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iOS Changes for ARM M1

Nena Vuckovic

This year was an important one for Apple users, thanks to a bunch of updates and upgrades. 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. Many companies tried their hand at this architecture, and one of the companies was Apple. 

Apple had ARM6 in the nineties, and it continued experimenting with this architecture for tablets and smartphones. A couple of years ago, there was a generation of Windows 10 ARM laptops. But, they didn’t have as significant an impact as designers hoped for. 

The primary difference between ARM CPUs and those made by Intel and AMD is in power consumption and speed. ARM processors come in both 32- and 64-bit versions, but the idea behind them is to perform 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. 

It remains to be seen how they will perform in laptops once the next generation of MacBooks with ARM M1 arrives next year. One thing is certain — it will cause a stir in the market. 

Why Is It Important?

The main difference between older and next-gen Apple products is that the company is trying 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, and it made quite a lot of difference. 

The primary reason for the switch was simple — Apple was not able to make products they intended using PowerPC chips. That leads us to believe that they were planning to make an important change or upgrade and that Intel is somehow holding them back. 

Of course, that is why Apple users might be excited and why this is important for them. Any form of improvement is great. But, they aren’t the only group affected. The main question now is how will this affect developers and what kind of change can they expect. Moreover, what types of software will work on the new Mac lineup? What do they need to do to port apps, and will it all be worth the cost?

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. That means that each app will run better, faster, and smoother. As a result, the same app will work on iOS devices like your iPhone or iPad, as well as MacBooks. 

The difference came to light when Apple announced Swift Playground, a platform to help users learn how to code using Swift. Previously, the platform was only available on the iPad. Now, everyone can use it on Mac too. Thanks to iCloud, people can now combine work using iPad, Mac, or any other Apple device. All of this is possible, thanks to Mac Catalyst. 

Mac Catalyst is a platform that allows Mac apps to easily share code with iPad apps. So, the developer can simultaneously develop an app for both platforms, and they can choose to add additional features. For example, during the creation of an iOS app, the developer can decide whether they want the app to be available on Mac too. That will allow them to opt for the touchscreen as the only form of navigation or to add mouse and keyboard support.

Naturally, all of that will depend on the very nature of the software and whether the company wants the app available across all platforms. Furthermore, if there is already an app for Mac, there is no reason to create iOS that will be available on the Mac platform. 

That is especially exciting since Apple announced universal purchases. Namely, you will be able to distribute apps to iOS, macOS, iPadOS, and even tvOS, with a single app purchase. 

Potential Challenges Developers Might Face

In theory, everything sounds 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. 

Catalyst apps have not been exceptional. There is obviously a lot of work ahead for developers. That also means that they 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. 

Naturally, we will need to wait and see how all of this will play out in the next couple of months. It seems that the main problem is compatibility. 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. 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

Finally, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of switching from Intel-based CPUs. If we take a look at performance per watt, ARM makes a significant difference. Power consumption will be lower, and it will challenge other companies (like AMD and Intel) to step up their game if they want to compete. 

More importantly, moving away from Intel will mean lower production costs. 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 three times les money that users need to pay. And it is all thanks to new chips. Of course, we can’t even begin to assume what the future price of MacBooks will be. There is a chance that there will be a significant drop in price if ARM chips prove to be on par with Intel ones. 

The best thing about it is that Apple CPUs have a lot of potentials. We can see a significant upgrade in quality in the past couple of years. For example, A13 is worlds away from A10 when it comes to speed and performance, and A10 is just four years old. 

How Long Will It Take to Transition?

According to Apple, it will take the company two years to move completely to Apple Silicon. The reason for this 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. 

It takes time to adjust to new models and that the company still plans on providing support for Intel-based PCs. So, it is obvious why it might take a while. 

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. 

Since there are new Intel-based laptops you can find today, there are no reasons to worry if you already bought one. The only thing we need to see is whether Apple’s new M1 will be able to avoid mistakes other ARM PCs made in the past.  

Final Words

Ever since Apple announced Apple Silicon Macs, people have been speculating what kind of benefits they would bring. Will they change the market? For one, we can expect 5G plans to come with the next iPad models. There are no reasons why the MacBook couldn’t adopt 5G technology too. 

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. However, we will need to wait and see whether it will live up to the expectations. 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 Block Box. We would love to assist you with any problem you might have. Our experienced team is ready to aid you with whatever issue you might encounter. 

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