Apple Could Reportedly Offer AI Features On-Device With iOS 18, But That Might Come at a Cost

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Apple might be planning a big upgrade for its iPhone devices with the iOS 18 update. A new report has revealed that the Cupertino-based tech giant is working on introducing artificial intelligence (AI) features for its smartphones at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2024, expected to be held in June. Interestingly, the company might make all of the AI features available on-device, instead of keeping them cloud-based. Notably, a report last week highlighted that Apple could unveil a new AI-powered browsing feature for Safari which will let users summarise web pages.

The information comes from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman’s Power On newsletter, where he answered the question of how much of Apple’s planned AI features might be cloud-based. As per Gurman, not much at all! The tech giant could make all the features available locally and have it processed on-device itself. This move, if true, can have both upsides and downsides depending on how the iPhone maker handles the issues with AI features.

Having AI features entirely locally is great for privacy and data security. This means any data shared with the app or the system feature never leaves the user’s iPhone, and the information is unlikely to ever reach a third party. This makes the device more secure, and users do not have to worry about their sensitive data either.

However, there is a downside. In fact, there are a couple of them. First, AI computers require significantly high amounts of processing power compared to the usual tasks performed by the device. Most large language models run GPU-based inference on computers. Even smartphones today are working to add special “AI processors” that come equipped with a combination of powerful CPU, GPU, and NPU (Neural Processing Unit). Despite this, running complex algorithms locally on the device can be a tricky task. This is why Samsung gives users a choice on whether they want to run certain Galaxy AI features on the device or through the servers.

For Apple to bring some of these features locally can be a challenging task. And this brings us to the second downside. If Apple remains intent on only offering on-device AI features, it may not be able to offer some of the features competitors are offering. For example, Galaxy AI has an Interpreter feature which translates a verbal conversation between two speakers standing near the phone in real time. Similarly, Oppo offers AI-powered image generation capabilities to users in China. Will Apple be able to optimise such features on-device? And will it be able to do it fast enough, so it does not fall behind the competition? WWDC 2024 might answer some of these questions.


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