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Apple: iPhone 15 Pro need for Apple Intelligence not ‘scheme to sell new iPhones’

Apple has sought to explain why an iPhone 15 Pro is necessary to access the new Apple Intelligence tools coming in iOS 18.

In an interview with Daring Fireball at WWDC last week, Apple executives were asked why the new AI features will only be available on the two highest-end iPhone models currently on sale – the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max.

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While cynics might say that’s a ploy to generate more iPhone upgrades, and financial types who care about stock prices are predicting an ‘iPhone super cycle’ that brings untold riches to shareholders, that apparently isn’t the case.

Apple’s machine learning head John Giannandrea said the reason for the cut off is the size of the Neural Engine inside the latest iPhone Pro models that’s necessary to run large language models at a speed that’s useable. In the case of the iPhone 15 Pro, that means the A17 Pro chip and a 16-core Neural Engine.

“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,” he said (via MacRumors). “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.”

When host Jon Gruber quizzed the panel of Apple execs as to whether it was a “scheme to sell new iPhones?”, Apple’s marketing chief Greg Joswiak said: “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 resident dashing software chief Craig Federighi added: “This is the hardware that it takes… It’s a pretty extraordinary thing to run models of this power on an iPhone.”

Apple Intelligence tools, including the integration of the ChatGPT within Siri, will roll out to those iPhone models in September. Naturally, they’ll be a big part of the iPhone 16 experience too.

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