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ChatGPT is coming to iOS 18, but OpenAI missed a big opportunity at WWDC

Published Jun 12th, 2024 8:46AM EDT
ChatGPT will be part of the Apple Intelligence experience in iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS 15.
Image: Apple Inc.

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I’m a longtime iPhone user, a fan of gen AI products, and a ChatGPT Plus subscriber. All of that tells you that I loved seeing that Apple went with OpenAI’s ChatGPT for iOS 18 integration at WWDC. Of all the chatbots out there, I wanted ChatGPT to come to iOS 18 because it’s currently the best option, all things considered.

As part of the Apple Intelligence suite of features, Apple’s smarter Siri will let you connect to ChatGPT for certain things, though it’ll always ask if you want to use OpenAI’s chatbot for help before sending any data to OpenAI. Also, ChatGPT will not be the exclusive partner for iOS 18, with Apple having confirmed at WWDC that other chatbots will be available down the road.

That particular admission from Craig Federighi on stage, combined with Apple’s announcement of ChatGPT functionality for iOS 18, signaled that OpenAI doesn’t have Apple’s full confidence. Put differently, OpenAI missed out on a historic opportunity despite scoring a big win for ChatGPT.

Where was Sam Altman?

Rumors preceding the event said that Sam Altman would join Apple at WWDC to announce the ChatGPT partnership. That didn’t happen. Instead, Federighi walked us through ChatGPT integration in iOS 18 towards the end of the event.

Now, rumors aren’t always right. Also, OpenAI’s absence might not be a big deal. Apple had specific plans for the WWDC keynote, and they might not have included Altman to begin with. But Apple did have guests. Ubisoft’s Marc-Alexis Côté took the stage during the macOS 15 segment of the show to talk about upcoming games coming to the Mac.

As big as the gaming industry might be, I’d say that the AI initiative is even more important for Apple right now. That’s why Altman’s absence is surprising.

We might never know why Altman was or wasn’t invited, or whether he agreed or declined to join Apple. But it would have been a huge deal for OpenAI to be acknowledged publicly this way. By the way, this is Altman’s reaction on X to Apple’s WWDC ChatGPT announcement:

Sure, Federighi mentioned that ChatGPT is the best of the chatbots out there, a comment that must have angered Google to an extent. But it’s not the same thing as having OpenAI’s CEO introduce the ChatGPT features that Federighi ended up covering. That would have been a big victory for OpenAI.

One reason for Altman’s absence might be the lack of an exclusive deal. Federighi said Apple wants to support other AI models in the future. Then again, Apple might not want any exclusivity deals with any third party for iPhone features after all the attention it received from regulators for its Google Search deal.

A better explanation for Altman’s absence at WWDC might be OpenAI’s recent issues. It’s not just the Scarlett Johansson fiasco. The recent developments around OpenAI’s AI safety team and the alleged anti-whistleblower behavior could give Apple reason to worry. As much as I love the idea of getting GPT-4o access in iOS 18 via Siri, recent events also made me lose trust in OpenAI.

Then again, I’m just speculating here. Whether or not some differences of opinion exist between the two companies, Apple and OpenAI still inked a deal to add ChatGPT to iOS 18.

How ChatGPT will work in iOS 18

Federighi clarified that ChatGPT will work according to Apple’s strict standards.

First, iOS 18 will get you access to GPT-4o, ChatGPT’s newest model. That includes support for voice and image input, which is something Apple demoed on stage. ChatGPT is also integrated into the Writing Tools and Compose features coming to Apple Intelligence. You’ll be able to generate text with ChatGPT in various apps on multiple Apple devices.

When you use ChatGPT with Siri, Apple’s assistant will always ask users whether they want to ask ChatGPT for help before beaming any data over to OpenAI.

Siri will pass information to ChatGPT with your permission.
Siri will pass information to ChatGPT with your permission. Image source: Apple Inc.

Also important is that you’ll use ChatGPT (GPT-4o) for free without creating an account with OpenAI. That’s the current experience for ChatGPT, by the way.

Crucially, none of the data you send to ChatGPT via Siri will be logged by Apple or OpenAI. Also, Apple’s iOS 18 and other new operating systems are set up to send only the data needed to process a request to OpenAI’s servers.

Finally, if you’re a subscriber to ChatGPT Plus like me, you’ll be able to sign into your account when using the chatbot from Apple devices.

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.

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