Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

There’s some extra reason to believe that Apple could already be working on the M4 chip, but it may not be coming for a while. New research from Canalys, a market analytics firm, shows that the next entry in the Apple Silicon family could come in the first part of 2025 to target offerings from Intel, Qualcomm, and AMD.

Lining up with previous reporting from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Canalys is estimating that Apple could launch the M4 chip in the first quarter of 2025. It’s a vague time frame, but it makes a lot of sense. Gurman previously said that Apple already has the M4 MacBook Pro in “formal development.” Although this timing lines up with previous Apple Silicon chip refresh cycles, it would leave 2024 looking fairly light in terms of new Mac releases. Apple usually has some kind of October or November release focused on new Macs, but without new chips to launch, that might not happen this year.

It is just speculation, but the Canalys report also mentions that the new Apple M4 chip could come with AI features. This, too, is a natural choice as Apple CEO Tim Cook recently mentioned that the company was putting “tremendous time and effort” into AI and will “break new ground” on AI.

As for that physical release date, the first quarter of 2025 does seem like a “quick” time frame between chip launches. Canalys has the M4 series launching around the same time as Intel’s Arrow Lake and Lunar Lake, AMD’s Kraken Point, and the Snapdragon X Elite.

Screenshot showing Apple Silicon M3 processor range.

The first Apple M1 chip launched in November 2020. Then, the Apple M2 chip launched in June 2022. More recently, the first Apple M3 chip launched in October 2024, but has yet to add a “Ultra” variant to complete the family. That’s about two years between each version, so seeing an M4 chip within just one year of the previous update is particularly surprising.

There is reason for urgency, though. AI is at the forefront of the chip race. It will be interesting to see how Apple can take AI forward in the M4 chip. Intel’s latest Core Ultra CPUs ship with a Neural Processing Unit (NPU) that can be used to boost device performance. Qualcomm’s upcoming Snapdragon X Elite chip also packs the power of an NPU, one that early benchmarks showed is nearly twice as fast as what’s found on Intel’s Core Ultra chip.

Apple recently acquired Canadian AI Startup DarwinAI, and many believe this could factor into its plans for AI across its products.

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