iOS 18 Could Take the AI Craze Mainstream

AI is the buzzword in tech right now, but Apple’s ecosystem is likely what will introduce millions to automated and generative AI.

Holding an iPhone 15 Plus with the top of the phone towards the camera and the screen visible.
Photograph by Raymond Wong

The stakes for Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference have never been higher. Well, at least not since last year, when the iPhone maker proposed the Apple Vision Pro as the next generation of computing. But the expected flavor of this year’s conference is different. It’s finally Apple’s turn to say something about artificial intelligence.

Apple has been offering features enabled by machine learning and computer vision across its software platforms for years now. It just hasn’t made a big deal about it, letting the technical parts fall into the background of what new software features actually do. Siri, which will presumably serve as one of the main ways to access whatever is announced at WWDC 2024, was the last time the company made a big deal about something AI-adjacent, and that was more about natural language processing than the ability to find or generate new information.

Apple likes to arrive at a new trend with the right ideas, not necessarily new ones, and thanks to reporting, there’s already some sense of what generative AI concepts the company could announce this summer. The uses and risks of AI have been bubbling in the background for the last few years, but this will be different. However it ultimately gets packaged, if it’s delivered in the right way, Apple could finally take the current wave of AI development truly mainstream.

Generative AI For The Average Joe

Interacting with Microsoft Copilot in apps is as simple as typing what you want in a text box.


OpenAI introduced ChatGPT on November 30, 2022, kicking off the onslaught of new AI-powered software, features, and hardware that have dominated consumer technology for the last few years. The appeal of ChatGPT — that is the main appeal of most of these AI products to this day — is that you can talk to it like a normal person and ChatGPT will attempt to respond, answer questions, or complete requests, just in a hypercompetent, nearly instantaneous, somewhat unimaginative way only a computer could.

The potential of OpenAI’s GPT models was immediately pounced on by Microsoft, which invested in the company and used its large language models to reinvent the Bing search engine. Initial coverage of the new Bing chat was unhinged at best, willfully ignorant at worst, but it was clear there was an opportunity to rethink how people accessed information online, and Microsoft was seizing it, consequences be damned. Ultimately, that hasn’t moved the needle much for Bing, but Microsoft’s rebranding of Bing chat into Copilot, a general-purpose AI that could help you use your laptop or Word as easily as it can pull up the weather for the day, has reshaped the company’s whole consumer strategy.

The potential of OpenAI’s GPT models was immediately pounced on by Microsoft...

Google, long considered the leader in AI research, was caught flat-footed by all of this, and scrambled to turn things into products it previously wouldn’t have considered ready. That initially looked like Bard, its answer to ChatGPT, Search Generative Experience (SGE), AI-produced search results in Google, and Duet AI, an integration of generative AI into things like Google Docs and Sheets. Google’s results were more mixed than Microsoft’s and OpenAI’s, and in many ways, scarier for the future of the web, because people rely on Google Search to find information and receive web traffic. The dust hasn’t fully settled on Google’s AI strategy — it recently introduced a new set of improved AI models and rebranded all of its AI products to “Gemini” — but it definitely has a lot of convincing left to do.

Injecting Some Common Sense

Siri could be seriously improved by generative AI.


The opportunity for Apple is to repackage the core ideas companies like Microsoft, Google, and OpenAI have been putting forward into something that’s easy enough for a normal person to understand. There are billions of iPhones out in the world at this point, and whatever Apple announces has to theoretically be legible and useful to anyone who owns one. At the very least, that might mean showing some restraint.

So far, what’s been reported seems to suggest Apple could take a similar strategy to its competitors. Apple is reportedly planning on integrating artificial intelligence into its Xcode development environment to streamline the process of creating apps for Apple devices, according to Bloomberg. Apple is also considering generative AI-based features for the consumer side of its software like improvements to Siri, Messages, and things like auto-generated playlists in Apple Music, and the ability to generate text and images in Pages and Keynote. Another element of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS that could see a major improvement? Spotlight. Bloomberg reports Apple could vastly improve its system-wide search by “using LLMs to answer more complex questions and the ability to tap deeper into apps to launch specific functions.”

Notably missing is any mention of an Apple-designed chatbot or any kind of chat interface outside of what already exists with Siri. Apple has internally tested its own GPT-style model called Ajax, and researched ways of running large language models on devices rather than in the cloud, but it seems that some of its planned features will be powered by, or at least supplemented with, third-party models. The company has reportedly discussed licensing tech from OpenAI, Google, and Baidu for its upcoming updates. Not only would that create a lucrative opportunity for Apple if companies are willing to pay to be on its devices, but it’d also save it some liability when the LLMs inevitably hallucinate and respond with incorrect answers.

The Apple Touch

Does all that make for an AI your grandma could use? Not on paper, but the X factor for most of what Apple does outside of design is marketing and branding. Explaining, naming, and selling things in a way that’s attractive and desirable, but also makes the importance of advancements clear. The WWDC 2024 keynote needs to not only introduce Apple’s version of these AI features, it needs to make the case for why they’re worth it in the first place.

The WWDC 2024 keynote needs to not only introduce Apple’s version of these AI features, it needs to make the case for why they’re worth it in the first place.

Apple didn’t really have a complete vision (no pun intended) for why anyone should want a Vision Pro, but given how contentious and wasteful AI can be, it needs to have one this June.

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