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Apple’s Leap into Advanced AI: A Future Not For All iPhone Users

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Williams, Andrew

Apple has unveiled its future direction. The way you interact with iPhones, Macs, or iPads is about to be revolutionized by the integration of artificial intelligence. Dubbed Apple Intelligence by the tech giant, this new feature is set to launch later in the year. Indeed, there's a new "AI" in town for us to reckon with.

There's a lot of buzz around its ability to enhance Siri's intelligence, transform your emails and papers, generate unique emojis, and convert basic drawings into unremarkable AI-generated artwork.

Indeed, it presents a glimpse into what's to come. Although it might not be revolutionary, the characteristic polish of Apple could make it among the most approachable, instinctive, and beneficial applications of generative AI witnessed so far.

Nonetheless, the major concern for the majority is being left out, with the iPhone suffering the most among Apple's products.

To utilize Apple Intelligence features, an iPhone 15 Pro or iPhone 15 Pro Max is required. The standard iPhone 15 model is insufficient for this purpose, indicating that a device less than a year old is already considered outdated in this particular context. For Mac users, an Apple Silicon-based computer, which would be any model launched in 2020 or later, is necessary.

Restricted Access Periods

A more skeptical viewpoint suggests that the duration of these restricted periods correlates with the typical cycle of updating smartphones and laptops. It’s deemed standard for an individual to get a new phone annually. However, purchasing a new laptop each year could indicate that one is either making unwise decisions, attracting theft, or is simply prone to accidents.

The truth of the matter is significantly more complex. The processing needed for certain aspects of Apple Intelligence vastly diverges from what's typical for the usual iPhone or Mac activity.

This has remained hidden from most casual users of generative AI or chatbots, largely due to how we’ve all been brought into the fold. When engaging with tools like ChatGPT, Midjourney, or Adobe Photoshop’s Generative Fill, the heavy lifting isn’t actually being done by your personal computer.

The process takes place on distant cloud servers that handle the required computations and then directly transmit the outcome to your smartphone or computer. Viewed in this light, generative AI has functionally served as a virtual helper, akin to Siri or Alexa. Occasionally, it can achieve impressive feats. However, practically none of this activity actually occurs on the device it's being operated on.

Apple Intelligence aims, to some extent, to make a difference in that regard.

Apple's Recognizable Commitment to Privacy

Why is this important? "There's no need for you to surrender every aspect of your life to be stored and scrutinized in another's AI system," Craig Federighi, Apple's chief of software development, remarked as he introduced the company's latest updates.

"The foundation of the personal intelligence system relies on processing data directly on your device. This feature is thoroughly embedded in your iPhone, iPad, and Mac, as well as across your applications, enabling it to understand your personal information without actually gathering your personal data."

Authored by Christopher

By [Your Name]

By Nena Farrell

Authored by Louryn Strampe

Implementing AI processing directly on devices is a tactic for enhancing user privacy, a move that's quintessentially aligned with Apple's approach. However, Apple wasn't the pioneer in this strategy; Microsoft holds that title. Microsoft introduced the Copilot+ standard, which shares a similar ideology but is specifically tailored for laptops. Devices equipped with Copilot+ feature specialized AI hardware, enabling them to process AI tasks locally. Interestingly, both strategies are deeply integrated with the fundamental AI technology developed by OpenAI, the organization behind ChatGPT.

This brings us to the perfectly reasonable inquiry: Why on earth can't my $900 iPhone 15 perform these tasks as well?

Cognitive Computing Focus

The buzzword in technology now is NPU, distinguishing the traditional, pre-AI devices from the modern gadgets we're eagerly supposed to covet. It's an acronym for "neural processing unit."

The newest models of smartphones and tablets now feature another component alongside the CPU (central processing unit) and GPU (graphics processing unit). This component excels at performing numerous tasks at the same time, and when it comes to mobile devices and laptops, its ability to operate with low power consumption is crucial.

Generative AI has inundated both the internet and society at large with an abundance of content, which could kindly be referred to as "stuff." The production of this stuff, in turn, demands a broad yet superficial form of labor.

For individuals interested in diving a bit deeper into the technical aspects, Neural Processing Units (NPUs) standout in handling matrix operations. These operations serve as the foundation for the functioning of chatbot LLMs (Large Language Models) and various other types of generative artificial intelligence. In all these instances, the AI begins with an initial prompt and progressively refines its output, whether it's an image or a piece of text, by manipulating matrices.

Exploring Beyond the NPU

Is the discussion over? Have we fully entered the era of NPUs? Indeed, but this has been the case since 2017. That year, Apple launched the Apple ANE (Apple Neural Engine), which was featured in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, marking Apple's venture into NPU technology.

Long before AI became the hot topic it is now, Apple had already been incorporating AI and machine learning techniques into iOS for many years.

It seems that Apple Intelligence might not be as unique as thought; it's simply more abundant. Additionally, it has become evident in the software industry that several of these novel "AI" functionalities are being deliberately restricted and made accessible only through new, paid hardware barriers.

An enthusiast in software history, known on the internet as Albacore, has successfully managed to operate some of Microsoft’s Copilot+ functionalities on a device theoretically incompatible with it—the affordable Samsung Galaxy Book2 Go. This device's price is merely 20% to 25% of what one would pay for a laptop designed for Copilot+.

