This year, Apple released its newest M1 chip based on the ARM architecture, and it is available on MacBook Air, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro.
But what makes this so special? Is technology new and groundbreaking? How will it affect developers working on iOS software? Here, we will take a deeper look at the Apple M1 chip and every question and challenge that comes with it.
What Is ARM?
ARM or Advanced RISC Machine (it was initially named Acorn RISC Machine) was first introduced in the ’80s. Apple had ARM6 in the nineties, and it continued experimenting with this architecture for tablets and smartphones.
The main benefit of ARM CPUs is in power and speed. ARM performs a smaller number of instructions, leading to higher speeds. At least in theory. These processors found their way to wearable devices, smartphones, tablets, and such.
Why Is It Important?
The main for this change is Apple’s desire to differentiate itself from Intel. Previous models of MacBook all used Intel CPUs, and it was the strategy for the last fifteen years. Steve Jobs announced in 2005 that the Apple products would switch from PowerPC to Intel chips since Apple was not able to achieve its goals using sluggish PowerPC chips.
How this switch leads us to believe that they were planning to make an important change or upgrade and that Intel is somehow holding them back.
What You Need to Know About Apple Announcements
One of the first things that might be interesting for developers is that all iOS apps will run natively on new M1 Macs. There will be no need for emulation. As a result, the same app will work on iOS devices like your iPhone or iPad, as well as MacBooks just from a single purchase.
When Apple announced Swift Playground, a platform to help users learn how to code using Swift, people can now combine work using iPad, Mac, or any other Apple device. This was all enabled by Mac Catalyst, a platform that allows Mac apps to easily share code with iPad apps so that the developer can simultaneously develop an app for both platforms, and they can choose to add additional features.
Potential Challenges Developers Might Face
In theory, everything is fantastic. You will design an app using Catalyst, and you can easily port it to macOS Big Sur. The app will automatically adopt the new design, and you can update it with new features in no time.
However, Catalyst apps have not been exceptional. In addition, Apple will need to figure out a way to make everything work on ARM-based chips, as well as how to make a transition from previous Intel Macs.
It’s not a surprise that Apple planned this transition for a while now. In 2012, there has been a lot of talk about how powerful smartphone CPUs are, and it was a matter of time before they were able to design an ARM processor worthy of a desktop PC.
Benefits for Users and Developers
Apple TV used Intel chips in the past. However, as soon as they started making their own A-series chips, the subscription price went from $300 to $99; that is roughly a 66% percent discount. We can only assume what impact it would have on the price of the future MacBooks.
Also, ARM allows for significant improvement in performance, which challenges other chip producers to step up their R&D activities.
How Long Will It Take to Transition?
It will take the company two years to move completely to Apple Silicon, according to their own statements. The reason is that even at the time of the announcement (June), there were already a lot of Macs in the pipeline that still uses Intel CPUs. We can safely assume that Intel Macs are near their end and that we can expect new models at the beginning of 2021, with the company completely shifting its focus towards the newer generations.
Ever since the announcement, the buzz hasn’t stopped: Will they change the market? Read more in our latest blog post on ARM1.
If you combine M1 chips, Mac Catalyst, and new ways of developing apps, it is obvious that there are a lot of possibilities and potential for new Apple models. We hope they will make a world of difference as Apple expects.
For all of you looking to learn more about development, or if you are in need of an app, you can always contact us at The BlockBox. We would love to assist you with any problem you might have.