Apple is locking out hundreds of millions of users from its new AI

Apple announced its version of AI that will be released alongside its next iPhone generation, but it's only coming to iPhones that are a year old.

2 minutes & 7 seconds read time

Artificial intelligence (AI) has joined the lexicon for the various now-viral applications of machine learning software. Now, Apple has arrived, unsurprisingly, fashionably late with its own implementation of AI that's slated to hit hundreds of millions of users.

Apple is locking out hundreds of millions of users from its new AI 615165156

Apple announced in iOS 18 that it will be introducing Apple Intelligence to its new line-up of devices while also outlining what older generation iPhones will get the new features. Simply put, to use Apple Intelligence, you will need an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max, which are both under a year old at the current time of writing. As for Mac users, Apple states Apple Intelligence will work on Mac's using Apple Silicon, which is models 2020 and up.

So, why this gatekeeping of new AI features from older generations? This problem can be viewed in multiple ways. A common take would be to suggest Apple simply wants to increase its bottom line by enticing consumers with new features that are locked to the latest generation devices to sell more units. While that is certainly happening, there is also a very real hardware limitation for AI features, at least according to Apple and, separately, Microsoft with its Copilot+ PCs.

"The cornerstone of the personal intelligence system is on-device processing. We have integrated it deep into your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and throughout your apps, so it's aware of your personal data without collecting your personal data," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering

According to both companies AI features require new hardware called an NPU, or a Neural Processing Unit, which is only found on the latest generation Apple devices. The addition of this NPU, alongside other components such as a GPU, CPU and RAM, make for an Apple Intelligence-compatible device. However, an NPU isn't the only requirement, as Apple states the device must have at least 8GB of RAM, which means even the standard iPhone 15 doesn't make the cut.

Even with hardware dedicated to processing AI tasks, Apple Intelligence requires 8GB of RAM, and according to Wired, when an AI model is running locally on a device, it's stored in either RAM or vRAM, found on the GPU. Apple's top-of-the-line iPhone 15 Pro Max can offer approximately 2 to 4GB of RAM capacity to run local tasks, while its NPU can reach 35 TOPS (trillions of operations per second and the speed used to measure NPUs).

Apple has said the following features will run locally on an iPhone 15 Pro Max: Sharing Suggestions, Memories, and scene recognition in Photos, Siri, voice recognition, transcription, Smart Reply, and more. At the moment, it remains unclear if Apple's next-generation iPhone 16 will have access to Apple Intelligence or if Apple Intelligence will be an exclusive feature to the Pro iPhones.

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science, space, and artificial intelligence news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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