Does Apple Make Their Own Processors?

As time has gone by, Apple has increasingly designed its products’ internal components.

Wondering does Apple make their own processors? It’s not a silly question. That’s because, despite hundreds of devices from dozens of manufactures (think: Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s PlayStation, Android phones, smartwatches, etc) few device makers make the actual processors in their products.

For example, the Xbox Series X uses an AMD processor. So does the PlayStation 5. Most Android phones use Qualcomm processors. In other words, the makers of most devices don’t make the actual chips that go inside and power the devices.

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Apple’s Chip History

And for much of Apple’s device’s history, the same was true. But in recent years Apple has begun designing and making its own chips. For example, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, most Apple computers had some form of PowerPC G-series chip inside, like the G3, G4, or G5. Though these chips were synonymous with Apple computers, Apple didn’t make them – Motorola mostly did.

But in the mid-2000s, Apple switched from the Motorola-designed PowerPC chips to Intel chips. Apple did this because by the early 2000s Intel chips were the best in the personal computer market.

In other words, Apple was fine letting other companies design CPUs for its products. That is, until the iPhone…

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The Apple A-series Chip

For the first serial iterations of the iPhone, Apple used chips designed by third parties, just like it had been doing for years with its computers. But then the iPhone 4 changed everything. The iPhone 4 was the first iPhone to feature a chip that was designed by Apple itself.

It was known as the A4 chip and the first of the official A-series custom Apple Silicon (the A4 actually debuted in Apple’s original iPad earlier in the year before Apple brought to the iPhone).

By taking over the design of the iPhone’s chips, Apple could better meld their hardware and software together, which lead to their devices being more powerful and less power-hungry.

An A-series chip has been included in every iPhone since the iPhone 4.

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The Apple S-series Chip

But Apple was just getting warmed up with the A-series chips. When Apple introduced the Apple Watch years later, the Watch shipped with custom Apple silicon too. The CPU in the Apple Watch is known as the S-series.

The Apple T-, W-, H-, & U-series Chip

Yeah, this isn’t a joke: Apple actually makes a TON of custom processors. For example, the Apple T-series, which includes the T1 and T2, is a system controller found in MacBooks and iMacs.

The W-series was the custom chip found in the original AirPods. The H-series is the predecessor to the W-series and is found in newer AirPods. 

Finally, the U-series is a chip, the U1, found in various Apple devices including iPhones, HomePod mini, Apple Watch, and AirTags. The U-series allows devices to know where they are to a hyper-local extent.

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The Apple M-series Chip

But what most people mean when they ask “does Apple make their own processors?” is “does Apple make their own laptop and desktop processors. And that answer is yes. Starting in 2020, Apple began transitioning away from Intel chips in its Mac computers.

In 2020, Apple introduced the M1 chipset and in 2021 Apple introduced the M1 Pro and M1 Pro Max chipsets. Now an M-series chip powers all MacBooks and iMacs. Apple is expected to finish transitioning its computers (the Mac Pro) to M-series chips by the end of 2022.

Michael Grothaus

Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.