Here’s Why Only the iPhone 15 Pro Can Run Apple Intelligence

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Highlights
  • Ming-Chi Kuo reveals why Apple Intelligence features are limited to the iPhone 15 Pro.
  • Hardware limitations on iPhone 15 and older models make them ineligible for Apple’s new advancements.

Apple finally jumped on the AI bandwagon at WWDC 2024 by introducing Apple Intelligence in iOS 18, making iPhones smarter. Despite extending support for the latest iOS version for six-year-old devices like the iPhone XR, the new features are limited to the iPhone 15 Pro/Pro Max. Renowned Apple Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has released a new report on the same. Let’s have a look.

Apple Intelligence Needs More DRAM

When Apple announced their version of artificial intelligence called Apple Intelligence (probably because their legacy is so original, the term ‘artificial’ would not suit them), it was evident that this was the next big thing in iOS. It introduces powerful features like audio transcription, improved SMS and notification summary, emoji generation, and more.

However, users were disappointed that these advanced functions were limited to the iPhone 15 Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Even the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus launched alongside the Pro models are not eligible. This means that even after the iOS 18 update, non-pro iPhone models are not getting the latest and the greatest features.

Apple is NOT deliberately gatekeeping other iPhone models. Their version of AI uses an on-device LLM model that processes these features locally for better data privacy of users. Ming-Chi Kuo mentions that processing AI data locally requires high computing resources, especially DRAM.

Apple Intelligence needs at least 2GB of dedicated vacant DRAM to operate efficiently.

The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max feature 8GB DRAM with the A17 Pro chipset. On the other hand, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus have only 6GB DRAM with the A16 processor. Although the A16 chip is capable enough of processing AI-related functions, the limited DRAM capacity makes it difficult to implement Apple Intelligence features.

Due to the same reason, the M1 iPad Pro is eligible despite having a comparatively weaker processor than the A16-based iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. For reference, the M1 chip is capable of 11 TOPS (Trillion Operations per Second) while the A16 chip has the power of 17 TOPS.

Note: TOPS is a unit to measure the number of computer operations that a processor can handle in a single second. It is used as a reference point to understand the AI processing power of a chipset. A higher rating means better performance.

So, What’s Next?

While it sounds like a perfect solution, Apple is less likely to introduce an 8GB RAM variant for the iPhone 15/15 Plus to make them eligible for Apple Intelligence. Considering that we are just three months away from the iPhone 16 Series as per typical Apple launch timelines, a new variant of the iPhone 15 might not be at the top of Apple’s priorities.

Instead, we could see Apple introducing 8GB RAM by default from the base variant of the iPhone 16 Series. Combined with the A17 Pro chip, it would make the vanilla iPhone 16 one of the most powerful and affordable iPhones with Apple Intelligence. These are just speculations, and Apple has not confirmed any details about its upcoming iPhones.