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Why Siri’s ChatGPT integration might drive some iPhone users crazy

Published Jun 24th, 2024 12:28PM EDT
Siri gets an AI-powered upgrade in iOS 18.
Image: Apple Inc.

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For as remarkable as Siri was when it debuted in 2011, Apple’s digital assistant has since been lapped by rival services from Amazon and Google. I myself noticed that the amount of time I spend using Siri has gone down significantly over the years, largely because it has become less helpful to me over time. And that’s hardly a minority opinion, as Apple users have bemoaned Siri’s lack of utility relative to competitors for years.

With iOS 18, that is poised to change. Thanks to Apple Intelligence, Apple boasts that users will be able to engage with Siri more naturally. Additionally, Siri will be more aware of the context in which queries are made. In turn, Siri will be able to deliver more accurate and helpful results. And for instances where Siri isn’t up for the task – say, if you ask how long you need to cook chicken breast in an air frier at 400 degrees – Siri will be able to leverage the power of ChatGPT to deliver results instead of lazily directing users to the web.

Thanks to Apple’s partnership with OpenAI, ChatGPT is integrated directly into Siri. Specifically, users will be able to take advantage of the power of GPT-4o. And while Apple Intelligence is designed to work its magic in the background, the same can’t be said for Siri’s ChatGPT integration. On the contrary, anytime Siri deems itself unable to deliver a response, users will receive a prompt asking if they’d like to use ChatGPT to do the job.

More info on ChatGPT and Siri integration

During WWDC, we learned that ChatGPT won’t be turned on by default in Siri when iOS 18 ships. Rather, users will have to go to settings and flick a toggle to turn it on. This is a nice guardrail for folks who might be inclined to steer away from ChatGPT, for whatever reason. Incidentally, iOS 18 users will not need to sign up for a ChatGPT account to take advantage of the service.

And again, Siri won’t hand off a request to ChatGPT in the background and then relay that information unbeknownst to the user. On the contrary, users will be prompted to accept ChatGPT before any query is made. The UI is illustrated in the photo below:

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

Unfortunately, John Gruber over at Daring Fireball relays that this prompt may appear every single time Siri wants to offload something to ChatGPT. This might be fine for users who engage with ChatGPT sparingly. However, it might prove to be a nuisance for heavy users. An option in Settings to “always allow” Siri to pass something to ChatGPT would be nice. Such a feature does not appear to be in the cards just yet.

As currently designed, no one is going to accidentally interact with, let alone expose personal information to, ChatGPT. If anything I suspect the more common complaint will come from people who wish to use ChatGPT without confirmation each time. Some people are going to want an “Always allow” option for handing requests to ChatGPT, but according to Apple reps I’ve spoken with, such an option does not yet exist.

While frustrating, this is arguably not surprising. If anything, users who might grow weary of these notifications might decide it’s more convenient to just sign up as a ChatGPT subscriber. This, of course, would entitle Apple to a cut of the action.

What’s more, with Apple making its most significant leap in the realm of AI, a measured approach makes sense. If anything, it’s certainly Apple’s way of doing things.

Other Siri and ChatGPT tidbits

There are a few other Siri and ChatGPT tidbits worth sharing.

For one, the deal Apple struck with OpenAI will see no money exchanging hands. Instead, OpenAI is betting that its partnership with Apple – and its massively large user base — will pay off in terms of exposure and new users. And Apple, meanwhile, can provide its users access to a best-in-class AI system. It’s a rare win-win scenario for both parties involved.

Second, other chatbot integrations might be on the way. There doesn’t appear to be a ChatGPT exclusivity agreement with iOS, which is to say we might see Apple offer users the ability to select from varying chatbots like Claude and Google Gemini.

Third, individual queries to ChatGPT will not be logged by either Apple or OpenAI. In a similar vein, ChatGPT will not use any user-submitted information as part of its training data. Of course, this is not the case for iOS 18 users logged into their ChatGPT accounts.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.