There’s quite a lot of evidence suggesting that Apple may ditch Intel processors in favor of its own Mac chips sometime in the future. That’s a massive deal, as computer experts and the tech-savvy among us know.
But how does a switch to ARM chips impact the average consumer? Whether you’re familiar with ARM architecture or not, continue reading to learn about the pros and cons of an ARM-based Mac future.
PRO ✅ Speed & Performance Boosts
ARM-based Macs could offer users significant advantages in performance and battery life — if Apple is able to implement it. Additionally, ARM chips may even run cooler than Intel chips, which could mitigate some of the thermal performance issues seen in Apple’s MacBook Pro lineup.
Apple is a key innovator in ARM-based chips. Just take a look at its A-series SoCs. The latest A12 Bionic chip is nearly as fast as many desktop-class CPUs by some metrics. Combined with the fact that Apple controls the software and would be able to integrate it tightly with hardware components, significant boosts to speed are probably on the table.
CON 🚫 It Could Break Apps
Mac apps that are made for the Intel architecture wouldn’t work on an ARM-based Mac. Because of that, most apps that you currently use would have to be updated to work. As you probably know, that could be a long and tedious transition for both developers and consumers.
More than that, Apple could actually exercise more control over apps on ARM macOS by mandating that all compatible apps be offered through the Mac App Store. While that may come with some security benefits, it’ll also mean that Mac users may lose access to many popular programs.
PRO ✅ It Would Be Cheaper for Apple and You
Intel controls a massive segment of the processor market. It does so by creating CPUs that are fairly advanced — and therefore hard to mimic or compete against. Because of that, Intel is able to pad the prices it charges hardware makers for the chips that they use. Going first-party could fix this.
It’s likely that Apple will be able to produce A-series Mac chips for far less than comparable Intel chips. Just take a look at the Apple TV for an example. While the first-generation Apple TV used an Intel-based chip, subsequent generations switched to the A-series — which resulted in significant price drops.
CON 🚫 Apple Is Still Playing Catch-up
Apple has made massive strides in producing top-tier silicon, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that it’s still years behind Intel in certain areas. Apple just doesn’t have the current manufacturing and fabrication infrastructure built out. That means that Apple is still somewhat early in its silicon-making history.
Because of that, it may take some time for Apple to actually develop an ARM-based Mac chip that can offer the full capabilities of an x86 Intel chipset. And there’s no guarantee that the company won’t run into problems and bottlenecks in the future — a key consideration in a switch to ARM that we’ll get to later.
PRO ✅ ARM Could Be More Secure
Apple’s A-series chips are inherently more secure than Intel’s processors. That much is evident when you consider all of the massive security vulnerabilities that Intel’s hardware has suffered in the past couple of years. From Spectre and Meltdown to ZombieLoad, there’s a lot wrong with Intel chips from a security standpoint.
Compare that to the A-series chip. Apple’s iPhones and iPads are notoriously hard to break into. In addition to the encryption and security features that Apple bakes into its products, there’s no doubt that the fact that the A-series chips are ARM plays a part in their security, too. In other words, an ARM Mac could be a lot harder to exploit.
CON 🚫 It’s a Risk and It May Get Messy
While a transition to ARM-based Macs could break apps, there are other complications that could arise, too. For one, requiring apps to be distributed through the Mac App Store may lose Apple support in the larger developer community. Some apps could even suffer in the transition — particular those that rely on existing GPUs for graphical performance.
All of this means that a switch to ARM-based processors could be a massive risk. That’s especially true since the Mac makes up a relatively small portion of Apple’s total revenue growth. Compared to iPhone or Services, Apple could decide that a total divorce with Intel and its Mac chips may not be worth the gamble.
PRO ✅ Apple Could Avoid Delays
One of the main reasons why Apple is likely considering ditching Intel is the chipmaker’s lagging timelines in recent years. Intel has struggled to get certain chips and chip technologies out on time — which has, in turn, impacted Apple’s ability to debut new Macs with the latest and greatest hardware.
Controlling the entire chip supply chain would give Apple an advantage when it comes to on-time delivery of products. When’s the last time you heard an iPhone was being delayed or was outfitted with an older chip because an A-series wasn’t ready? That’s not to say that it couldn’t happen in the future, but Apple would have a lot more control over the process.