Saturday, June 15, 2024

Apple needs to show iOS can rival Google’s Android in the AI era

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Tim Cook has a big task on his hands at Apple’s developer showcase this week: proving the company isn’t a million miles behind Google on artificial intelligence.

Since the start of the generative AI boom, sparked by the release of ChatGPT, the Apple CEO has remained largely silent on AI. On the other hand, his major rival in Mountain View has raced ahead and put the technology into everything from its search engine to Android.

Critically, Google’s efforts to weave AI into its mobile operating system have threatened to make Apple look out-of-sync. Android users have been introduced to much-hyped generative AI features, while iOS users have been left to make do with an outdated Siri.

At last month’s IO conference, for instance, Google introduced upgrades to Gemini’s integration with Android that turn it into a smarter, on-device virtual assistant aimed at “getting even better at understanding the context of what’s on your screen and what app you’re using.”

Sameer Samat, the head of Android, speaking on stage at a Google event.

Sameer Samat is Google’s head of Android.


There’s a lot more coming in the pipeline. During IO, Sameer Samat, Google’s Android chief, told my colleague Alistair Barr that AI presented a “once-in-a-generation moment to reinvent what phones can do.”

It’s now up to Apple to show at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) that it can use AI to do the same.

All eyes on Apple

Apple’s chance to show off its AI couldn’t come at a more timely moment.

For months, it’s been battling sliding iPhone sales in key markets like China, where sales fell by a drastic 19% in the first three months of the year per Counterpoint Research data, as competitors deliver products with a fresher feel than Apple’s staid annual updates.

As a result, investors and fanboys alike have been banking on Apple to drive fresh demand for its smartphones by integrating industry-leading AI features into iOS. Rumors swirling ahead of WWDC suggest Apple is ready to deliver.

The headline announcement everyone will be waiting for is a confirmation from Cook that Apple has secured a deal with OpenAI to integrate ChatGPT into its mobile operating system, as reported by Bloomberg.

Apple’s broader AI rollout, which Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said would be called “Apple Intelligence,” will also aim to provide users with generative AI-led context for services such as texts and emails and give Siri a much-needed revamp that gives it the power to edit your photos, for example.

It’ll still be some time before users get to try out Apple’s AI themselves. The iOS update is expected to be released in September to coincide with the launch of the iPhone 16.

That said, Apple will be confident in its ability to close the gap on Google. Cook will be ready to show everyone that iOS can compete with Android in the AI era.

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