iPhone 16 tipped to get a big microphone boost for Apple's AI-powered Siri

The underside of an iPhone 15 on a green background showing its USB-C port and microphone
(Image credit: Apple)

We've already heard that iOS 18 is likely to bring several AI-powered features to iPhones in 2024, and now a fresh rumor suggests that Apple plans to give the iPhone 16 an upgraded microphone to prepare it for a next-gen Siri.

The seasoned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims in a new blog post (via MacRumors) that a supply chain survey shows that "all iPhone 16 models will feature a significant upgrade in microphone specifications". 

The main upgrade will apparently be "a better signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) to improve the Siri experience significantly", which Kuo suggests shows that Apple is likely to "integrate more AI/AIGC capabilities into Siri as a key selling point of the iPhone 16".

This speculation follows earlier rumors from respected leaker Revegnus that Apple is using large language models (LLMs) to turn Siri into the "ultimate virtual assistant". Apparently, the first demos of this new voice assistant tech are likely to happen at WWDC 2024.

On-device AI is shaping up to be the next big battleground for smartphones in 2024, following several years of competition focusing on cameras. The Pixel 8 Pro recently became Google's first AI phone, with an update that unlocks new features powered by Gemini Nano, the smallest version of Google's new AI model.

Siri started processing its audio on-device by default in iOS 15 back in 2021, so Apple is likely to continue that trend even with a more powerful version of its voice assistant. While a lot of Siri's current limitations are down to the tech under the hood, a new microphone would certainly help improve its reliability.

What does this mean for older iPhones?

An iPhone on a green background showing the Siri voice assistant

(Image credit: Apple)

The big question this rumor again raises is how well Apple's AI-powered improvements, including a next-gen Siri, are going to work on older iPhones.

A microphone is only one small part of the voice assistant experience, and current iPhone mics are certainly capable enough to allow today's iPhones to work with a future version of Apple's Siri.

But the combination of new silicon – the iPhone 16 will likely inherit the A17 Pro chip from the iPhone 15 Pro, while the 16 Pro gets a new Apple chip – and other links in the AI chain like this rumored microphone could mean that next year's iPhones could be the only way to experience whatever AI features Apple has in store.

That would certainly help Apple in its bid to convince us to upgrade, which is something that's become harder for it to do in recent years. Smartphone sales have been on the slide, so AI will likely be a new hardware-based differentiator for the phone giants – with the Samsung Galaxy S24 likely to branded its first 'AI phone' when it lands next month.

Exactly what new features these new voice assistants and on-device LLMs will bring in 2024 remains to be seen, but the Pixel 8 Pro's new December features drop gives us a good idea.

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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 Stuff.tv, 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.