Apple Silicon (Arm) Macs: Coming in Late 2020

by

Apple at WWDC 2020 announced plans to transition away from Intel chips to Macs built with its own Apple Silicon chips starting in late 2020. Apple's custom chips are Arm-based and are similar to the A-series chips used in iPhones and iPads.


This guide covers everything we know about Apple Silicon, Apple's plans to transition away from Intel chips, and Apple's plans to make it easy for developers to design apps for the new Arm-based Macs that are coming in the future.

Why Apple is Making the Switch

Apple is adopting its own Apple Silicon chips to make better Macs. Apple says its own chips will bring a whole new level of performance with more powerful Macs that are also more energy-efficient. Apple says that its advanced power management capabilities will allow for maximized performance paired with better than ever battery life.

Apple Silicon Advantage

Apple has years of experience with power-efficient chip design thanks to its work on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, all of which use custom-designed chips developed by Apple engineers. Apple has made huge gains in processor performance over the years, and its chips are now powerful enough to be used in Macs.


Apple is aiming to deliver the highest possible performance with the lowest power consumption, a goal that its expertise makes it well-suited to achieve. Better performance is Apple's main goal, but there are other reasons that it has decided to transition away from Intel, and that includes all of the custom technologies that it can build into Apple Silicon to further boost the Mac's capabilities and make it stand out from the competition.

Deep integration between software and hardware has always made iPhones stand out from other smartphones, and the same will be true for the Mac. Apple's custom chips will provide best-in-class security with the Secure Enclave and high-performance graphics capabilities for pro apps and games, but the true performance gains remain to be seen.


Apple Silicon chips will be built with Neural Engines and Machine Learning Accelerators to make Macs ideal platforms for machine learning. Other technologies include a high-quality camera processor, performance controller, high-performance DRAM, unified memory, and cryptography acceleration.

Apple can also take advantage of the technologies already built into Macs, such as the T2 chip that integrates the system management controller, image signal processor, SSD controller, Secure Engine, and Touch ID, plus it will have full control over both software and hardware integration for a streamlined experience.

Ditching Intel

Apple's current Macs use x86 chips from Intel, while its iPhones and iPads use Arm-based chips. x86 chips and Arm chips are built using different architectures, so the transition from x86 to Arm will take some work.


Apple has been using Intel's chips in its Mac lineup since 2006 after transitioning away from PowerPC processors, which has meant that Apple has been subject to Intel's release timelines, chip delays, and security issues, which have, at times, negatively affected Apple's own device release plans.

Apple has cited platform consolidation and performance advantages as reasons for ditching Intel chips, but one former Intel engineer claimed that Intel's issues with Skylake chips drove Apple to speed up development of its Arm-based chips. There have been rumors about Apple designing its own Mac chips since 2014, so the decision to stop using Intel chips has been in the works for a long time.

Swapping to house-made chips lets Apple release updates on its own schedule and with more regular technology improvements, plus Apple is also able to differentiate its devices from competing products with tight integration between software and hardware, similar to its iOS platform and A-series chips.

Apple's Arm-Based Chips for iOS Devices

Apple uses an Arm-based architecture for its A-series chips in the ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌, and each year, those chips get faster and more efficient. In fact, when introducing the latest A12 and A13 chips, Apple has made it a point to emphasize that these chips are faster than many Intel-based chips in competing devices.

The 2018 and 2020 iPad Pro models with A12X and A12Z chips, for example, are close in speed to the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro models, and the A12Z is even used as the chip in a test machine designed to help developers build apps for the new Arm architecture.


Apple's A-series chip packages include custom-built GPUs, Secure Enclave, memory and storage controllers, machine learning processors, Image Signal Processing, custom encryption, and more, all of which will be applied to Mac processors.

Arm Chips in Current Macs

The ‌MacBook Pro‌, MacBook Air, iMac Pro, Mac mini, and Mac Pro are already equipped with Apple-designed Arm processors, in the form of the T1 and T2 chips that power the Touch Bar and other features in these machines.


