Apple just gave the iPhone and Siri a big AI boost

Apple has launched a new era for the company with the introduction of its first generative AI features for the iPhone.

At the annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple revealed its initial suite of tools powered by “Apple Intelligence.” These include personalized Genmoji—AI-generated emojis—and a significantly enhanced Siri capable of answering questions about your schedule, email contents, and the arrival time of a loved one’s flight.

The company also announced a partnership with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, to power these features. This collaboration could provide a significant boost, but it might also pose challenges due to public skepticism about the technology, which has faced criticism for incorporating user inputs into ChatGPT’s data set. Apple aims to mitigate these concerns by performing most AI functions directly on the phone, keeping data away from remote servers.

This significant push into AI could drive growth in iPhone sales and services, especially as users delay upgrades and economic uncertainties affect consumer behavior, particularly in China. Apple also faces regulatory scrutiny in Washington and was recently surpassed by Nvidia as the second-largest public company in the US.

Apple has been impressed by existing generative AI tools and aims to further personalize them for its users while prioritizing privacy. CEO Tim Cook emphasized that these new capabilities must be powerful, intuitive, deeply integrated, and privacy-focused.

Apple’s timing is also noteworthy. The company typically takes its time to perfect new technologies before integrating them into its products. However, the rapid adoption of generative AI has expedited Apple’s need to equip its smartphones with the latest tech. Cook highlighted generative AI as a key opportunity across Apple’s products in the company’s most recent earnings call, indicating that further announcements were imminent.

According to Wedbush analyst Dan Ives, Apple’s commitment to AI will “kick off a new frontier for Apple,” with lasting impacts on its products and services.

Key Announcements from the Event

Generative AI Enhancements Apple is incorporating generative AI into Siri, transforming it into a more capable iPhone chatbot. This allows Siri to perform tasks such as retrieving old photos or answering detailed questions about various topics. Siri can also analyze emails to provide specific information, like when a user’s mom’s flight is landing. Over time, Siri will learn user preferences and respond accordingly, adapting automatically based on voice, audio, natural language, images, and contextual cues.

Users can create personalized photos and perform actions across apps, such as pulling up all photos of a family member or analyzing data from emails and calendars to alert users about potential schedule conflicts.

Forrester analyst Thomas Husson noted that generative AI will allow future iPhones to act as a “sixth sense,” enhancing interaction with the world around us. He emphasized that AI will become foundational to Apple’s strategic focus, highlighting its R&D efforts and investments.

Beyond AI Apple also unveiled updates to iOS 18, including new controls and personalization options. These updates feature a revamped look for icons in Dark Mode, a new tint color for wallpaper, and a redesigned control center accessible from the lock screen.

Privacy and security enhancements include the ability to “lock” certain apps with Face ID, Touch ID, or a passcode, and the option to “hide” apps in a locked folder. Additionally, users will soon be able to send texts via satellite and schedule messages in iMessage.

Vision Pro Updates Apple showcased upgrades for the Vision Pro mixed reality headset. Vision OS 2 will offer more immersive experiences, such as a wider display for workstations, new hand gestures, and deeper photo interactions using advanced machine learning. The Vision Pro will also support capturing spatial videos and will be available in more countries, including the UK, China, Japan, Singapore, and Australia, this summer.

These upgrades could boost sales of the Vision Pro, which starts at $3,499, despite reports of weak demand.

Apple’s advancements in generative AI and other features reflect its ongoing commitment to innovation and user-centric design.