iOS and macOS, but it is aiming for a system that will allow developers to create a single app that will work on all platforms, and its own custom Arm-based chips will further facilitate that goal.

Fudge outlines how Apple used the T1 and T2 chips and its software unification initiatives to prepare for a Mac with an Apple-designed processor, but perhaps the most interesting part of Fudge's narrative is his speculation about Apple's next step and what form it will take.

Based on tidbits from supply chain sources, Fudge believes that Apple could revive its now-discontinued MacBook, with a new 12-inch model unveiled as the first Mac with an Apple-designed Arm-based chip. Though hard to believe, he suggests that Apple could even perhaps revive the butterfly keyboard for the machine.

There are rumors that Apple is still working internally to perfect the infamous Butterfly keyboard, and there are also signs that Apple is developing an A14x based processors with 8-12 cores designed specifically for use as the primary processor in a Mac. It makes sense that this model could see the return of the Butterfly keyboard, considering how thin and light it is intended to be, and using an A14x processor would make it will be a very capable, very portable machine, and should give customers a good taste of what is to come.

The 12-inch MacBook could look the same as the retired version, and Fudge says it's unclear if there will be design changes. There could be 5G connectivity though, and we have heard rumors about Apple bringing cellular connectivity to Macs in some form.


Rumors have suggested that Apple's eventual goal is to use its Arm-based custom-designed chips in its entire Mac lineup. Bloomberg has said that Apple is currently developing at least three Mac processors that are based on the 5-nanometer A14 chip that will be used in the upcoming iPhone 12 models.

At least one of the three processors is said to be much faster than the A-series chips in iPhones and iPads, and the first Mac processors will have 12 cores, including eight high-performance cores and at least four energy-efficient cores. Apple is also working on a second generation of Mac processors based on the future 3-nanometer A15 chip.

Moving away from Intel chips has many benefits for Apple, including being untethered from Intel's unreliable release schedule. With its custom-designed chips, Apple can update Macs on its own internal timeline, and, as Fudge points out, with greater technology enhancements than Intel has been able to make.

Arm-based chips will offer many advantages over Intel-based Macs, in addition to allowing Apple to cut ties with Intel. The chips are expected to feature faster performance and reduced power consumption for better battery efficiency, and Bloomberg says internal testing has shown significant gains in graphics performance and apps using artificial intelligence.

Apple's transition away from Intel's chips won't be without difficulties. There's been a lot of talk about app support and potential issues. Mac App Store apps will run without changes, but apps outside of the App Store could be problematic. Fudge outlines multiple ways that Apple could handle apps when transitioning to custom chips:

- Developer will need to build both x86_64 and ARM version of their app - App Bundles have supported multiple-architecture binaries since the dawn of OS X and the PowerPC transition

- Move to apps being distributed in an architecture-independent manner, as they are on the ‌App Store‌. There is some software changes that are suggestive of this, such as the new architecture in dyld3.

- An x86_64 instruction decoder in silicon - very unlikely due to the significant overhead this would create in the silicon design, and potential licensing issues. (ARM, being a RISC, "reduced instruction set", has very few instructions; x86_64 has thousands)

- Server-side ahead-of-time transpilation (converting x86 code to equivalent ARM code) using Notarization submissions - Apple certainly has the compiler chops in the LLVM team to do something like this

- Outright emulation, similar to the approach that was taken in ARM releases of Windows, but received extremely poorly (limited to 32-bit apps, and very very slow)There could be other solutions in the works to fix this but I am not aware of any. This is just me speculating about some of the possibilities.

When it comes to Boot Camp, Fudge believes that because of performance issues and difficulties emulating x86_64 on Arm-based machines, Apple could abandon the functionality entirely until Windows becomes more friendly to the new architecture.

It may take some time for Apple to bring its custom chips to the full Mac lineup, but we could get a hint at what it's working on behind the scenes as soon as WWDC. Bloomberg recently said that Apple plans to announce its upcoming transition to Arm-based Macs with custom-designed chips at WWDC 2020, and that the first Arm-based Mac will be released in 2021.