"Mastering Recall proved to be somewhat difficult, I'd say. Having spent nearly a decade deconstructing Windows components, identifying and navigating through various controls and limitations has almost become instinctive for me," Albacore shared with WIRED.

Albacore explains the process, "Identify the mechanisms protecting the functionalities, create a strategy to modify the validation process to ensure it consistently approves regardless of the actual specifications, and then encapsulate it in a user-friendly setup program. After conducting some tests and addressing any outliers, the application was prepared for use."

Authored by Christopher

Authored by Martin Cizmar

Authored by Nena Farrell

Authored by Louryn Strampe

You can discover instructions for setting it up on your own by checking out an article at Tom's Hardware.

"Albacore notes that Recall performs well on older, less robust systems, with the only noticeable slowdown occurring during timeline searches."

The feature generating the most debate and grabbing the most attention among Microsoft's latest AI enhancements is Recall. Similar to the updated Siri, this function can delve into your previous activities, web history, and emails, transforming the Universal search on Windows into something that resembles an all-knowing personal assistant.

The feature that falls short on the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Go is the Cocreator in the Paint application, which is Microsoft's version of the various image-creation tools found in Apple Intelligence.

"Albacore notes that the process of creating images begins and consumes a significant amount of resources, yet it ultimately fails. He suggests that an older processor with increased RAM might perform more effectively, though he currently lacks access to such hardware."

Memory Considerations

RAM: The pivotal reason newer iPhone models lack support for Apple's Intelligence, despite their comparable AI and machine learning capabilities to a MacBook that does, might lie here. Geekbench's benchmark tests reveal that the iPhone 14 possesses an NPU AI chipset that outperforms the one found in an M1 MacBook.

Nonetheless, the previous models of phones are limited to 6 GB of RAM. In contrast, every iPhone featured on the Apple Intelligence roster boasts 8 GB of RAM.

What makes RAM significant? When AI algorithms operate on a local machine instead of on cloud-based platforms, they need to be accommodated within RAM or vRAM, which is what graphics cards use. SSD drives, despite their speed, cannot compare in terms of the rapid access required for this task.

The PlayStation 5's SSD, boasting a transfer speed of 5,000 MB per second, received a lot of attention for its ability to allow developers to load visual content directly from storage instantly. Compared to this, the DDR5 RAM found in typical PCs can achieve speeds up to 64 GB per second, and Nvidia’s top-tier machine learning and AI graphics card, the H200, boasts an impressive bandwidth of 4.8 TB per second. This speed is nearly 1,000 times greater than the PS5 SSD's transfer capability.

The Nvidia H200, along with its earlier versions, offers valuable insights that help recalibrate our anticipations regarding the iPhone 16's capabilities for handling AI tasks without an internet connection. These GPUs are the muscle behind the servers responsible for the cloud-based AI computations that power our numerous demands from ChatGPT and Stable Diffusion. Equipped with as much as 141 GB of video RAM (vRAM) each, these graphics cards come with a hefty price tag, often reaching into the tens of thousands of dollars for just one. To support the sophisticated GPT-4 artificial intelligence, a significant assembly of these cards is required, amassing hundreds of GBs of vRAM in total.

We're a long distance from consumer technology items at this point.

Nvidia's RTX gaming cards designed for consumers are expected to outperform the latest hardware that's been specifically developed for AI applications in the majority of AI-related tasks.

"GeForce RTX graphics processing units are perfect for AI PC enthusiasts seeking the ultimate AI experience," states Jesse Clayton, Nvidia’s head of PC AI. "They offer the highest AI performance, reaching up to 1,300 tera operations per second, and boast the most advanced AI software stack, enhancing over 500 AI-powered applications and games."

By Christopher Solomon

Authored by Martin Cizmar

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Authored by Louryn Strampe

As a point of comparison, PCs equipped with Microsoft Copilot+ establish a standard of 45 TOPS, which represents the capability to perform trillions of operations each second.

Return to Reality

The iPhone 15 Pro Max might support between 2 and 4 GB of RAM, while its Neural Processing Unit (NPU) is capable of 35 Trillion Operations Per Second (TOPS). Thus, any functionalities that Apple's smart technology operates without an internet connection will rely on a compact, straightforward artificial intelligence model.

According to information from Apple's official website, features such as Sharing Suggestions, Memories, and scene identification within the Photos app, along with Siri Suggestions, voice recognition, and transcription, all operate directly on the device.

Common sense indicates that the advanced generative AI technologies, designed to captivate audiences and potentially replace the professions once coveted by younger generations, cannot be operated on a local device such as an iPhone 15 Pro Max, nor on its future iteration, the iPhone 16 Pro Max.

What remains begins to closely resemble functionalities found in existing phones, or akin to what Albacore has successfully operated on basic hardware without NPU.

The following inquiry pertains to whether the iPhone 16 will be equipped with the complete range of Apple Intelligence capabilities, or if it will remain a feature primarily promoted within the Pro-series in the forthcoming generation.

The initial offerings of Apple Intelligence are set to debut with the public launch of iOS 18, anticipated for September to coincide with the release of the iPhone 16. More details will be revealed at that time.

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