The iPhone May Get a Big Dose of AI This Year

Here's what Apple's AI plans for the iPhone might look like based on reports

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Artificial intelligence and machine learning have played an important role in the iPhone for years, powering features like Portrait Mode for the camera and the ability to copy and paste text from photos. But at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, we’re expecting to learn about how Apple could take that to the next level by potentially bringing generative AI to the iPhone.

Generative AI, or AI models trained on large volumes of data that create content in response to prompts, has exploded in popularity following the success of ChatGPT. Tech giants such as Microsoft, Google, Samsung and Amazon, among many others, have introduced generative AI into their biggest products over the past year. Apple, however, has been quiet about its plans for generative AI, although CEO Tim Cook teased updates for 2024.

"But we’ve got some things that we are incredibly excited about that we’ll be talking about later this year," Cook said in response to a question about generative AI on the company’s most recent earnings call.

Between Cook’s comments, new research papers and the acquisition of AI startups, Apple is clearly on to something. Here’s what Apple’s AI plans for the iPhone might look like based on reports that have circulated in recent months.

iOS 18 will likely be full of AI features

Apple’s next major iPhone operating system, which will probably be called iOS 18, is expected to introduce a ton of new AI features to the iPhone. It could be the most significant update since the original iPhone in Apple’s eyes, according to Bloomberg.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, has been tasked with implementing a bunch of new tools into iOS fueled by the company’s large language model, reports Bloomberg. It’s unclear precisely what that means for iOS 18, but the report says we could see improvements in the Messages app and Siri. What we won’t see is an Apple alternative to ChatGPT, Bloomberg also reports.

Samsung and Google have already provided a glimpse into how generative AI is changing smartphones. Both companies offer features that can rewrite text messages in a different tone before hitting the send button and photo editing tools that can refill blank spaces in a photo after moving an object. It’s possible Apple could take a similar approach, although we won’t know for sure until iOS 18 arrives.

Google could power some new AI features

Apple is reportedly in talks with Google and OpenAI about using their respective AI models to power certain upcoming iPhone features, according to reports from Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. These models would likely be used for AI features that must be processed in the cloud, reports Bloomberg. Apple is reportedly planning to use its own models for future software tools that can be processed on-device without requiring a cloud connection.

On-device AI is generally considered to be more secure and private since data doesn’t have to leave your device but typically requires more powerful processors. That’s why Siri is only capable of answering health-related questions on the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, which run on the company’s newest smartwatch chips.

Based on the reports, it sounds like Apple is focusing its efforts on new AI models designed to run locally, while seeking a partner for cloud-based AI. That wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise; Apple prides itself on creating new features and technologies that take full advantage of how hardware and software work together. It’s much easier to do that when you don’t have to rely on a third-party for data processing.

It also wouldn’t be the first time Apple has partnered with another company on certain technologies and components. Google already pays Apple billions of dollars to be the default search engine on iPhones, for example, and Qualcomm supplies Apple with 5G modems for the iPhone.

A smarter Siri

Siri seems like a natural area for Apple to apply any AI advancements, and reports from The Information and Bloomberg suggest it may do just that. The Information reported last year that Apple has doubled down on efforts to make Siri better at automating tasks. The report cites the ability to ask Siri to create GIFs from your last five photos and then share it as an example of the types of use cases Apple has in mind.

We won’t know what Apple’s plans are until it announces them. But automation features like those mentioned above would feel like a fitting evolution for Siri that builds on its existing Shortcuts functionality.

An AI App Store

Apple may launch a new AI App Store, according to Ben Reitzes, head of technology research at Melius Research, who spoke with CNBC.

"In June we should start to see them lay the groundwork for this new app store, for how it’s going to work with AI, how you can buy AI apps through the App Store, " he said during the CNBC interview.

There are a lot of unanswered questions, such as whether this supposed AI app store would be for the iPhone, the Mac or all of Apple’s products. It’s also unclear if Reitzes is referring to a separate App Store entirely, or a new section in the current App Store focused on AI apps. The latter seems more in line with Apple’s usual approach. Either way, emphasizing AI in the App Store would be a testament to the technology’s importance from Apple’s perspective.

A new chip with more AI processing power

Apple’s next iPhone processor, presumably called the A18, is expected to offer better AI performance for the iPhone 16 lineup, according to Taiwanese news outlet Economic Daily News and analyst Jeff Pu, as MacRumors reported. AI has been a big area of focus for years, with Apple increasingly expanding the capabilities of the neural engine inside its A-series chips. But given that Apple is expected to develop new AI-powered iPhone features that rely on local processing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more significant upgrades.

Apple isn’t usually first to market with new product categories. Instead, it’s known for popularizing technologies, as it did with smartphones, smartwatches and tablets. Regardless of Apple’s approach, all eyes will be on the company to do the same with AI and generative AI.

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GeeksModo Staff is a team of iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch experts led by Moses Johnson. We're passionate about all things Apple!
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