A recent report said Apple believes iOS 18 to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, iPhone update in history. I said at the time that if that’s accurate, it can only mean one thing: generative AI features like ChatGPT are coming to iOS 18. Plenty of other reports made similar claims in recent months, with iOS and Siri expected to get GenAI features.
Apple will not confirm anything before it’s ready to announce it, but we’ve just received the next best possible thing: Tim Cook’s comments from Apple’s Q1 2024 earnings call. Artificial intelligence came up during the call, and Tim Cook said they’re “incredibly excited” about what’s coming later this year.
Apple refrained from even mentioning AI during WWDC 2023 or the iPhone 15 launch events last year. These happened at a time when everyone else was focusing on AI. Companies like Google and Microsoft turned artificial intelligence into the main buzzword of their product announcements. They still do.
That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t use AI in its products. Because it does. The iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Vision Pro chips have NPU cores that are increasingly more sophisticated.
These power the Neural Engine that handles machine learning (ML) features on Apple products. And that’s AI working for the user to power several experiences on the handset. Things like recognizing objects in photos, translating languages on-device, and autocorrecting text.
However, the iPhone and all of Apple’s computers lack built-in generative AI features. And Siri certainly needs a massive overhaul to keep up with what other GenAI assistants will be able to do. iOS 18 will hopefully correct that.
Tim Cook did not mention iOS 18 by name during the earnings call. But he did address AI twice, teasing the upcoming announcements. He did it once during his remarks, right after reminding those on the call about the Vision Pro launch on Friday.
Cook said Apple will spend a “tremedous amount of time and effort” on AI, with details coming later this year.
Moments like these [the Vision Pro launch] are what we live for at Apple. They’re why we do what we do. They’re why we’re so unflinchingly dedicated to groundbreaking innovation and why we’re so focused on pushing technology to its limits as we work to enrich the lives of our users.
As we look ahead, we will continue to invest in these and other technologies that will shape the future. That includes artificial intelligence, where we continue to spend a tremendous amount of time and effort, and we’re excited to share the details of our ongoing work in that space later this year.
The Apple CEO then addressed questions about generative AI during the call. He said it’s not typical of Apple to announce new products before they’re ready. But he teased that Apple has some things in the works “they are incredibly excited about.” The announcements will come later this year:
In terms of generative AI, which, I’d guess, is your focus, we have a lot of work going on internally as I’ve alluded to before.
Our MO, if you will, has always been to do work and then talk about work and not to get out in front of ourselves. And so, we’re going to hold that to this as well. But we’ve got some things that we are incredibly excited about that we’ll be talking about later this year.
Since I did mention the Neural Engine before, Cook also mentioned it during his remarks while addressing the Mac and its 40th anniversary:
Just last week, we got to wish Mac a happy 40th birthday. When it was introduced 40 years ago, Mac changed everything, and through the years, it has done so again and again.
Recently, we have been on a tremendous pace of innovation. Since the introduction of Apple silicon in 2020, we’ve been proud to offer our users unmatched performance and power along with a remarkable Neural Engine for artificial intelligence and machine learning.
That AI mention couldn’t have been accidental. It wasn’t necessary in that particular context, but Cook mentioned AI by name.
All that tells me WWDC 2024 should have a big AI focus. Again, I mean the ChatGPT kind of AI, not the artificial intelligence that’s already built into Apple devices. As a longtime iPhone and Mac user, I’m definitely excited to see what iOS 18 and Siri will bring in terms of GenAI features.