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iPhone 16 & AI

It’s coming, we know it’s coming, but what do we want from it?

iPhone 16 will run AI and iOS 18 logo

Like clockwork, we know we’ll be getting the iPhone 16 this September and although the phone itself may look much the same as the one sitting on my desk today – how it works and the iOS behind it stand to be ever so different.

Last week WWDC was confirmed and all the indicators are that Apple is about to get serious about AI.

By Apple’s standards, they’ve been shouting it from the rooftops and saying that iOS 18 will be radically different and be much more AI-focused. CEO Tim Cook even went on record to say that ‘we’re investing quite a bit in AI’ and that Apple will be ‘breaking new ground on generative AI in 2024’ confirming ‘we believe it will unlock transformative opportunities for our users’.

Apple is hardly ever that blatant about their plans – now it would be a massive surprise if we didn’t get a big fat dollop of AI planted into iPhone 16 and iOS 18. So if the takeaway is that AI is a dead cert for WWDC and iPhone 16 the question then is what do we want from it?

What should AI look like on an iPhone?

Happy with iPhone…

Last year I played around with Android for a bit and spent some time using the Pixel 8 Pro.

There were bits of it I liked – sure – but not enough to make me want to switch full-time. It turns out I love my iPhone because, well, it’s an iPhone.

I like how it looks, behaves and it’s form factor. I’m not one of those looking for the ability to endlessly edit my home screen or Lock Screen. If iOS gives us round icons – fine, but it’s nothing I’m going to lose sleep over. I’ve written in the past that the phone we use chooses us as much as we choose it. iPhone suits me just fine…

With the surprising news coming out of Apple over the past few weeks that they decided to buy a ready-made LLM as the back end for the first deep-dive into AI it got me a little worried.

Will Apple run the risk of letting the iPhone become Google-ified or will they manage to retain the DNA and what we love about our iPhones?

Many questions…

Before I get on to what apps I reckon could first benefit from AI on the next iPhone another thought has crossed my mind. At WWDC will we finally hear the until now-banned words coming from Tim and Craig’s mouths? Will Apple start to refer openly to AI rather than hiding behind their preferred ‘machine-learning’ term? Will they admit that they are using Google’s Gemini Nano or merely say we’ve partnered with a favoured supplier?

Equally at Google’s May IO event will they shout that iPhone is now running Gemini Nano or will it be part of the agreement that it’s all hush and handled with discretion and subtlety?

I wrote last week posing the question as to who would pay whom for this deal as both parties stand to gain a heck of a lot from it but something else I’ve not been able to square in my head is the privacy side of AI on iPhones.

We know Apple’s stance on privacy and that it is central to everything it stands for and represents, yet Large Language Models need data – after all, it’s how they learn, improve and develop.

When you are using a Google device you know that your searches and requests are going to be shared with Google’s AI engines – and that’s fine, but when you choose Apple and an iPhone it kinda indicates that you’ve cognitively chosen another route. So how AI makes its way to iPhone is a hot take that I’ve not been able to square off.

Any ideas?

Enough of the questions though – if AI is going to be coming our way what apps could benefit from it most?

Music

Now that’s an app I use every day – it’s playing now as I write and it’s an app that could easily benefit from AI.

Siri, I think we can all agree is pretty woeful and in the Music app, it is atrocious! I’d love to be able to ask my iPhone not just for artists but also for a particular track from a certain album – it shouldn’t be rocket science, should it?

I’d also love to be able to ask Siri in the future to add songs to specific playlists and create playlists for me.

I’m one of the odd ones who is happy with Apple Music over Spotify, but a little AI refresh would be super handy.

Shortcuts

OK – I’m gonna ‘fess up and admit I don’t have a clue about shortcuts. As deeply embedded as I am in Apple’s ecosystem and as much as I love my iPhone I don’t get shortcuts – but I want to!

I did spend one painful afternoon trying to figure them out but short of launching Twitter I didn’t have a great deal of success. If anyone wants to help me get to grips with shortcuts, then I’m all ears…

But – surely AI could be a fantastic aid with this app, right? If I could simply ask Siri (assuming that Apple will still call it Siri) to create a shortcut for me then my luddite inadequacies would be managed in a jiffy!

Photos

The most obvious app for AI to shine in iOS is the photos app.

There is already a surprising amount of AI going on in the background with the photo app but you’d have to suppose that we are about to get some more obvious signs and uses of it.

Pixels Magic Eraser is an awesome tool and is something that should be on iPhone by now. Best Take though is something I’m a little less certain fits in with the iPhone ethos and Apple.

When you start to create photos that were never there in the first place in my opinion you’re heading into murky, muddy water and one that Apple may want to steer clear of – and the same is true of Magic Editor. As far as I’m concerned those two features don’t belong in iOS 18.

But a Pixel and Gemini Nano feature I’d love to come to iPhone is the Audio Magic Eraser. I’ve used it and it’s chuffing brilliant. Coming from an audio background I can’t begin to tell you not only how clever it is but how much time it saves too.

AI and the Photos app is a match made in heaven and I can’t wait to see the fun that Apple has with it at ‘Dub-Dub’.

And lastly…

Then I can see AI coming to iOS in a couple of general ways that I tasted on the Pixel 8 Pro that would be kinda useful.

Speech-to-text is seriously good on that phone and from time to time I could see that being handy – whether the time would ever come I could sit and dictate these stories into Ulysses I don’t know – but even a halfway house would be good.

The Circle to Search that came in an OS update late last year to the Pixel isn’t something I’d use much but I can see its benefits.

These are the apps that I think Apple may start with at WWDC in a few weeks with the Photos app being the poster boy for AI and iPhone. I can’t believe that Apple would just copy and paste Gemini Nano into the iPhone but how they go about implementing it whilst still retaining privacy will be fascinating to watch.

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