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Will the iPhone 16 Pro have more RAM to handle on-device AI?

Published Nov 14th, 2023 12:56PM EST
iPhone 15 Pro on a shelf.
Image: Jonathan Geller, BGR

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It’s more likely for someone to say Voldemort out loud in a Harry Potter movie than for Apple to mention the amount of RAM on the iPhone. It’s as if Apple is afraid to speak about iPhone memory, even though that’s clearly not the case with the iPad Pro and the Mac.

By the way, the M3 Max MacBook Pro supports up to 128GB of RAM, which is mindblowing. It’s what some professionals might need on a powerful computer. But Apple isn’t as ready to discuss the RAM on iPhones and how increasing it might help with pro-grade tasks.

Fast-forward to the iPhone 15 Pro, and we don’t really care about how much RAM it packs. We know it’s 8GB, a bump from 6GB on the iPhone 14 Pro. But we’ve been trained not to worry about it. And, indeed, the iPhone 15 is faster than Android handsets that have a lot more RAM. Then again, remember that 24GB of RAM is the new trend for 2024 Android flagships.

However, there might be a good reason for Apple to bump the RAM on the iPhone 16 Pro and Pro Max: on-device generative AI features. According to an estimate, on-device artificial intelligence will require plenty of processing power and memory.

Twitter user Tech_Reve, known for some of their Samsung and Apple leaks, quoted a report from Macquarie Capital that offered some insight into RAM needs for various on-device AI tasks.

If the report is accurate, features like on-device AI image generation will need 12GB of RAM. On-device AI assistant features will need around 20GB of memory. Macquarie notes that a typical smartphone has 8GB of RAM.

It’s unclear how the analysts came to this conclusion. And I will point out that of all the smartphone vendors out there, Apple is best positioned to optimize memory use on the iPhone. That’s why it never mentions the amount of RAM on its devices. The idea is the iPhone will deliver a fast experience, routinely outperforming rivals, without the user worrying about RAM.

I’ll also point out that Apple appears to have moved to faster LPDDR5 RAM for the entire iPhone 15 series, though the cheaper models only have 6GB of memory.

Finally, I’ll remind you about iOS 18 rumors that mention Apple GPT features. They say Apple is looking at both on-device AI capabilities for the next iPhones and at server-based AI. A mix between the two is also a possibility.

If the RAM estimates above for on-device AI are correct, Apple could always consider boosting the RAM of the iPhone 16 Pro and 16 Pro Max to handle certain AI features. I don’t see the iPhone going to 20GB of RAM, but a bump to 12GB could always be possible. But that’s just speculation.

Another option is having the iPhone 16 Pros stick with 8GB of RAM and optimizing only certain AI features for on-device processing. Remember that the next-gen A18 Pro chip should be even more powerful than the iPhone 15 Pro. And it should deliver an improved neural engine to handle AI features. More complex AI queries could be passed on to Apple’s servers where RAM wouldn’t be a problem.

We’ll certainly know more details about the iPhone 16 hardware in a few months from now. And once Apple takes the stage at WWDC 2024 to demo the generative AI features of iOS 18, we’ll also know more details about the hardware requirements.

I expect plenty of iPhone’s lineup to support generative AI features that rely on the cloud. But I also expect on-device AI to be more limited. On top of that, I also think the iPhone 16 Pros will get exclusive AI features.

It’ll also be interesting to see what Samsung does with the Galaxy S24 series when it comes to memory. The phones should come with Gauss built-in, Samsung’s generative AI software that supports on-device functionality.

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.