As we wait for Apple's WWDC event on June 22 with the possible Arm-based Mac announcement, Fudge's full piece exploring Apple's work on custom chips and its potential future plans is worth checking out, and can be read over on Reddit.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
19 weeks ago
I was kind of hoping we don't go back to the 2016 days of a MacBook line-up that's confusing and stupid.
Score: 35 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 weeks ago
If this is the case, I’ll skip Catalina entirely. Why bother finding replacements for my 32-bit apps when I’ll soon need to find replacements for my x86 apps?
Score: 34 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 weeks ago
Gonna let these new processors play out for a year or two before jumping in. No matter how well Apple emulates Intel's architecture, and what kind of creative solutions are presented to move to the new architecture, there will be issues. I wouldn't want to be a beta tester that pays $2K for a first gen ARM laptop.

With that said, can't wait to see what they have in store.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 weeks ago


Based on tidbits from supply chain sources, Fudge believes that Apple could revive its now-discontinued MacBook, with a new 12-inch model unveiled as the first Mac with an Apple-designed Arm-based chip. Though hard to believe, he suggests that Apple could even perhaps revive the butterfly keyboard for the machine.

Dear god, no. It was a mistake. It's been fixed. Leave it in the dustbin of electronics history, where it belongs.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 weeks ago


Never buy a gen 1 anything. Car, Computer.. ETC.

My first generation tesla model s disagrees with you.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
19 weeks ago


Gonna let these new processors play out for a year or two before jumping in. No matter how well Apple emulates Intel's architecture, and what kind of creative solutions are presented to move to the new architecture, there will be issues. I wouldn't want to be a beta tester that pays $2K for a first gen ARM laptop.

With that said, can't wait to see what they have in store.

Never buy a gen 1 anything. Car, Computer.. ETC.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

iPhone 12 Pro Allows You to Measure Someone's Height Instantly Using LiDAR Scanner

Saturday October 24, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
iPhone 12 Pro models feature a new LiDAR Scanner for enhanced augmented reality experiences, but the sensor also enables another unique feature: the ability to measure a person's height instantly using the Measure app. You can even measure the seated height of a person in a chair, according to Apple. When the Measure app detects a person in the viewfinder, it automatically measures their...

Apple VP Kaiann Drance Interview Addresses Battery Life, MagSafe, and Power Adapter Concerns

Friday October 23, 2020 3:37 am PDT by
Apple's Vice President of iPhone Marketing, Kaiann Drance, has provided a new interview to Rich DeMuro on the Rich on Tech Podcast, to discuss the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Although much of the interview repeated points from Apple's "Hi, Speed" event, there were a number of interesting tidbits regarding the affect of 5G on battery life, MagSafe concerns, and the lack of a power adapter in...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Distributing New Heated Display Removal Machine for iPhone 12 Repairs

Thursday October 22, 2020 6:20 pm PDT by
Apple is providing Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers with a new heated display removal fixture for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro repairs, according to information obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source. To open iPhone 12 models, technicians will be required to slide the device into a specialized tray, and then place the tray into the high-temperature fixture for two...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...

MagSafe Charger Teardown Reveals Simple Design With Magnets and Charging Coil Encircling a Small Circuit Board

Friday October 23, 2020 7:50 am PDT by
iFixit has today shared a teardown of Apple's new MagSafe charger for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. An X-ray of the MagSafe charger courtesy of Creative Electron reveals the internal charging coil surrounded by a circular arrangement of magnets within the puck. The only seam that iFixit was able to leverage to open the device was where the white rubber circle meets the metal rim,...

PSA: Non-iPhone 12 Models Charge Super Slowly With MagSafe Charger

Friday October 23, 2020 4:11 pm PDT by
Alongside the iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a new $39 MagSafe Charger that's meant to work with the magnets in the iPhone 12 Pro models to charge them up at a maximum of 15W. The MagSafe Charger is technically able to be used with older iPhones, but it's not a good idea because the charging with non-iPhone 12 devices is so slow. We did two tests with the iPhone XS Max, draining the...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...