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Apple Explains Why Apple Intelligence Will Require an iPhone 15 Pro

Apple Explains Why Apple Intelligence Will Require an iPhone 15 Pro

Apple unveiled iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia last week during WWDC24 and the new operating systems bring a new personalized artificial intelligence experience that Apple calls “Apple Intelligence.” The new AI features use on-device, generative large-language models on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Unfortunately for owners of older iPhones, iPads, and Macs, the new AI features require an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max to work, and only iPads and Mac powered by M1 chips or later can provide Apple Intelligence support. But why can’t older device run AI?

Apple’s AI/machine learning head John Giannandrea, marketing chief Greg Joswiak, and software engineering chief Craig Federighi appeared on The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2024, and Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber put the question to them, and this was the response:

Giannandrea: “So these models, when you run them at run times, it’s called inference, and the inference of large language models is incredibly computationally expensive. And so it’s a combination of bandwidth in the device, it’s the size of the Apple Neural Engine, it’s the oomph in the device to actually do these models fast enough to be useful. You could, in theory, run these models on a very old device, but it would be so slow that it would not be useful.

Gruber: “So it’s not a scheme to sell new iPhones?”

Joswiak: “No, not at all. Otherwise, we would have been smart enough just to do our most recent iPads and Macs, too, wouldn’t we?”

Apple’s software engineering chief Craig Federighi said that the company always tries to bring any new features to older devices as far back as possible. However, when it comes to Apple Intelligence, “This is the hardware that it takes… It’s a pretty extraordinary thing to run models of this power on an iPhone.”

The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are powered by the A17 chip, which boasts a 16-core Neural Engine, performing nearly 35 trillion operations per second. The A17 is up to 2x faster than the A16 chip powering the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. Federighi also indicated that RAM is another aspect of the system that the new AI features require. (All of the devices compatible with Apple Intelligence have at least 8GB of RAM.)