Your iPhone 15 can’t run Apple Intelligence because of one key spec weakness

When Apple announced Apple Intelligence at WWDC 2024, many eyebrows were raised upon learning that the AI system wouldn’t be compatible with the latest iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus models. While the Pro versions will work with Apple Intelligence, those with the entry-level models are out of luck.

So, why the exclusion? According to a report by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo on Medium, it all boils down to memory. The iPhone 15 is equipped with an A16 Bionic chip and 6GB of memory, whereas the iPhone 15 Pro sports an A17 Pro chip with 8GB of memory. Apple Intelligence requires a device with at least an A17 Pro or an M1 chip, both of which come with 8GB of memory.

Kuo infers that Apple Intelligence likely needs around 2GB of spare memory to function properly. With the A16 Bionic, most of the 6GB is used up by other processes, leaving insufficient room for Apple Intelligence. In contrast, the A17 Pro’s 8GB of RAM provides the necessary buffer. This explanation, while technically sound, also conveniently aligns with Apple’s upgrade cycle strategy.

Kuo supports his claims with some intriguing points. For instance, Apple Intelligence utilizes a 3-billion-parameter large language model which, when compressed, requires approximately 0.7-1.5GB of spare memory. This is a space that the A16 Bionic might struggle to free up.

Interestingly, the M1 chip, which also supports Apple Intelligence, has less processing power (11 TOPS) compared to the A16 Bionic (17 TOPS). This suggests that processing power isn’t the limiting factor; memory availability is the critical issue.

Kuo makes an intriguing comparison between Apple Intelligence and Microsoft’s AI-infused Copilot+ PCs. Apple Intelligence requires a minimum of 11 TOPS of processing power, while Copilot+ PCs need a hefty 40 TOPS. This indicates that Apple Intelligence is far more efficient, able to run on a range of iPhones as well as more powerful Macs.

Some cynics might argue that Apple’s high requirements for Apple Intelligence are a ploy to push users into upgrading their devices. However, this doesn’t explain why the company hasn’t also nudged users of the older M1 chip to upgrade. Kuo’s analysis points to the technical specifics of the chips involved as the real reason, offering a clearer picture of Apple’s rationale.

For users of the iPhone 15, this might not be comforting news, but at least we now understand the technical limitations and decisions behind Apple’s strategy.