How Apple Built a Chip Powerhouse to Threaten Qualcomm and Intel
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The company already makes many of the chips for its iPhones, iPads, Macs and Watches.

By Mark GurmanMark Gurman

For several years, Apple has been steadily designing more and more of the chips powering its iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches. This creates a better user experience and helps trump rivals. Recently the company got a fresh incentive to go all-in on silicon: revelations that microprocessors with components designed by Intel Corp., Arm Holdings Plc and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. are vulnerable to hacking.

Steve Jobs long believed Apple should own the technologies inside its products rather than rely on mashups of components from other chip makers, including Samsung, Intel and Imagination Technologies. In 2008, the company made a small but significant step in that direction by acquiring boutique chip maker P.A. Semi. Two years later, Jobs unveiled the iPad. The world focused on the tablet’s giant touchscreen, book-reading prowess and creativity apps. But the most ground-breaking technology was hidden away inside: the A4, Apple’s first processor designed in-house.

That original “system-on-a-chip” has since been succeeded by increasingly powerful processors. Today, Apple packs its devices with custom components that process artificial intelligence tasks, track your steps, power game graphics, secure Face ID or Touch ID data, run the Apple Watch, pair AirPods to your phone and help make Macs work the way they do. The result: a chip powerhouse that could one day threaten the dominance of Qualcomm Inc. and even, eventually, Intel.

The iPhone and iPad Engine

Apple's most important mobile device chip

iPhone 5S A42010 A5X2012 A6 2 0 12 A6X2012 A52011 A72013 A82014 A8X2014 A92015 A9X2015 A10Fusion2016 A11 Bionic2017 A10XFusion2017 AppleintegratedGPU M11 M10 M9 M8 M7 Motion Co-ProcessorA chip that measures your movements. Secure ElementA secure vault that stores your payment and biometric data. Graphics Processor Unit (GPU)The engine that powers graphics for gaming and other intensive tasks. Neural EngineA processor for improving AI and machine learning apps. NeuralEngine First 64-bit Apple SoC First motion-tracking iPhone chip to track steps First Apple chip with two high-performance and two energy-efficient components First Apple chip with two high- performance and four energy-efficient components First Apple SoC SECUREELEMENT First to measure elevation First chip to store Touch ID and payment data First chips optimized to support higher -resolution iPad screen Optimized for larger iPhone screens First Apple custom designed graphics chip. Previously designed by Imagination Technologies. Apple HomePod