The T2 chip in particular integrates several components, including the system management controller, image signal processor, SSD controller, and a Secure Enclave with a hardware-based encryption engine in addition to powering the Touch Bar and ‌Touch ID‌.

Common iOS and Mac Architecture

With Apple designing its own chips for iOS devices and Macs, there will be a common architecture across all Mac product lines, which will make it easier for developers to write and optimize software that runs on all Apple products.

In fact, apps designed for the ‌iPhone‌ and the ‌iPad‌ will run on Apple Silicon natively when the first Mac with an Apple-designed chip is released, and those apps will be able to be downloaded from the Mac App Store.

Easing the Transition

macOS Big Sur is equipped with tools to help both developers and Apple customers transition from Intel chips to Apple Silicon. All Apple apps, including Apple's pro apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, are already running natively on Apple Silicon.

Companies like Adobe and Microsoft are already working on apps that will run natively on Apple Silicon, and following WWDC, other developers can get started as well.

Developers can use the Xcode beta to get their apps up and running on Apple Silicon in just a matter of days, and Apple has developed a new Universal 2 binary that works on Intel Macs and Macs built on Apple Silicon so developers can still support Intel Macs with a single binary for all users.

Apple has also launched a Quick Start Program to help developers create apps for Apple Silicon and take advantage of all the features it has to offer. The Quick Start Program includes documentation, sample code, lab access, forums, DTS support, and a Developer Transition Kit.


The Developer Transition Kit is a ‌Mac mini‌ equipped with an A12Z chip from the ‌iPad Pro‌. It also features 16GB RAM, a 512GB SSD, a pair of 10 Gbps USB-C ports, a pair of 5 Gbps USB-A ports, and an HDMI 2.0 port.


Developers need to shell out $500 for the DTK, and it comes with a number of restrictions against tearing the machine down, using it for work other than development related to the program, or renting or leasing it out.

Geekbench benchmarks of the Developer Transition Kit suggest that the A12Z-based ‌Mac mini‌ has average single-core and multi-core scores of 811 and 2,781 respectively. Geekbench is running through Apple's Rosetta 2 transition layer, so the slower performance than the A12Z chip in the ‌iPad Pro‌ is to be expected.


Notably, Apple's A12Z under Rosetta 2 outperforms Microsoft's Arm-based Surface Pro X in Geekbench performance, running x86_64 code in emulation faster than the Surface Pro X can run an Arm version natively.

Support for Intel Macs

Apple will continue to release software updates for Intel Macs for years after the transition to Apple Silicon, so those who purchase Intel-based Macs can expect to receive macOS updates throughout the life of their machines.

Running Intel Apps on Apple Silicon

Apple expects most developers to develop native apps immediately, but users will be able to run Intel apps on day one even if those apps haven't been updated, thanks to Rosetta 2, a translation process that runs in the background and is invisible to the user.

Rosetta 2 translates existing Intel apps so they work on Macs equipped with Apple Silicon quickly, seamlessly, and without issues. Apple has demoed Rosetta 2 with apps and games and there's no difference between running an Intel app on an Intel machine and on an Apple Silicon machine. All of the features work and the software is just as quick.

Apple is also introducing new virtualization technologies that will let developers run Linux or tools like Docker. Rosetta 2 will not support virtualization using apps like VMWare or Parallels, so it won't be possible to run Windows using that method unless the apps are rebuilt for Apple Silicon, and it's not clear if that's a possibility at this time in regard to licensing.

Apple is aware of the situation with virtualization and Windows, but has not said if there's another solution in the works.

No Boot Camp

Windows will not operate in Boot Camp mode on Macs that run Apple Silicon as Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on Arm to OEMs and has no current plans make an Arm-based version of Windows freely available.

Apple has also said that it does not plan to support Boot Camp on its future Macs. "We're not direct booting an alternate operating system," Apple software engineering chief Craig Federighi said. "Purely virtualization is the route."

