And so it starts: the iPhone 15 Pro could be the cut-off for iOS 18's best AI features

iPhone 15 Pro review back handheld angled camera
(Image credit: Future | Alex Walker-Todd)

When it comes to AI-powered features on iPhones, there's good news and bad news. On the plus side, it seems the tech is likely to power several useful new features in iOS 18. But unfortunately, new rumors predict that some of the best ones will be restricted to the iPhone 15 Pro (and rumored iPhone 16 series).

Bloomberg's reliable reporter Mark Gurman has now predicted that "many of the on-device AI capabilities will require an iPhone 15 Pro or later to work". While he doesn't specify which AI features these will be, the latest rumors are predicting that a smarter Siri (including hands-free app control) and AI photo editing will be among the key on-device upgrades.

The likely technical reason for this is the iPhone 15 Pro's A17 Pro chip, which isn't in the base iPhone 15 and offers some major performance boosts, including being able to execute twice as many operations per second as the A16 Bionic. The iPhone 16 is also rumored to be packing an A18 Pro chipset with an upgraded neural processing unit (NPU).

Of course, the wider benefit for Apple is a new feature that could help tempt current iPhone owners to buy a new model. As Gurman states, "Apple is betting that the new AI features for the iPhone will encourage users to upgrade their devices".

This will also be the case, to a lesser extent, for Macs and iPads. Gurman says that Apple's laptops and tablets "will need at least an M1 chip" to run the company's on-device AI features. But given that the first devices with an M1 chip were the Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) and the iPad Pro 12.9 (2021), the upgrade urgency could be much lower for those than for iPhone owners.

Analysis: A minor concern, for now

An iPhone on a blue background showing the Siri logo

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple doesn't commonly ring-fence major features for certain iPhone models, but it has happened increasingly in recent years. 

For example, the iPhone 15 received an 80% charge limit option and 24MP photos, which weren't on the iPhone 14 series. The option of shooting Apple ProRaw and ProRes was also restricted to Apple's recent 'Pro' models, from the iPhone 14 Pro Max onwards.

It seems like AI-powered features in iOS 18 could take this trend to the next level, in order to spark an iPhone upgrade cycle that has dwindled in recent years. But there's also evidence that it could take a few years before it becomes a major upgrade factor, at least on the same level of Apple's iPhone cameras.

For a start, these model requirements shouldn't apply to off-device AI features. The ChatGPT app, for example, is supported by any iPhone running iOS 16.1 or later, which goes all the way back to the iPhone 8 from 2017. 

It isn't clear exactly how Apple's rumored deal with OpenAI might integrate the chatbot into iOS 18, but there'll be plenty of off-device AI options for those running older iPhones. Also, the rumored AI features for iOS 18 don't currently sound so powerful that they'll leave older iPhones behind.

With most features for apps like Notes and Voice Memos sounding like minor quality-of-life upgrades, it could be a while before on-device AI becomes a major reason to upgrade – but the process will likely start with iOS 18.

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Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.