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This hidden iOS 18 feature will make AI lightning-fast on iPhones

Published Jun 21st, 2024 6:50AM EDT

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Apple Intelligence is easily the best thing coming out of WWDC 2024, but it’ll take quite some time before we use it.

First, of all the iPhone models that can run iOS 18, only the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 Pro Max will support Apple AI. Second, the iOS 18 beta 1 doesn’t come with Apple Intelligence on board. And that gets us to reason number three. Apple will start deploying AI features in phases, with the first ones arriving this summer. The Siri AI features we saw at WWDC aren’t coming to supported devices until 2025.

If you’re excited about Apple Intelligence, you’ll be happy to hear that iOS 18 beta 1 is already laying the groundwork for its arrival. It looks like the early version of the software packs a hidden feature tied to AI that Apple didn’t talk about. According to an early benchmark test, the Neural Engine will get a speed boost in iOS 18.

Apple explained after WWDC the two key iPhone specs that make Apple Intelligence possible in iOS 18: the Neural Engine and the RAM. That’s why you’ll need iPhone 15 Pros or iPhone 16 models to run Apple Intelligence this year. It’s very likely the iPhone 16 models will feature even speedier Neural Engines, similar to what the M4 iPad Pro has to offer.

To quickly recap, the A17 Pro in the iPhone 15 Pros has a Neural Engine capable of 35 trillion operations per second. That’s more than double the speed of the Neural Engine of the iPhone 14 Pros and iPhone 15/Plus. The M4 chip is even faster, at 38 trillion operations per second.

On top of that, it appears that Apple will optimize the performance of its Neural Engines via iOS 18. An X user posted Geekebench scores for the iPhone 15 Pro Max running iOS 17.5.1 and iOS 18. The Neural Engine scored 6249 and 7816, respectively. That’s a 25% performance boost in iOS 18. That’s all the more impressive as we’re looking at the first iOS 18 beta here.

I wouldn’t be surprised if all iPhones got similar performance upgrades for the Neural Engine. They might not get to run Apple Intelligence, but the iPhone already packs AI features. It always did. But we knew it as machine learning (ML) before ChatGPT started the generative AI craze. Better benchmark performance should also translate into faster iOS 18 experiences for older iPhones.

This is all speculation, as Apple didn’t address Neural Engine performance upgrades during the WWDC event. However, Apple will surely talk about chip performance during the iPhone 16 event this fall.

Rumors say Apple will introduce two A18 chips for the next-gen iPhones. Apple will detail all the speed and efficiency upgrades it developed for the new chipsets, including Neural Engine improvements. After all, the Apple Intelligence features will be a key reason to buy an iPhone 16 later this year.

The iPhone 16 models will run iOS 18 out of the box. That is, iOS 18 optimizations will be a factor in all Apple performance claims during the September iPhone event.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.