Apple Chip Series Explained
Updated: Oct 6, 2019
In this article, I will take you on a tour of all the Apple Chip Series and its purpose in your beloved Apple Device. For the sake of simplicity, I will be covering only those series that are currently in production.
The Apple A series is the heavy lifter in your iPhone, iPad and iPod. The function of the A series is of the CPU in your computer/laptop. There are rumors about Apple bringing in ARM-based CPUs into the Macintosh lineup as well (click here for the latest news and rumors). VentureBeat has done a neat article on this. There are 2 types of A-series processors every year since the A8 launch.
The "Bionic" chipset from Apple is found on all iPhones post the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. It stands out from vanilla A series chips due to the inclusion of a neural engine. The first Bionic chip was the A11, that shipped with the iPhone 8 series and iPhone X (10 not /ɛks/). The neural engine aids in face recognition, to offer the smooth performance we get while using FaceID, debuted in the iPhone X.
The latest is the A13 bionic found in the Apple iPhone 11 series.
The AX series is reserved for iPad Pro series with the exception of A8X which was used in the iPad Air 2. These are high-performance chips with sometimes up to twice the number of high-performance cores.
The Apple H series chips are designed solely for its audio devices, like the 2019 AirPods and certain Beats headphones. The H1 series found in the 2019 AirPods offer Bluetooth 5.0 and much lower latency (around 30%) compared to the W1 chip used in the first AirPods.
The M series chips are what Apple calls the Motion co-processors, i.e. it's meant to support the main A-series processor. The M7 is the very first of its kind and was launched with the iPhone 5s, back in 2017.
The primary job of the M series chips is to store and relay data from the on-board sensors on your iPhone. Using a dedicated chip instead of an A-series ensures very little power draw and improved battery life. Data from accelerometer, gyroscope and barometer are recorded for instance during workouts, therefore, leaving the main processor free to do more laborious tasks or nothing at all. Since the M9, all of them can recognize voice commands to Siri.
The S series chips are found in your Apple Watches, with the S1 debuting along with the first Apple Watch. They are designed to provide all the computation power needed by the Apple Watch as well as communication modules like LTE and GPS.
The U series chips (only U1 as of now) make use of ultra-wideband technology. The tech is not invented by Apple and was used in huge industries to keep track of equipment as they offer unprecedented spatial awareness using Time of Flight (ToF) technology. (Wired explains this pretty well)
The U1 chip is found in the latest iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max and is meant to track lost iPhones easily. The U1 chip also makes file sharing through AirDrop easier as pointing at the target Apple device (which too has a U series chip) will make it appear first on the list of available devices.
The ultra-wideband technology can provide accuracy of around 30 cm which is magnitudes less than what Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) offers (around a meter).
Head over here to know what the U1 is capable of.
The W series is found AirPods, Apple Watches and select Beats headphones. The purpose of these chips is to provide low latency, high-quality audio.
The W series chips are designed to maintain Bluetooth Class 1 connection (100mW power output with a maximum range of 100 meters) with your Apple Device (which doesn't need to have it). The W series chips also pack a punch when it comes to Wi-Fi providing a faster and more efficient connection in your Apple Watches.
The T series chips are used in MacBooks and provide a secure enclave for processing and encryption of your fingerprints. The T series chips run a stripped-down version of WatchOS called the BridgeOS. Bridge since they offer controlled access to the resources it guards which includes TouchID, microphone and FaceTime camera to protect your devices from malicious attacks targetting these.