Recovery Interface, Security and Target Disk Mode

At ‌WWDC 2020‌, Apple has been providing developers with details on how Apple Silicon Macs will work, and there will be a new system for accessing macOS recovery and security options at startup.


Current Intel Macs have recovery options accessed at boot-up that use various key commands like Command-R, but on Apple Silicon Macs, there will be a Startup Manager Interface accessible by holding down on the power button.

The Startup Manager Interface will allow for recovery options like reinstalling macOS, booting as normal, shutting down, and restarting.

Startup Disk, another new feature, lets a user select different security modes for startup volumes. Full security is enabled by default for the same security available through Apple's iOS devices.


Reduced security mode is more flexible, allowing users to disable System Integrity Protection and run any version of macOS, including those no longer signed by Apple.

Target Disk Mode, used to transfer files from one Mac to another, is being replaced with a Mac Sharing Mode that turns the Apple Silicon Mac into an SMB file sharing server to provide another Mac with file-level access to user data with user authentication.

Apple Silicon Macs and Thunderbolt Support

Apple is transitioning away from Intel's chips in its Mac and is instead opting to use Apple Silicon chips, but Apple will continue to support Intel's Thunderbolt USB-C standard. In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said that Apple Silicon Macs will work with Thunderbolt.


Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop Thunderbolt, and today our customers enjoy the speed and flexibility it brings to every Mac. We remain committed to the future of Thunderbolt and will support it in Macs with Apple silicon.

Multiple Arm-Based Chips in the Works

Apple is working on a family of SoCs for the Mac product line to give the Mac a unique set of features along with "incredible performance." Apple didn't go into detail on the different Mac chips that it's working on, but rumors have indicated Apple is developing at least three Mac processors based on the A14 chip in the upcoming 2020 iPhones.

At least one of those three processors is said to be much faster than the A-series chips in the iPhones and iPads, and the first Mac chips will feature 12 cores, including eight high-performance cores and at least four energy-efficient cores.

Apple is also working on second-generation Mac processors based on the A15 chip.

When Will Apple Release an Arm-Based Mac?

Apple at WWDC said that the first Mac that uses Apple Silicon will be introduced before the end of 2020. Apple plans to transition all of its Macs to Apple Silicon, a process that will take two years.

The First Arm-Based Mac?

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the first Macs that will adopt Apple's custom chips will be a refreshed 13.3-inch ‌MacBook Pro‌ and a redesigned 24-inch iMac, with the updated machines to launch in the fourth quarter of 2020 or early in 2021.

Apple has confirmed that the first Mac with Apple Silicon is set to be released in late 2020, but has provided no information on which Mac will be the first to get one of the new chips.

Guide Feedback

Have questions about Apple's work on Arm-based Macs or want to offer feedback on this guide? Send us an email here.

Related Articles

Apple's Arm-Based Macs With Apple Silicon Chips Will Support Thunderbolt

Wednesday July 8, 2020 3:14 pm PDT by
Apple is working on Macs that use its custom Apple-designed Apple Silicon chips instead of Intel chips, but Apple has committed to continuing to support Thunderbolt, reports The Verge. In a statement, an Apple spokesperson said that Apple's upcoming machines will offer support for Intel's Thunderbolt USB-C standard. "Over a decade ago, Apple partnered with Intel to design and develop...

Apple's A12Z Under Rosetta Outperforms Microsoft's Native Arm-Based Surface Pro X

Monday June 29, 2020 10:31 am PDT by
Apple's Developer Transition Kit equipped with an A12Z iPad Pro chip began arriving in the hands of developers this morning to help them get their apps ready for Macs running Apple Silicon, and though forbidden, the first thing some developers did was benchmark the machine. Multiple Geekbench results have indicated that the Developer Transition Kit, which is a Mac mini with an iPad Pro chip, ...

