Apple Quietly Updated Secure Enclave in Select SoCs in Fall 2020

As spotted by Twitter user Andrew Pantyukhin, Apple has updated its Secure Enclave support page to reflect that it had made some mid-production hardware security changes to the A12, A13, and S5 processors in its devices in the fall of 2020 (via MacRumors).

A13 bionic mockup

For those who aren’t familiar, the Secure Enclave is a coprocessor that is used for data protection and authentication with Touch ID and Face ID. It handles keys and other information, such as biometrics, that are sensitive enough to not be handled by the Application Processor.

According to Apple’s support page:

“A12, A13, S4, and S5 products first released in Fall 2020 have a 2nd-generation Secure Storage Component; while earlier products based on these SoCs have 1st-generation Secure Storage Component.”

This means that the eighth-generation entry-level iPad, Apple Watch SE, and HomePod mini have different Secure Enclaves compared to older devices with the same chip.

A12 a13 s5 secure enclave change

The source, however, points out a number of discrepancies in Apple’s support document.

Despite Apple explaining that A13 products “first released in Fall 2020 have a 2nd-generation Secure Storage Component,” there was no device with an A13 chip “first released in Fall 2020.” The last device to be released with an A13 chip was the iPhone SE in February 2020.

To make matters more confusing, the table listing the multiple versions of the Secure Enclave’s storage component in the feature summary omits the S4 chip with a second-generation Secure Storage Component, despite the rubric claiming that such a chip exists.

You can visit the support document on Apple’s website to learn more.