iOS 18's AI features could be exclusive to recent iPhones, but don't worry about upgrading just yet

A phone showing an 18 logo
(Image credit: Shutterstock / QubixStudio)

iOS 18 is expected to bring several new AI features to iPhones when it lands at WWDC 2024 next month, but rumors have also hinted at an important detail – exactly which iPhones might and might not get these new tricks.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman suggested in his latest Power On newsletter that iOS 18's new AI features – which could include a more natural Siri and voice memo transcriptions – may be restricted to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, plus the new iPhone 16 and 16 Pro series.

Referring to the new AI features, Gurman stated that "most of the on-device features will be supported by iPhone, iPad and Mac chips released in the last year or so." For the iPhone, that would mean the A17 Pro, which landed in September 2023, but probably excludes the A16 Bionic, which arrived in September 2022.

Of course, these rumors only refer to AI features that are processed on-device. We also expect cloud-based AI features, as Apple is rumored to have sealed a partnership with OpenAI. Cloud-based features could presumably be available to any iPhone capable of running iOS 18. That would be ideal, since iOS 18 is now expected to support the same models as iOS 17.

For on-device AI features, there will likely be a cut-off for software support – and these latest rumors suggest that even recent models like the iPhone 15 or iPhone 14 Pro could see some restrictions on the iOS 18 features they can fully support. 

That is likely because the A17 Pro chipset in the iPhone 15 Pro made a significant jump in the number of operations it could manage per second (twice as many as the A16 Bionic). We've also heard rumors that the iPhone 16 series could get a significantly upgraded neural engine. A neural processing unit (NPU) powers on-device AI and machine learning tasks, though it's possible that the rumored A18 Pro chipset could be restricted to an iPhone 16 Pro series.

In any case, it sounds like AI features will be Apple's next big reason to get us to upgrade our iPhones – though fortunately, the rumored features don't sound so dazzling that you'll be lured into a premature upgrade...

Opinion: AI unlikely to be a reason to upgrade

Two iPhones on a blue background showing Siri and Shortcuts

(Image credit: Apple)

I'm planning to upgrade to an iPhone 16 Pro this year, but not because of AI features – instead, it's down to the latest camera rumors and the fact that I skipped the iPhone 15 Pro last year to wait for a more refined version of Apple's optical zoom on a smaller phone than a Pro Max.

So far, I'm not hugely excited about iOS 18's rumored AI features. Apple's focus is likely to be on-device AI, and that is by definition far more limited than cloud-based AI, which OpenAI is rumored to be supplying in part. 

Those rumored on-device features include minor quality-of-life upgrades, including Safari improvements, some Photos retouching tools and AI-generated emojis. I don't know about you, but I could probably live without AI emojis for a few years.

Of course, Apple could yet come out with a barnstorming new AI feature in iOS 18, but I'm dubious. Mark Gurman's newsletter has suggested that iOS 18's new AI tricks may come with "preview" labels to indicate that "the technology isn't yet fully baked".

From the rumors so far, it sounds like AI features will take at least another year to fully develop and become upgrade-worthy temptations like Apple's camera hardware has been in recent years. That said, it could still be a good year to upgrade your iPhone, with Apple likely to lay the hardware foundations in the iPhone 16 series for future AI features.

I'll be happy to future-proof my iOS garden with an iPhone 16 Pro in September, but the reason will be camera hardware rather than new AI tricks.

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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.