Apple Support docs show that unusual mid-production hardware changes were made to its A12, A13, and S5 chips last fall, to update the Secure Storage Component (Hartley Charlton/MacRumors)

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Apple made unusual mid-production hardware changes to the A12, A13, and S5 processors in its devices in the fall of 2020 to update the Secure Storage Component, according to Apple Support documents.

The Secure Enclave is a coprocessor that is used for data protection and authentication with Touch ID and Face ID. The purpose of the Secure Enclave is to handle keys and other information, such as biometrics, that are sensitive enough to not be handled by the Application Processor. This data is stored in a Secure Storage Component inside the Secure Enclave, which is the specific part that Apple changed last year.

The explanation in Apple’s support document suggests, at minimum, 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.

However, there are 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.

If the change was, in fact, made to all newly-manufactured devices with these chips, the affected devices would include the iPhone XR, ‌iPhone‌ 11, ‌iPhone SE‌, and fifth-generation iPad mini, as well as the newly-released eighth-generation ‌iPad‌, ‌Apple Watch SE‌, and ‌HomePod mini‌.

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. The Apple Watch Series 4 was the only device to contain an S4 chip, and this device was discontinued in September 2019, long before the second-generation Secure Storage Component was implemented in the fall of 2020. It is possible that part of this lack of clarity relates to the fact that the A12 and S4 chips introduced the first-generation Secure Storage Component.

New devices containing the A14 or S6 chip, such as the iPhone 12, ‌iPhone 12‌ Pro, fourth-generation iPad Air, and Apple Watch Series 6, also have the updated Secure Enclave.

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