Apple Intelligence: iPhone maker unveils massive AI makeover

Apple has announced a suite of new artificial intelligence (AI) features and operating system upgrades at the opening presentation of its annual developer conference, WWDC.

The biggest announcement was Apple Intelligence, the US tech giant's version of AI, which will be integrated across its software to upgrade existing apps to make them more useful.

Apple Intelligence will be powered by Apple's own systems, most of which will be on-device on newer hardware models, as well as through a partnership with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. It will be available on iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, as well as iPads and Macs with an M1 chip and later, as long as the device language set to US English.

Siri, Apple's digital assistant, should become much more useful as it will now be powered by large language models (LLM) to better understand users and function more like ChatGPT.

"Another way Apple Intelligence is deeply impactful is its ability to take action across your apps," said Craig Federighi, Apple's SVP of software engineering, at WWDC 2024.

"You can say things like, 'Pull up the files that Joz shared with me last week', or 'Show me all the photos of mom, Olivia and me' or 'Play the podcast that my wife sent the other day'.

"Apple Intelligence is grounded in your personal information and context with the ability to retrieve and analyse the most relevant data from across your apps as well as to reference the content on your screen, like an email or calendar event you're looking at.

"Suppose one of my meetings is being rescheduled for late in the afternoon and I'm wondering if it's going to prevent me from getting to my daughter's play performance on time. Apple Intelligence can process the relevant personal data to assist me.

"It can understand who my daughter is, the play details she sent several days ago, the time and location for my meeting and predicted traffic between my office and the theatre."

The new Apple Intelligence-powered Siri, which will also support text input as well as speech, promises to save time by searching through all of Apple's settings lists and instructional pages for assistance. This should mean, for example, an elderly person can ask Siri to make the text bigger on their screen or change another setting, rather than phoning a relative to ask for help.

Apple Intelligence will also provide summarisation, transcription, key point creation, proofreading and rewriting tools, similar to those that have become popular in recent hardware and software from rival companies like Samsung, Microsoft and Google.

Auto-transcription and summarising will also be offered on phone calls, in real-time, which may eliminate the need for paid third-party apps like Otter or TapeACall.

Generative AI image creation and editing is also offered in Apple Intelligence, including 'Genmojis', which will create a custom emoji based on whatever prompt the user gives. 

The partnership with OpenAI means Apple is adding the base version of GPT-4o to Siri as well as its Writing Tools. Siri can act as a liaison for user queries to GTP-4o, and Writing Tools can use the LLM to help compose text. 

Apple emphasised privacy and security during the presentation, including new feature Private Cloud Compute, which is said to lock any data that does go to the cloud. Users will be asked every time before ChatGPT is used and Apple said unless you connect your device with a paid OpenAI account, it won't pass on any information about you to the company.

Apple Intelligence will be free and "deeply integrated into iOS 18, iPadOS 18 and macOS Sequoia", the company said. Several updates to each of those operating systems were also described at WWDC.