Apple's AI Push Could Trigger Major iPhone Upgrade Wave

Apple's AI push fuels iPhone upgrade cycle, restricts features to powerful models, sparking user frustration and profit concerns.

Apple's AI Push Could Trigger Major iPhone Upgrade Wave

High Processing Demands for New Siri and Apple Intelligence Features Will Be Limited to the Most Powerful iPhones.

Apple's significant push into AI, branded as "Apple Intelligence," might initiate an upgrade "supercycle," as the enhanced Siri features will require substantial processing power, available only on the most powerful iPhones. This move may frustrate users updating to iOS 18 this autumn, discovering that even the latest iPhone 15 cannot support features like automatic transcription, image generation, and an improved voice assistant.

The new AI models will operate exclusively on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, which house the A17 processor. Additionally, Macs up to three years old with M1, M2, or M3 chips, and iPad Pros with similar hardware, will also benefit from these upgrades.

Critics suggest that the lack of a slower, less capable AI version for older phones is driven by profit motives. “Apple’s decision to limit Siri and Apple Intelligence features to the latest iPhone 15 Pro seems like a strategy to drive iPhone upgrade cycles,” said Gadjo Sevilla, senior analyst at Emarketer. “Consumers might see this as forced obsolescence, though these features will take months to become available.”

Apple's 2023 iPhone lineup was the first to restrict its advanced chips to the priciest models, creating a substantial power gap between the base iPhone 15 and the Pro line. Francisco Jeronimo from IDC explains that this restriction is necessary due to the high on-device processing power required for Apple Intelligence features. “This isn’t about short-term sales, but ensuring a strong, appealing user experience,” Jeronimo said.

Jeronimo further stated that Apple’s primary goal isn’t merely boosting the next iPhone sales but preparing for a fundamental shift in how consumers use their devices. He anticipates a supercycle once the broader public realizes the potential of AI, similar to previous disruptions caused by feature phones and smartphones over the past 30 years.

Apple is banking on its AI approach to compensate for the delay since ChatGPT's release. CEO Tim Cook emphasized a “new standard for privacy in AI,” ensuring user data is discarded post-query through advanced cloud computing methods.

However, concerns linger about the security risks of more autonomous AI systems, such as "prompt injection," where maliciously crafted messages could mislead the AI into taking unintended actions. Cybersecurity firm Tigera notes that while prompt injection is an inherent risk in large language models, researchers are actively seeking solutions.

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