Apple managers explain why Apple's AI will not run on older iPhones

Apple Intelligence isn't a part of a scheme to sell more devices, Apple says.

The upcoming Apple AI features, which will be gradually rolled out to users with the company’s latest operating system this fall, will only be available on two existing iPhone models – iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

So even those who bought the latest iPhone 15 will have to upgrade to experience the latest Apple advancements in AI.

One of the reasons that only iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will be capable of running AI is that these models feature Apple's A17 Pro system on a chip.

Other existing Apple devices capable of handling AI tasks are Macs and iPads made with the company's own silicon M-series chip, the M1, and later.

In a recent talk show, company executives detailed why Apple’s AI models will be accessible to only a select number of users.

"When you run these models at runtime, it's called inference, and the inference of large language models is incredibly computationally expensive. It's a combination of bandwidth in the device, the size of the ANI (Apple Neural Engine), and the device's power to run these models quickly enough to be useful," Apple's senior vice president of Machine Learning and AI Strategy John Giannandrea said during WWDC talk show.

According to him, it is theoretically possible to run large language models on very old devices, but it would be so slow that it wouldn't be useful.

Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, said that there are many factors that determine if a model can be run on specific hardware, including a Neural engine, also called a Neural processing unit, and RAM.

Both AI-capable iPhone Pro and Pro Max have 8 GB of RAM, while the iPhone 15 has 6 GB of RAM. This suggests that 8 GB of RAM is the least amount of RAM to run Apple's AI models.

When asked if Apple AI isn't part of a scheme to sell more devices, Apple's senior vice president for marketing, Greg Joswiak, replied: "No, not at all. Otherwise, we would have been smart enough just to do recent iPads and Macs, too, wouldn't we."

Apple announced its Apple Intelligence features at the WWDC 2024 a few weeks ago.

The new AI features will be available on iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and MacOS Sequoia devices starting this fall. Some of the models will be run on the device, while others will be sent to the cloud via Private Cloud Compute.