In the latest edition of his Sunday newsletter, Power On, Bloomberg analyst Mark Gurman outlines his expectations for Apple’s next generation of silicon. He also shares thoughts on the next generation of AirPods Pro and the Apple Watch Series 8. Let’s dive in and analyse.

Apple Silicon

Gurman expects (perhaps predictably) that we should see the M2 Pro, M2 Max and M2 Ultra chips over the next year. The M2 generation will be followed by M3 thereafter. While that won’t come as a surprise to many, Gurman raises some interesting questions surrounding Apple’s internal development cycle. Specifically, he theorises that the development of silicon for the Mac has pulled resources from iPhone and Apple Watch chip development.

Apple began the transition to its own custom silicon for the Mac in 2020.

It’s been rumoured for a while now that the iPhone 14 might stick with the A15 chip. And only the iPhone 14 Pro will get the more capable A16. Furthermore, just this week we heard rumours that the Apple Watch Series 8 will continue to use the same chip technology as the Apple Watch Series 6 and 7 respectively. The S7 chip for context is different only in name to the S6.

Another project that the Silicon team are said to be working on, is an Apple-designed modem. A few years ago Apple acquired the majority of Intel’s modem business. Since then, it’s been widely expected that the company will begin using its own modems in the iPhone imminently. That hasn’t yet materialised.

Given all of these rumours, is Apple spreading its chip team too thinly?

The AppleTLDR take

I can see where Mark is coming from. But I’m not sure his take is quite right. If the rumours surrounding the iPhone 14 prove true and only the Pro model gets the A16 chip, that doesn’t suggest that the chip team has been spread too thin. That suggests either supply constraints which remain a real problem in the silicon industry. Or in the alternative, Apple is moving to a different business model to more clearly differentiate the Pro iPhone models. The very existence of an A16 chip counters Mark’s analysis of the situation.

In regards to the modem, I think it’s just too soon. The acquisition of Intel’s modem business was only finalised in December 2019. Since then we’ve had a global health pandemic resulting in working from home. That isn’t the most conducive environment for a team to build modem prototypes. At least not when Apple is inexperienced in modem technology (relative to current supplier Qualcomm).

Image courtesy of Intel.

On the other hand, if the Apple Watch Series 8 continues to use a similar chipset as the last two generations, that would be concerning. At least on the surface. But in practical terms, advancements in the capabilities of the Apple Watch have begun to slow. Major features added last year included a slightly larger display and faster charging. Neither of which would require a faster, more powerful chip. And if rumours about new features coming to the Series 8 also turn out to be accurate, it’s also fair to say that a new chip still wouldn’t add much value. The Apple Watch is designed for quick, lightweight interactions. It doesn’t need an even more power-hungry chip, it needs a more efficient one to extend battery life. Speaking of the Apple Watch…

Apple Watch Series 8

As has been rumoured previously, Gurman expects Apple to bring body temperature detection to the Series 8. The sensor may not provide precise temperature readings but it would be able to advise you of temperature fluctuations. The watch will also notify you if it thinks you may have a fever.

Other upgrades on the Series 8 are said to be minor. Possibly a brighter display or some other unspecified display upgrades. But don’t expect a new design as was rumoured by Jon Prosser (and Gurman) last year. Apple will likely keep the tweaked design from the Series 7.

AirPods Pro 2

AirPods Pro 2 are finally on the way according to Gurman. He expects them to ship in the fall. There have been many rumours that the AirPods Pro 2 could include health sensors. For instance a heart rate sensor and/or body temperature sensor. But according to Gurman, this is unlikely to play out.

We’re more likely to see a more conservative update to the AirPods Pro 2. Longer battery life improved sound quality. Perhaps even support for lossless audio if Apple ships its rumoured Bluetooth alternative. But don’t expect the kinds of wild rumours that have been reported by other outlets.

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