Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

A mysterious iOS 18 AI feature might’ve just leaked: Safari Browsing Assistant

Published Apr 10th, 2024 11:29AM EDT
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Dynamic Island
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

Apple is widely expected to add several generative AI features to the iPhone via the upcoming iOS 18 update. Rumors point to both on-device and cloud-based AI features coming to iPhones. The iPhone 16 models might get exclusive AI tricks that could make use of the new A-series chips, so they won’t be available on older iPhone models.

Whether the company partners with Google for Gemini cloud AI processing or a different third party, Apple will likely try to match what’s available from competing smartphones in terms of genAI features. It’s also very likely that Apple will put its own spin on some of the AI features coming to the iPhone to differentiate itself from rivals.

Nothing is confirmed at the moment. But Apple did say multiple times that it’s taking generative AI seriously, teasing announcements for later this year. Separately, Apple researchers have published various papers detailing the company’s various AI advancements.

With that sort of background information, nobody would blame you if you think Safari Browsing Assistant is some sort of new AI feature that Apple might have devised for iOS 18, especially now. We’re about two months away from WWDC 2024. That’s where Apple will reveal most of the AI features it can talk about without spoiling iPhone 16 secrets.

But Safari Browsing Assistant has no explanation, and it might not necessarily be an AI-related feature. The “assistant” part certainly makes it sound like AI is involved, however.

On that note, I do expect Siri to get an AI revamp in iOS 18. And I hope generative AI will make it a more dependable assistant.

According to MacRumors, two independent sources discovered references to a new Safari Browsing Assistant. Nicolas Alvarez found it in the backend code on Apple’s servers, and MacRumors contributor Aaron Perris confirmed that the reference exists.

Alvarez also mentioned an “Encrypted Visual Search” functionality that’s equally mysterious. I’d speculate that it sounds like Google’s Circle to Search functionality, but that’s wishful thinking on my part. I’d love a similar feature to come to the iPhone, maybe one created by Apple.

This feature doesn’t appear to be connected to Visual Look Up, but maybe that’s exactly what it is.

Alvarez also noted that both features use Private Relay infrastructure to send data to Apple anonymously. That way, Apple doesn’t know your IP.

I said before that I expect Apple to lead the way when it comes to privacy protections for genAI features in iOS 18. On-device AI features will process data on the iPhone, so privacy and security should be guaranteed for those.

However, cloud-based AI features will need an internet connection, as data needs to be sent to Apple’s servers. Or a third party if Google’s Gemini infrastructure will handle cloud-based AI features. Apple would also have to implement strong privacy and security features for that data.

All of this is speculation at this point. At the very least, we have more indirect proof that Apple might be working on new AI features for the iPhone.

We’ll know more in June when Apple holds its WWDC keynote. Until then, I’d expect some iOS 18 AI features to leak. Maybe this mysterious Safari Browsing Assistant will reappear in rumors soon enough.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.