Perhaps one of the most provocative changes Apple announced at its event this month is the abandonment of the ‘Bionic’ moniker for its A-series chips in favour of a ‘Pro’ adjective. The conspicuously veiled truth in choosing that name is the absence, at least to date, of a non-pro A17 chip.
For the longest time, Apple would update all of its flagship iPhones with the same, new, chip each fall. Starting last year, Apple set out to distinguish the base mode and higher-end phones by only upgrading the chip in the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max. They got the A16 Bionic, whereas the base model 14 and 14 Plus were powered by the A15 Bionic, the same chip as the year-ago iPhone 13 Pro. Apple repeated that product stratification strategy again, such that the base model 15’s house an A16 and the 15 Pro and Pro Max get the upgraded chip, the A17 Pro.
The ‘Pro’ chip naming is clearly an indicator that this pattern is here to say. One outcome is that next year, the iPhone 16 gets a plain ‘A17’ chip, perhaps merely a binned variant of the A17 Pro silicon, with one less CPU core or something insignificant. The Pro phones would continue ascending to be even more powerful, with A18 Pro innards. The non-pro A17 chip could also find its way into other lower-end iOS devices like the entry-level iPad, at some point.
The other way to look at this is to consider this a transitional year. Perhaps, the A17 will never make its way into a future iPhone and the A17 Pro is a one-off outlier. It would follow that next fall, Apple’s strategy would fully reveal itself by introducing both an A18, and an A18 Pro chip lineup, for the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro respectively. This would certainly provide naming symmetry across the models of the same year, and closely mirrors what Apple does on the Mac side, in which the M-series of chips comprise a family that includes higher-end (Pro, Max, Ultra) variants. You could even easily foresee an A18 chip above Pro, if the iPhone Ultra rumours come to pass.