With the release of iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence. This feature leverages on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Device Requirements

The new AI features require Apple’s latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to function. For Macs and iPads, only devices with M1 or later chips will support Apple Intelligence. Since this news emerged, many users have been curious about the reasons behind this cutoff.

Insights from WWDC 2024

During The Talk Show Live From WWDC 2024, Daring Fireball’s John Gruber discussed this topic with Apple’s AI/machine learning head John Giannandrea, marketing chief Greg Joswiak, and software engineering chief Craig Federighi.

Giannandrea explained: “Running these models at run times, called inference, is incredibly computationally expensive. It requires a combination of bandwidth, the size of the Apple Neural Engine, and the device’s power to execute these models quickly enough to be useful. While older devices could theoretically run these models, the performance would be too slow to be practical.”

Gruber asked if this requirement was a strategy to sell new iPhones.

Joswiak responded: “No, not at all. If it were, we’d have restricted it to just the newest iPads and Macs as well.”

Federighi added that Apple always aims to bring new features to as many older devices as possible. However, for Apple Intelligence, the necessary hardware capabilities are only available in the latest devices. He highlighted the extraordinary nature of running such powerful models on an iPhone.

Technical Specifications

The iPhone 15 Pro models feature the A17 Pro chip, equipped with a 16-core Neural Engine that is up to twice as fast as the A16 chip found in the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus. This Neural Engine can perform nearly 35 trillion operations per second. Federighi also hinted at the importance of RAM, noting that all devices compatible with Apple Intelligence have at least 8GB of RAM.

What’s Next for Older Devices?

Despite the cutoff for Apple Intelligence, owners of older iPhones will still benefit from the upcoming software update. iOS 18 includes several new features beyond Apple Intelligence, and every iPhone that can run iOS 17 will also be compatible with iOS 18, including the iPhone XR from 2018.

For those interested in Apple Intelligence but not ready to upgrade to an iPhone 15 Pro or Pro Max, the upcoming iPhone 16 series, expected to launch alongside iOS 18 in the fall, might be worth the wait.

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