What Is M4? The AI Chip Powering Apple’s New iPad Lineup

Apple just announced a new AI processing chip for its upcoming iPad lineup that could be big for its AI plans.

Apple is finally getting in on the AI action, announcing a new AI chip that will power its new iPad lineup, as well as future devices moving forward.

The creator of the iPhone has been lagging behind the industry when it comes to AI. While Microsoft and Google trade blows with their Copilot and Gemini platforms in hopes of catching up to ChatGPT, Apple has been slow to enter the fray.

While Apple still hasn’t announced an AI chatbot, the M4 launch points to an AI future for the big tech firm that could spread across the company’s many devices.

Apple Announces M4 AI Chip

Less than a year after announcing M3, Apple is officially upgrading its proprietary processing chip. The M4 chip will be launched within the two new iPad Pro devices that were announced at a special Apple event that showcased their improved functionality.

“The new iPad Pro with M4 is a great example of how building best-in-class custom silicon enables breakthrough products… Altogether, this new chip makes iPad Pro the most powerful device of its kind.” – Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies

In addition to the size of the chip enabling an even thinner iPad, the M4 is specifically designed for AI, so it enables a wide range of innovative features that should get Apple in the fight for the groundbreaking technology.

What Can the M4 AI Chip Do?

A fancy new processing chip comes around every year, so what makes the M4 special compared to previous iterations? Well, it’s specifically built for AI, which means that it can enable some unique features that will improve the upcoming iPad devices, as well as other devices that will sport it moving forward.

Faster performance

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The biggest improvement that the M4 boasts compared to previous chips? It will work a lot faster. Apple specified that it would offer CPU performance that is approximately 1.5 times faster than the M2, which was featured in the previous iPad Pro.

On top of that, the M4 features a new Neural Engine that is “capable of an astounding 38 trillion operations per second,” making it 11 times faster than the first Neural Engine in the A11 Bionic chip. This means that devices sporting the M4 will be uniquely positioned to perform AI tasks quickly, including Live Captions and Visual Look-Up.

Thinner design

The problem with technology is that all that technology has to fit in a physical piece of hardware. Luckily, the M4 is small enough and efficient enough that the iPad Pro can be one of the thinnest yet, at only 5.3mm for the 11-inch model and 5.1mm for the 13-inch model.

Better display

When you think of AI, you don’t necessarily think of improved display quality. However, with hardware-accelerated ray tracing and mesh shading, the M4 allows these new iPads to be graphically quite impressive, improving the look of shadows, reflections, and all the other small upgrades that can really make a different for your experience.

More green

While you might not necessarily have the environment in mind when purchasing a new tablet, it’s at least reassuring to know that the more power efficient M4 chip does make the new iPad Pro lineup better for the environment. And considering the company’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2030, it better be!

Apple’s AI Future

As we mentioned, this is one of Apple’s first mentions of AI since the ChatGPT boom, and it’s definitely a step in the right direction. After all, on-board AI hardware has been rolling out to phones over the last year, and it’s the first step in making the technology more readily available to users without an internet connection.

Still, Apple has a long way to go. Siri has been in the bin for a while now compared to competitors like Google Assistant, and with no public AI chatbot like Gemini to speak of, Apple seems to be leaving money on the table. Yes, the company is working on an AI model to improve Siri, but that could take more time than Apple has to make an impact.

Obviously, Apple has been fine with being late to the party in the past. After all, the iPhone gets features multiple years after they pop up on Android, and they’ve still been able to secure the majority of market share in the US. But when it comes to AI, being this slow to move is going to get you left behind.

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Written by:
Conor is the Lead Writer for Tech.co. For the last six years, he’s covered everything from tech news and product reviews to digital marketing trends and business tech innovations. He's written guest posts for the likes of Forbes, Chase, WeWork, and many others, covering tech trends, business resources, and everything in between. He's also participated in events for SXSW, Tech in Motion, and General Assembly, to name a few. He also cannot pronounce the word "colloquially" correctly. You can email Conor at conor@tech.co.
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