Rosetta 2 Benchmarks Surface From Mac Mini With A12Z Chip

Monday June 29, 2020 7:48 am PDT by
While the terms and conditions for Apple's new "Developer Transition Kit" forbid developers from running benchmarks on the modified Mac mini with an A12Z chip, it appears that results are beginning to surface anyhow. Image Credit: Radek Pietruszewski Geekbench results uploaded so far suggest that the A12Z-based Mac mini has average single-core and multi-core scores of 811 and 2,781...

Developers Begin Receiving Mac Mini With A12Z Chip to Prepare Apps for Apple Silicon Macs

Monday June 29, 2020 5:43 am PDT by
As part of WWDC last week, Apple announced that it will be switching to its own custom-designed processors for Macs starting later this year. As part of this transition, the company is allowing developers to apply for a modified Mac mini with an A12Z chip and 16GB of RAM to develop and test their apps on a Mac with Arm-based architecture. As noted on Twitter and in the MacRumors forums, some...

Former Intel Engineer Claims Buggy Skylake Chips Hastened Apple's Switch to Custom Silicon

Thursday June 25, 2020 3:20 am PDT by
At this week's WWDC, Apple confirmed its plan to switch from Intel to custom processors for its Macs over a two-year transition period. Apple said that the switch is all about platform consolidation and performance advantages, but at least one former Intel insider claims that quality control issues with Skylake chips was the reason Apple finally decided to to ditch Intel. "The quality...

Apple Silicon Macs to Feature New Boot and Recovery Interface, New Mac Sharing Mode Replacing Target Disk Mode

Thursday June 25, 2020 2:25 am PDT by
Apple Silicon Macs will introduce a new system for accessing macOS recovery and security options at startup, Apple explained at a WWDC session on Wednesday. The new Startup UI on Apple Silicon powered Macs Existing Macs include a number of macOS Recovery options at boot-up that are accessed using key combinations. For example, Command-R boots Macs in Recovery mode, and Command-Option-P-R...

PSA for Developers: Mac Mini With A12Z Chip Cannot Be Repaired at Genius Bar or Service Provider

Wednesday June 24, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
Apple this week announced that it will be switching to its own custom-designed processors for Macs starting later this year. As part of this transition, the company is allowing developers to apply for a modified Mac mini with an A12Z chip and 16GB of RAM to develop and test their apps on a Mac with Arm-based architecture. While not too surprising, developers should be aware that this...

Rosetta Won't Support x86 Virtualization Apps Running Windows

Tuesday June 23, 2020 3:35 pm PDT by
Apple yesterday announced plans to build future Macs with its own custom silicon chips, and to ease the transition away from Intel processors, Apple revived the "Rosetta" feature that allowed PowerPC apps to run on Intel processors during the PowerPC to Intel transition. Now revived, Rosetta will allow users to run apps that contain x86_64 instructions on Apple silicon, which means...

Apple Filed for 'Apple Rosetta' Trademark in Japan Earlier This Year

Sunday June 21, 2020 11:09 pm PDT by
As noted in Asahi.com, on April 30th of this year, Apple applied for a trademark for the term "Apple Rosetta" in Japan. The original Rosetta software from 2005 Rosetta was the name for Apple's emulation software that allowed PowerPC apps to run under Intel processors. Apple introduced Rosetta in MacOS X 10.4 (Tiger) to provide a compatibility layer for Mac users while the company transitione...

Bloomberg's WWDC Expectations: Arm-Based Chips and New Software, Hardware Updates Coming Later This Year

Sunday June 21, 2020 10:25 am PDT by
Apple will announce Arm-based chips and new software updates at WWDC, but hardware isn't expected until later in the year, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. As Gurman said earlier this month, Apple will unveil its work on custom designed chips that use Arm technology, but no Macs will launch with the hardware until late 2020 or early 2021. Apple is announcing the chips early to provide...

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

Friday June 12, 2020 9:18 am PDT by
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...

