Apple says M4 chip is “outrageously powerful” for AI, but why?

  • Apple has launched its latest processor alongside its new iPad Pro devices.
  • It says the M4 chip has industry-leading performance, and efficiency and is great for running AI applications.
  • Yet Apple devices still don’t have the AI applications required by this kind of power.

At the Apple Event where the latest versions of the iPad Pro and iPad Air were launched, Apple also introduced its ultimate chipset in the M4 processor.

Now only being used in its upcoming pads, the chipset represents “industry-leading power efficiency” and the company says it turns the iPad into “an outrageously powerful device for artificial intelligence.”

According to Apple, the M4 chip has the company’s fastest Neural Engine ever, capable of 38 trillion operations per second, which is why Apple is saying that it is ideal to run generative AI. But with Apple not having any generative AI applications to speak of, the question is then: why does it matter?

It matters because Apple is actively looking into generative AI for its front-end users, and will likely sign a deal with one of the big Gen AI players in the near future to do so. The Cupertino tech giant is expected to partner up with Google, and in turn, use Google’s AI software as a basis for its own branded chatbot and other services.

Either that, or iPhone and iPad devices will just have Google Gemini available in a way similar to how Siri has worked in the past. But this still doesn’t explain why Apple is making such a big deal around AI and its latest chipset.

Gemini does not require a supremely capable AI-ready chip, such as NVIDIA’s Blackwell to run trillions of operations right on your machine. Firstly, it’s because your iPhone or iPad will melt, but secondly, Gemini runs these operations via cloud at Google datacentres around the world.

Even Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, says that the M4 is “extremely well suited for the latest applications leveraging AI” due to “fundamental improvements to the CPU, GPU, Neural Engine, and memory system.”

Let’s dig deep into Apple’s announcement of the M4 chip, in which the company details the more powerful neural engine.

“This is Apple’s most powerful Neural Engine ever, capable of an astounding 38 trillion operations per second — a breathtaking 60x faster than the first Neural Engine in A11 Bionic,” it says.

“Together with next-generation [machine learning] accelerators in the CPU, the high-performance GPU, and higher-bandwidth unified memory, the Neural Engine makes M4 an outrageously powerful chip for AI,” adding that the new iPad Pro, that uses the M4 chip “allows users to accomplish amazing AI tasks quickly and on device.”

Which tasks, you ask? “AI features in iPadOS like Live Captions for real-time audio captions, and Visual Look Up, which identifies objects in video and photos,” the announcement reads.

Live captioning is a basic natural language process, and Visual Look Up, like Google Lens, relies on a complex algorithm. It is not exactly generative AI. These are not the same kinds of “AI” that NVIDIA is talking about when it says that its new Blackwell processor can run 10 terabytes of operations per second.

This is understood as the older idea of AI, and not, or at least not fully, “generative AI” as we understand it today. A technology that is capable of producing human-like responses and manifesting new images based on huge databases of information a la OpenAI, Meta AI, or Google Gemini.

Samsung has this same issue. Slapping features like live translate and circle to search with the AI label for marketing purposes. The Apple M4 chip may be an upgrade in terms of processing power, but until Apple is running true generative AI processes on its devices, which may be soon, we may as well ignore all the AI-related superlatives it is adding.


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