The new MacBook Pro Touch Bar is basically a built-in Apple Watch

What about that new Touch Bar then? The touch-sensitive OLED panel Apple is fitting to its new MacBook Pros lets you access smart shortcuts that change depending on the application you're using: pause music, drop in emojis, scroll through photos, and so on.

iOS developer Steven Troughton-Smith has been taking a closer look at this new component and thinks the Touch Bar is basically an adapted Apple Watch, using the same integrated system-on-a-chip as Apple's timepiece plus watchOS.

The modified component handles user Touch Bar input separately from the rest of the operating system and then feeds it back to macOS. This should keep performance snappy and keep the Touch ID element more secure at the same time.

Touch Bar future

Apple isn't commenting on the internal architecture of its new machines but Troughton-Smith told The Verge that "the Touch Bar theoretically could run while the rest of the machine is turned off, so you get all the low-power and security benefits of an iOS device", opening up all kinds of possibilities - like seeing iMessage notifications come up before you switch your laptop on.

Sources speaking to TechCrunch have confirmed this is indeed how the new MacBook Pros are set up, and Apple Pay transactions are another duty that the modified Apple Watch chip is assigned to handle.

The revelation probably isn't going to change your mind about whether it's worth shelling out for one of the new laptops, but it gives us some interesting info about how the Touch Bar might be used in the future - a separate, mini iOS device running right above the MacBook Pro keyboard.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.