Apple Expected to Announce Arm-Based Mac Plans at WWDC, Transition Away From Intel to Begin in 2021

Tuesday June 9, 2020 4:56 am PDT by
Apple plans to announce its upcoming shift to Arm-based Macs at its virtual WWDC event later this month, giving developers several months to prepare for the transition, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The report claims that the first Arm-based Macs will be released in 2021, adding that Apple plans to eventually transition its entire lineup of Mac notebooks and desktops to the...

Bloomberg: Apple's First Arm Mac to Launch by 2021 With 12-Core Processor

Thursday April 23, 2020 4:45 am PDT by
In line with a timeframe shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo last month, Bloomberg today reports that Apple is planning to release at least one Mac with its own custom-designed Arm-based processor by 2021. The report claims that Apple is developing three Mac processors based on the A14 chip in upcoming iPhone 12 models. At least one of these processors will apparently be much faster than the...

Kuo: Apple to Launch Several Macs With Arm-Based Processors in 2021, USB4 Support Coming to Macs in 2022

Thursday March 26, 2020 8:19 pm PDT by
Apple plans to launch several Mac notebooks and desktop computers with its own custom designed Arm-based processors in 2021, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Kuo believes that Arm-based processors will significantly enhance the competitive advantage of the Mac lineup, allow Apple to refresh its Mac models without relying on Intel's processor roadmap,...

Arm Processors with Mac Pro Level Performance Possible Today

Sunday March 8, 2020 10:28 pm PDT by
Former Apple executive and Be Inc. founder Jean-Louis Gassée explores the possibility of Apple's move to Arm-based Macs in the near future. The speculation comes amidst of increasing rumors that Apple will be launching Arm-based Macs as early as 2021. Gassée explains he was previously skeptical about the ability for Arm-based processors to achieve performance parity with current Intel...

Mac With Apple-Designed Arm Processor Coming in First Half of 2021

Monday February 24, 2020 8:18 am PST by
Apple's first Mac with a processor designed in house is set to be released during the first half of 2021, Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo said in a note to investors this morning that was obtained by MacRumors. There are no other details provided about the new Mac that's in the works, but the detail confirms multiple past rumors that have suggested Apple is working on custom Arm-based processors...

Apple Hires ARM's Lead CPU Architect Amid Rumors of ARM-Based Macs as Early as 2020

Wednesday June 26, 2019 9:18 am PDT by
Multiple reports have indicated that Apple plans to transition to its own ARM-based processors in Macs starting as early as 2020, and the company recently made a significant hire that lends credence to that objective. ARM's lead CPU and system architect Mike Filippo joined Apple last month, based out of the Austin, Texas area, according to his LinkedIn profile. Filippo led the development of ...

Intel Expecting Apple to Transition to Custom ARM-Based Chips Starting in 2020

Thursday February 21, 2019 12:36 pm PST by
Apple is planning to ditch Intel and transition to Mac chips starting in 2020, based on multiple rumors we've heard in the past from Bloomberg. Axios today confirmed Bloomberg's reporting and said that multiple sources have suggested Apple will transition to custom ARM-based chips next year. According to Axios, developers and Intel officials are expecting Apple to begin using ARM-based chips...

Apple Plans to Ditch Intel and Use Custom Mac Chips Starting in 2020

Monday April 2, 2018 11:11 am PDT by
Apple is planning to transition from Intel chips to its own custom made Mac chips as early as 2020, reports Bloomberg. Apple's initiative, reportedly code named "Kalamata," is part of an effort to make Macs, iPhones, and iPads work "more similarly and seamlessly together" according to unspecified sources that spoke to Bloomberg. Apple already designs its own A-series chips found in iPhones and ...

Apple Developing ARM-Based Mac Chip to Handle Low-Power Functions Alongside Intel Processors

Wednesday February 1, 2017 12:28 pm PST by
Apple is developing a new ARM-based chip for its Mac lineup that would "take on more of the functionality" handled by Intel processors, reports Bloomberg. In development since last year, the chip, codenamed T310, is said to be similar to the chip used to power the Touch Bar in the new 2016 Macbook Pro. It's built using ARM technology and will work with the standard Intel processor, handling...