A page on Apple’s website has revealed that several features of macOS Monterey, the new version of the software that runs on Macs, won’t work on legacy Macs with Intel processors.
Rather, those features will require the Apple-designed M1 chip (or presumably its upcoming successors) found in new Macs the company has introduced since late last year.
That means that the following Macs in Apple’s current lineup will be needed to use the features in question:
- 13-inch MacBook Air
- 24-inch iMac
- Low-end configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Pro
- Low-end configurations of the Mac mini
The clarification appears in the fine print on Apple’s “macOS Monterey Preview” page. Meanwhile, some listed features are associated with a footnote that reads “Available on Mac computers with the M1 chip.”
These features include:
- Live Text in photos, whereby users can interact with text within images as if they were any other text
- Improved city maps for San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and London.
- The high-detail globe view for Apple Maps.
- The Portrait mode video effect.
- Natural text-to-speech in Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish
- Unlimited/continuous keyboard dictation
Some of these (for example, Live Text) are likely explained by the fact that the chipsets in Intel Macs lack a viable equivalent to the 16-core Neural Engine NPU present on Apple’s M1. This component of the M1 is focused on machine-learning tasks and is drastically faster at those tasks than anything in the Intel Macs.
Apple has put a heavy emphasis on features enabled by machine learning. Several months back, we interviewed Apple head of AI John Giannandrea, who had defected from Google to Apple to lead the development of features like handwriting recognition on the iPad. During the interview, Giannandrea set the expectation that on-device ML would be at the heart of numerous new features in the Apple ecosystem moving forward. And without a viable NPU, he said, Intel Macs are being left behind.
Aside from the improved picture quality of the 24-inch iMac‘s M1 ISP-driven FaceTime camera, this is the first time we’ve come across an example of the M1 Macs offering something more than improved performance and power efficiency.
This revelation comes at a time when only a portion of the Mac lineup has yet been updated with Apple Silicon. All of the company’s high-end laptops and desktops still have Intel chips, such as the 16-inch MacBook Pro or 27-inch iMac. That is expected to change this year with the introduction of a new M1 successor with a 10-core CPU and either 16- or 32-core GPU.
We imagined we might see those new Macs during the WWDC keynote on Monday, but Apple did not announce any hardware after all. Supply chain reports seem to suggest that the bottleneck keeping the new Macs from hitting the market might be Mini LED display production. Nevertheless, those Macs are almost certain to arrive sometime this year. But we’ll have to wait a bit longer to find out when.
Listing image by Samuel Axon