How Apple Finally Killed ‘Feeds and Speeds’

Suddenly it comes down to what you want

Key Takeaways

  • All Apple’s consumer-level computers use the same M1 chip—even the iPad Pro.
  • Future Pro Macs may use a more capable 'M1X' chip.
  • You can now choose a computer based solely on shape and color, without compromising performance.
A photographer using a MacBook in the field.

Apple

With the M1 chip, Apple just nailed the lid shut on an entire marketing strategy.

When we buy gadgets, we look at the numbers—MHz, megapixels. With cars, it’s cubic inches, brake horsepower, and cup holders. With speakers it’s watts, with bikes it’s pounds and ounces, and so on. But with its M1 chip, Apple has exploded this custom.

Not only can you not choose the speed of the chip in a particular computer, but, in fact, Apple now uses the same chip in all its computers. What does this mean for buyers?

"By focusing consumer choice on tangible and straight-forward size, shape, and use preferences, Apple now offers a lineup of Macs that are easily differentiable to all potential buyers," software and web developer Weston Happ, told Lifewire via email. "With simplified buying choices, the shopping experience is clearly a win for Apple as it looks to gain and retain customers."

Marketing

"Feeds and speeds" are a valuable marketing tool. You know how it works. You start off looking for a new toaster oven/kids bike/laptop computer, and you quickly find a few good candidates based on what you need and your budget.

Then you notice that it’s only $50 more for the next model up. Maybe the laptop has a faster CPU, or the kids bike has fancier brakes. Almost without trying, you’re soon at the top of the range, spending double, and feeling good about it. Alternatively, you see the morass of options and close your browser tabs. 

Woman works on an Apple iPad Pro at a cafe

Apple

Apple still offers a choice inside each product range, but it’s a lot easier to know the differences. And now, with Macs and iPad Pros, the choice isn’t which chip to choose. It’s which shape to choose.

Any Chip You Want, as Long as It’s the M1

Apple now uses the same M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC) in the iMac, the MacBook Pro, the Macbook Air, the Mac mini, and the iPad Pro. That’s the entire consumer-level line of Macs, plus the top-end iPad. And they all get the exact same performance (although the models with fans give a little extra time at full throttle). 

This turns the selection process on its head. Instead of basing your choice on which machine is capable for your needs, you base it on which shape best suits your workflow. Do you want the smallest, lightest laptop? A miniature desktop for your existing display and peripherals? A beautiful, slim all-in-one for the reception desk in your dentist's office? Or a touch-screen tablet computer with a stylus? All of them are equally capable. 

"By focusing consumer choice on tangible and straight-forward size, shape, and use preferences, Apple now offers a lineup of Macs that are easily differentiable to all potential buyers."

This makes it much easier to buy an Apple computer. You just grab whichever one you like the look of. Even the RAM options are the same in all models—8 GB or 16 GB, and that includes the iPad.

This simplicity also benefits Apple. Every year, it only has to design one SoC. Or two because the iPhone uses a cut-down version of the M1, but really even that’s the same chip with small variations.

"By concentrating on one, single MHz CPU release at a time, Apple can focus its fabrication efforts on optimizing larger and larger core-count specifications to dramatically increase multi-threaded processing performance," says Happ. 

Pro vs Consumer

Ever since Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, it has based its product lineup on a simple four-square grid:

The Apple Product grid.

Apple

With the advent of Apple Silicon, it’s possible that Apple will apply this principle to the chips in its computers. The M1 chip is amazing, but it’s not amazing enough to replace the Intel Xeon chips that power the Mac Pro, and it doesn’t have enough oomph, or allow enough RAM, to be used in the high-end MacBooks Pro.

The naming convention will come down to Apple’s marketing choices, but it’s likely that there will be two tiers of Mac SoCs. 

Apple uses the same strategy with the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone would run on, say, the A12, while the iPad Pro would use the A12X.

In this hypothetical grid, the desktop/portable distinction is gone. You just get a choice between consumer (M1) and Pro (M1X). For buyers, the choice will be made clear by price, and the word "Pro" in the name. The one oddity right now is the current low-end MacBook Pro, which is essentially just a MacBook Air with a fan. This model may disappear once Apple has converted its entire Mac lineup to Apple Silicon.

For buyers, this is excellent news. We can shop based on intended use and color, and be sure we’re getting the best performance no matter what we choose.

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