“The new M7 coprocessor is like a sidekick to the A7 chip. It’s designed specifically to measure motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass — a task that would normally fall to the A7 chip. But M7 is much more efficient at it. Now fitness apps that track physical activity can access that data from the M7 coprocessor without constantly engaging the A7 chip. So they require less battery power. M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or even driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Since M7 can tell when you’re in a moving vehicle, iPhone 5s won’t ask you to join Wi-Fi networks you pass by. And if your phone hasn’t moved for a while, like when you’re asleep, M7 reduces network pinging to spare your battery.”
The iPhone 5S announcement had but one surprise: The M7 chip. Every other feature we knew about in advance, but the M7 managed to sneak past every leak.
The M7 chip is nothing to necessarily advertise, and the chip’s sex appeal in the 5S is nothing compared to the phone’s fingerprint sensor and slow-motion video camera shooting at 120 fps. But the M7 chip is arguably the most important innovation inside the iPhone 5S, and here’s why:
As Apple explains, M7 helps to offload some of the various duties of the phone’s main processor, the A7 chip, specifically in relation to motion and orientation. Certainly Apple doesn’t need the M7 chip — prior iPhone models have performed perfectly fine without it — but Apple is likely giving the M7 a test run within an iOS device that doesn’t necessarily need it to function before releasing it in a device that truly does need it.
Another example of Apple giving new features a test-run: Apple customers craved — nay, demanded — LTE in their iPhones, but first, Apple gave LTE a test run on a different iOS device — the third-generation iPad, released six months before the first iPhone with LTE, the iPhone 5. By the time the iPhone 5 was ready, Apple had worked out the kinks to ensure its LTE technology was stable enough for a mass production of iPhones.
Applying this strategy to the M7 chip, Apple must have big plans for a motion-sensing chip if it was introduced in the iPhone (as opposed to the iPad). Apple sells more iPhone units than iPad, which means Apple must plan on using the M7 on an even grander scale. Of the many conclusions, the wide implementation of the M7 via the rumored iWatch seems the most reasonable.
Apple has been working on its smartwatch for several years now, but the appearance of the M7 chip means the iWatch is inevitable.
Apple designed the A7 and M7 chips for interplay between each other. Many believe the iWatch will communicate with one’s iDevice, so embedding a single M7 chip and letting an iPhone or iPad do most of the heavy lifting — err, processing — when it comes to loading personal or location data makes the most sense. If Apple wants to conserve battery on the iWatch — the company is reportedly aiming for a solid 7 days of life — the M7 chip should certainly help limit the amount of information processed directly on the wristwatch.
What’s more impressive is how sensitive the M7 chip is. The sensor can reportedly tell if you’ve changed modes of transportation or if you’ve stopped moving, which will be important for certain applications based on health, fitness and lifestyle. Sure, the inclusion of the M7 chip is nice on the iPhone 5S, but once it makes its way to the iWatch, context-sensitive applications will never be the same. And that’s a good thing.