At WWDC 2024, Apple unveiled Apple Intelligence, a new suite of artificial intelligence features coming to iPhones, Macs, and iPads later this year. However, it will be limited to iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, and iPads and Macs with at least one M1 chip.

Features include AI-powered Siri, tools for text rewriting, proofreading and summarizing, and Image Playground for creating images in apps.

Apple executives explain

During a WWDC talk show, Daring Fireball's John Gruber asked Apple executives John Giannandrea (Head of AI/Machine Learning), Greg Joswiak (Head of Marketing), and Craig Federighi (Head of Software Engineering) about the limited compatibility of Apple Intelligence.

Giannandrea explained:

When you run these models at runtime, it's called inference, and inference of large language models is incredibly computationally expensive. It's a combination of bandwidth on the device, the size of the Apple Neural Engine, and the power of the device to run these models fast enough to be useful.

He added: “You could, in theory, run these models on a very old device, but it would be so slow that it wouldn't be useful.”

When Gruber asked if the limitation was a tactic to boost iPhone sales, Joswiak replied:

No, not at all. Otherwise, we would have been smart enough to just make our latest iPads and Macs too, right?

Hardware requirements

Federighi noted that while Apple strives to bring new features to older devices, Apple Intelligence needs specific hardware to function properly.

iPhone 15 Pro models use the A17 Pro chip with a 16-core neural engine, much faster than the A16 chip in older models.

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He also mentioned that all supported devices have at least 8GB of RAM, another critical factor, and MacBooks or iPads require an M1 or newer chip.

If you don't have an iPhone 15 Pro but want Apple Intelligence, you may have to wait for the iPhone 16 series, due in the fall. All iPhones that can run iOS 17 will also support iOS 18, including the 2018 iPhone XR.

Looking forward

Apple Intelligence represents a major advance in personalized AI, but its hardware requirements show the challenge of balancing innovation and accessibility.

While not everyone can access these features right away, Apple is clearly investing in the future of AI in its devices.

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