Apple Reveals its Secret Lab for Manufacturing iPhone and Mac Chips for the First Time

Apple Reveals its Secret Lab for Manufacturing iPhone and Mac Chips for the First Time

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Apple muestra por primera vez el laboratorio donde fabrica los chips de los iPhone y Mac

Apple has been committed to creating unique devices that set it apart from other brands. This not only applies to the design of the company’s products but also to its internal components. This is a relatively recent development, as Apple finally abandoned Intel and AMD in favor of its most powerful Mac Pro models. A recent interview reveals for the first time one of the laboratories where Apple develops its custom chips for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

The iPhone was launched in 2007, and it was a true innovation at the time, with no real competitor against it. However, long before this, we have the Apple Mac, whose origins date back to early 1984. Since that first generation of Macs, we have seen many variations geared towards high-performance PCs and laptops. In the 1990s, we saw early laptop prototypes like the Macintosh Portable and the PowerBook 100, a 16 MHz miniature laptop. The early 2000s brought the iMac G4, the beginning of what we now consider All-in-One (AIO) PCs.

Apple has shown one of its laboratories where chips for the iPhone, Mac, and other devices are tested

Today, these Apple computers continue to exist, with the iMac still being produced and MacBook laptops more popular than ever. All of these have been updated and now use Apple’s chips. The Cupertino-based tech giant has been developing its own chips since 2008 because the first iPhone in 2007 used a 90 nm Samsung processor. The following year, Jonhy Srouji began working on the first custom chip for the iPhone, drawing on his previous experience at Intel and IBM. At that time, Apple had only 40-50 engineers dedicated to chip creation, making the team small compared to the current one.

Two years later, Apple launched its first custom chip, the A4, which powered the iPhone 4 and the first iPad. Fast-forward to the present day, and the Apple Silicon team has thousands of engineers working in laboratories worldwide. CNBC was privileged to visit one of these “chip labs,” as Apple calls them. One thing that stands out is that there are dozens of machines testing the MacBook M3 chips and the iPhone 15 A17 Pro chips. In addition to the M and A series chips, the company also designs the S series for the Apple Watch, the H and W for AirPods, the U for AirTag, and finally the R (R1) for the Vision Pro glasses.

By not selling its chips to external customers, Apple can focus on optimizing performance and scalability

According to Srouji, one of the keys to Apple’s ability to deliver high performance and efficiency in its chips lies in a simple concept: they do not manufacture processors for customers. Apple does not sell its chips to others and, as a result, focuses on its products and seeks to get the best out of each version. Moreover, this allows them to develop chips with scalable architecture that can be adapted to several of their products. Thanks to this approach, we see how the M1, M2, and recent M3 chips can be used in iPads as well as MacBook Air or MacBook Pro laptops, increasing the number of CPU and GPU cores if there is more cooling capacity.

Although Apple has managed to create highly efficient and high-performing SoCs for laptops, smartphones, and PCs, not all of their chips have been successful. Their development of a proprietary 5G modem was recently canceled, and they will continue to rely on Qualcomm. On the other hand, the company plans to launch its own Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chips in the future, although it currently depends on Broadcom.

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