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Your iPhone probably won’t run the latest free upgrade from Apple – this is why

These AI upgrades promise similar features to what we’ve seen offered by Samsung and Google with their latest Android phones such as the ability to help you write a text or email or change its tone of voice or the ability to summarise emails or a webpage down into bullet points for quicker reading. You will also be able to do a lot more with Siri such as ask it to do specific actions within apps, and Apple claims the assistant is much smarter now.

What may prove popular is Genmoji, which will bring AI generated emojis to the iPhone. All you have to do is type in a prompt such as ‘a rabbit holding a microphone’ (we just made that up, you can do literally anything) and your phone will create several different unique options for you to send in a messaging app. It looks like a lot of fun, but the problem is that Apple then revealed that the only current iPhones any of the Apple Intelligence updates will work on is the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Not even the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus with their A16 chips, released on the same day as the Pro models (with A17) in September 2023, will be able to run any of these new features. The big question is why?

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo thinks he has the answer. In a post on Medium, he suggests that the reason other iPhones can’t handle the AI is to do with memory, also referred to as RAM, or DRAM. This affects how much multitasking your phone can do, and devices need quite a bit of spare memory at any given time to make sure tricky AI requests are delivered quickly, particularly when dealing with large language models (LLMs) that power many AI services.

“The A16 has 6GB of DRAM, lower than the 8GB of the M1,” Kuo said. “Therefore, current Apple Intelligence on-device AI LLM require about 2GB or less of DRAM.”

That last part is important. Apple wants to run most of its AI “on-device”, which means on the iPhone itself, without needing to access the web or cloud services. Apple wants to do this mainly for privacy reasons so your phone doesn’t constantly share your AI requests with its servers.

If this all sounds a bit too techy to you, join the club – basically, the iPhone 15 only has 6GB of RAM and Kuo thinks Apple is limiting Apple Intelligence features to iPhones that have at least 8GB. As well as the A17 chip in the iPhone 15 Pro, Apple Intelligence will also run on any of Apple’s M chips that can be found in recent iPads and Macs or MacBooks.

This is a somewhat plausible explanation, but other tech commentators have suggested Apple is purposefully restricting Apple Intelligence from older iPhones in a bid to push people to upgrade their handset when the iPhone 16 launches later in the year. Smartphone sales are continuing to plateau worldwide thanks to the cost of living crisis and the fact phones are simply better for longer these days.

Either way, you’ll miss out on Apple Intelligence when it launches with iOS 18 later this year unless you have an iPhone 15 Pro or want to buy one of the rumoured iPhone 16 series.

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