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How ChatGPT users will benefit from the Apple AI deal even if they don’t have iPhones

Published Jul 5th, 2024 12:11PM EDT
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Image: OpenAI

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Having ChatGPT integrated into iOS 18 will be a big deal for iPhone users. Apple’s language models can’t currently offer chatbot functionality on par with OpenAI, Google, Anthropic, and others. If they could, Apple would simply send those complex Siri prompts to its own “AppleGPT” rather than partnering with other AI service providers.

The partnership is also a big deal for OpenAI. The company has a unique chance to score a big victory against Google and other rivals by getting prime placement on the iPhone. But I just realized that it’s not just iPhone users or OpenAI that will benefit from the deal.

Thanks to Apple’s partnership with OpenAI, every ChatGPT user will get a better ChatGPT experience, even if they don’t own a single Apple product. Apple will have a non-voting observer seat on the OpenAI board, which could be just as powerful as a voting seat.

Phil Schiller sitting in on OpenAI board meetings might force the company to be even more careful about what it does with ChatGPT and how it handles security and transparency. Considering what happened recently at OpenAI, we might need Apple’s oversight on ChatGPT development now more than ever.

In a matter of days, we heard that the ChatGPT Mac app was storing all chats in plain text. That’s a data security issue that should not happen, considering the potentially sensitive nature of ChatGPT chats. According to OpenAI, the problem is now fixed.

Then, The New York Times reported that a hacker accessed internal OpenAI communications about ChatGPT about a year ago. The company disclosed the attack to employees and the board, but not to the public.

OpenAI did not inform users at large or law-enforcement agencies about the breach. The hack did not involve user data, as the hacker stole details about the design of ChatGPT tech.

This happened before April 2023, when OpenAI disclosed it to employees and the old board. That’s the board that briefly sacked Sam Altman in November. It’s the latest controversy in a series of events that unfolded over the past few months that made me lose trust in OpenAI.

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

Fast-forward to July 2024, and Bloomberg reported Schiller’s access to OpenAI’s board on behalf of Apple. While Apple only got an observer seat, and Schiller can’t vote on anything, the high-ranking Apple exec’s presence in the room will not go unnoticed. On that note, Microsoft also got an observer set after the events that occurred this past November, so it’s not just Apple possibly overseeing things.

Apple’s presence at OpenAI board meetings might be even more important to ChatGPT users than Microsoft’s. Apple could shape ChatGPT’s future by making certain demands that would keep the Apple Intelligence deal in place.

The iPhone maker could require OpenAI to improve its privacy and security features and ensure its AI development is safe. Apple might also pressure OpenAI to become more transparent about potential hacks and attacks on the AI tech OpenAI is developing.

OpenAI will have to comply and meet Apple’s needs. While the Apple Intelligence ChatGPT deal only gives OpenAI a brief exclusivity window before Gemini, Anthropic, and other chatbots make their way to iOS 18, it could be massively lucrative for OpenAI. Even if no money is changing hands at this time, ChatGPT could get milions of new users, some of which might subscribe to a paid tier.

Then there’s the obvious bragging right. Apple deemed ChatGPT the best chatbot out there, which is why it chose it for Apple Intelligence integration. Apple could always say that Gemini or Claude is better than ChatGPT in the future. Many iOS 18 users would probably follow Apple’s lead when choosing a chatbot.

Even without Apple having a seat on the board, it’s clear that OpenAI has made a few big changes to ChatGPT to cater to Apple’s needs in the months that preceded WWDC. OpenAI made access to ChatGPT possible without an account. That’s how the chatbot works in iOS 18, though Apple will also support ChatGPT accounts.

More importantly, OpenAI changed the ChatGPT privacy policy in a big way. You can prevent your data from training the chatbot, and keep your chat history. That’s a big privacy deal for Apple.

With all that in mind, I expect Apple to have a big influence on ChatGPT, at least in the near future, through that observer seat on the board. If that happens, it’ll be great news for all ChatGPT users, even those who don’t like Apple products.

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.