Why is it important: Ray tracing is still mostly exclusive to current generation gaming consoles and the latest mid-to-high-end PC graphics cards, but it’s starting to show up on mobile hardware as well. A recent report shows that Apple’s latest iPhone could have been a grand debut for handheld ray tracing, but the company scrapped those plans at the last minute.
If you found the iPhone 14 Pro’s graphics processing to be a rather tepid improvement over its predecessor, this week’s report from The Information may show why. Sources demand The premium phone’s GPU nearly supported hardware-accelerated ray tracing before a hasty retreat stopped it.
Unfortunately, late in the development of the iPhone 14 Pro, Apple engineers discovered a flaw that caused its GPU to consume too much power. To improve battery life and thermal performance of the device, Apple had to hastily replace the A16 Bionic chip GPU with the previous generation A15 processor found in the iPhone 13.
This failure is said to have become a major one in Apple’s hardware development history and led to a reshuffle in the company’s graphics processing team. The report mentions a wider loss of talent among Apple’s hardware development teams.
If the iPhone 14 Pro were released with ray tracing, it could compete with Android phones based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform that supports ray tracing and Unreal Engine 5. Flagship devices such as Xiaomi 13 series, Moto X40 and Vivo X90 Pro+ is already on the market based on the latest SoC from Qualcomm, while other models from Asus, OnePlus and Sony are on their way.
Last year, Imagination Technologies showed off an early attempt at mobile ray tracing with the PowerVR IMG-CXT. In June of this year, Arm announced the Immortalis G715, a mobile GPU that supports ray tracing and variable speed shading.
It seems that due to the failure of Apple, the iPhone 14 Pro fell behind the competition in terms of GPU performance. Graphics processing benchmarks put A16 Bionic behind Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and Dimension 9200 from MediaTek – the first Immortalis G715 chip.
Once Apple manages to get ray tracing into its silicon, it will likely show up in both mobile and desktop chips. The Apple Silicon version of Resident Evil Village currently lacks the graphics feature, unlike the Windows, PS5, and Xbox Series versions, but the in-game menu simply dims it in settings rather than removing it entirely. A minor detail can be interpreted as a hint that the upcoming Apple Silicon should support ray tracing.