Apple preps iPhone 16 Pro for a huge AI performance leap with this tweak to its A18 Pro chip

An iPhone 15 Pro Max against an abstract multi-colored retro background.
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future / Apple)

Apple's iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro models went on sale in September of last year, and if Apple follows its usual pattern we can expect it to unveil a new round of iPhones around the same time this year. That means that we're now around halfway through the cycle and development on the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro models is well underway. As part of that development, Apple is thought to be working on a new chip for its high-end devices, dubbed the A18 Pro, and a new report suggests we can expect that chip to play a key role in Apple's AI push through 2024 and beyond.

Apple has long been keen to upgrade the iPhone's AI capabilities and as part of that, it's been suggested that it might want to try and keep as much of the data processing on-device in an attempt to stick to its self-imposed high bar in terms of privacy. But processing AI data is normally done in the cloud because of the processing power that is required and to that end, it's now been claimed that the iPhone 16 Pro's A18 Pro chip has been specially designed with that in mind.

The result of that, we're told, is that the A18 Pro will be configured in such a way that it will be specifically suited to handling AI processing locally, on the device, without having to send sensitive data or requests to the cloud in order to be processed. Such a move will not only help Apple maintain the user's privacy, though, with improvements to processing times also helping make the AI experience a more speedy one. That could make Siri more responsive, for example, even at the same time as making Apple's digital assistant more capable than ever before.

All-in on AI

The new chip design was detailed in a 9to5Mac report based on an analyst note shared by Jeff Pu at Haitong International Tech Research. The report claims that Apple's upcoming A18 Pro chip will sport a 6-core GPU design with a larger die area than the A17 Pro chip that powers the iPhone 15 Pro and Apple's best iPhone, iPhone 15 Pro Max.

"According to our supply chain checks, we are seeing growing demand for Apple’s A18, while its A17 Pro volume has stabilized since Feb," Pu is reported as saying in his research note. "We note Apple’s A18 Pro, the 6-GPU version, will feature a larger die area (compared to A17 Pro), which could be a trend for edge AI computing."

Edge AI is the term used for handling some AI tasks on the device rather than the cloud which, as mentioned, could make a big difference to Apple's privacy and performance efforts. Some work will still need to be done on Apple's servers however, and the company is thought to be in talks with Google and OpenAI about using the two companies' generative AI technology while Baidu is tipped to be the company handling the same tasks in China.

Apple's AI isn't expected to only benefit the iPhone 16 Pro, however. The upcoming iOS 18 and macOS 15 updates are also expected to bring new features to the masses, but not until later this year. If Apple follows its usual release pattern we can expect both updates to be announced at WWDC in June before being made available for download this fall.

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.