Apple Intelligence model too restrictive? Apple executives respond

At this year's Apple WWDC conference, along with the launch of the new system, Apple officially released Apple Intelligence (hereinafter referred to as Apple Intelligence).

Apple demonstrated various powerful AI capabilities of Apple Smart at the press conference. It can directly generate text, pictures, and emoticons through AI, can perform operations across apps, and also has the ability to perceive personal situations.

However, under Apple's "precision knife skills", not all devices upgraded to the new system can use Apple smart phones.

On the mobile phone side, although iPhone XR and later models can be upgraded to iOS 18, Apple smartphones will only support iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Even the latest iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus cannot be used.

For tablets and computers, it can also be used on certain devices. Only iPad and Mac devices equipped with M1 or later chips will be able to use Apple smart phones in the future.

Such restrictions on compatible devices can make people feel confused. Since the release of Apple Smart, many users have been wondering why Apple did this.

After WWDC 2024, Apple’s regular “The Talk Show” talk show will start as scheduled. At this event, three Apple executives, Craig Federighi, Greg Joswiak, and John Giannandrea, accepted a series of interviews, and they also responded to this issue.

Regarding the issue of Apple’s intelligence being limited to the iPhone 15 Pro series, John Giannandrea, Apple’s director of artificial intelligence, said that the inference computing requirements of large language models are “astonishingly high”, which requires a lot of bandwidth, NPU, and the powerful performance of the device itself to work properly.

In theory, Apple smart phones can be used on older models, but they will be very slow.

There has been a voice on the Internet questioning Apple's restriction of Apple smartphones in order to urge old users to replace their devices and attract users to buy newer products.

On a talk show, Greg Joswiak, Apple's senior vice president of global marketing, answered the question head-on, denying that the move was a marketing strategy to encourage users to buy the new iPhone.

Joswiak said: "No, not at all, this is definitely not a marketing strategy. Otherwise, as smart as we are, (Apple smart phones) will only support our latest iPads and Macs, right?"

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said that when Apple explores any new features, it will try its best to make the new features support older devices.

But in terms of Apple intelligence, Federighi said: "This requires powerful hardware… Running a model like this on an iPhone is quite a feat."

Federighi also hinted that RAM will be very important for new AI capabilities, which is another aspect required by the new system.

After a simple observation, we can find that all devices that can use Apple smart devices can be equipped with at least 8GB of RAM. Perhaps this is no coincidence.

After WWDC 2024, Tianfeng International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also inferred a similar view. Ming-Chi Kuo said that the key to supporting Apple smart phones should be DRAM size, not AI computing power (TOPS).

Ming-Chi Kuo analyzed on the Medium blog:

The M1's AI computing power is about 11 TOPS, which is lower than the A16's 17 TOPS. But the A16's DRAM is 6GB, which is lower than the M1's 8GB. Therefore, the current DRAM requirements for Apple Intelligence on-device AI LLM are approximately 2GB or less.

The need for DRAM can be justified in another way. Apple Intelligence uses device-side 3B LLM (should be FP16, M1's NPU/ANE has good support for FP16). After compression (using a mixed configuration of 2-bit and 4-bit), about 0.7-bit LLM needs to be reserved at any time. 1.5GB DRAM to run Apple Intelligence's device-side LLM.

Among all iPhones on the market, only the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are models equipped with 8GB DRAM.

Apple devices usually provide less DRAM, mostly no more than 6GB. For older models such as iPhone 13, the DRAM is only 4GB.

From this perspective, it is indeed reasonable for Apple smartphones to only support the iPhone 15 Pro series on the mobile phone.

Haitong International technical analyst Jeff Pu previously said that the entire iPhone 16 series will be equipped with 8GB of memory. Although this can step into the threshold of Apple's smart phones, this number is still not enough and will, to a certain extent, limit Apple's research and development of large end-to-end models.

This situation may continue to improve until the iPhone 17 series. JeffPu said in another report that Apple’s iPhone 17 Pro and iPhone 17 Pro Max, launched in 2025, will only offer 12GB of memory.

The international market research organization IDC pointed out in the "AI Mobile Phone White Paper" that 16GB RAM will become the basic configuration of the new generation of AI mobile phones, and hardware other than SoC needs to be upgraded together.

Although Apple has a unique memory management mechanism, large memory is still the market trend. End-side inference deployment of AI models requires larger memory space, so that a better user experience can be achieved.

As Ming-Chi Kuo said:

Samsung Galaxy S24 has limited AI functions, and Microsoft's AI PC is still confusing consumers, but Apple has successfully defined device-side AI (at least consumers already know clearly that Apple's AI devices have rich functions and what are their selling points), and this will Accelerate competitors' imitation and catch-up, and in turn drive the rapid growth of device-side AI-related industries.

The emergence of Apple Smart is a wonderful answer submitted by Apple in software.

But whether the actual experience is as good as Apple claims, we still need to wait until it is officially used before making an evaluation. In the future, I also hope that Apple can write better answers on hardware.

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