June 21, 2024

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New iOS 18 AI Security Move Changes The Game For All iPhone Users

8 min read

It’s now been confirmed—well, pretty much. Apple’s soon-to-launch iOS 18 update will include AI features that will be processed entirely on the device. When the iPhone 16 launches this fall, this will be a formidable combination that will offer game-changing features and security and privacy.

That’s because iOS 18 on the iPhone 16 will provide all the AI features Apple is offering when its updated software launches, in the most secure way possible.

04/29 update below. This article was first published on 04/26.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, Apple is developing its own large language model (LLM) to power on device generative AI features in the iPhone 16 series. Apple’s AI features probably won’t be superior to those of its rivals, but the way it implements the technology could “still be a game changer,” Bloomberg Apple commentator Mark Gurman wrote in his PowerOn newsletter.

“Apple’s AI tools may be a bit less powerful and knowledgeable in some cases (the company could fill in the gaps by teaming up with Google and other AI providers), but the approach will make response times far quicker. And it will be easier for Apple to maintain privacy,” Gurman added.

This week, Apple introduced a set of tiny source-available AI language models called OpenELM small enough to run directly on a smartphone. The proof-of-concept research models could form the basis of future on-device AI offerings from Apple, ArsTechnica writes.

What We Know About Apple’s iOS 18 AI Strategy

It fits with what we know so far about the iPhone maker’s AI strategy. Last year, Apple bought Canadian start-up DarwinAI, a company that has developed technology able to make AI systems smaller and faster.

Apple’s AI features—including enhancements to Siri and auto-summarizing and auto-completion features in apps—are expected to run better on the iPhone 16 when it launches. This is because Apple’s soon-to-launch new iPhone will include a more powerful chip capable of running these AI features.

Apple’s next-generation A18 Pro chip for iPhone 16 Pro models will feature a larger die size for boosted artificial intelligence performance, according to Jeff Pu, an investment analyst, reported MacRumors.

It could mean that iPhone 16 users get access to more AI features, with less powerful devices only being able to access the basics of iOS 18 AI. After all, Apple has limited features to certain iPhones before, as it did when it launched the Dynamic Island on the iPhone 14.

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Apple’s Privacy Differentiator

Apple has been differentiating itself using privacy and security for years. “Privacy. That’s Apple,” one of the iPhone maker’s ads reads.

Making a big deal about on device processing is a great way for Apple to differentiate itself in AI, especially when pitted against its number one competitor, Google’s Android.

Apple already has a strong reputation for privacy, with multiple iPhone features such as App Tracking Transparency and App Privacy Reports. Many people buy iPhones for their privacy credentials and Apple is very aware of this.

Concern Over Security And Privacy

And when it comes to AI, concern over security and privacy has never been higher. This is no doubt an opportunity for Apple—especially when pitted against Google, known to be one of the most data hungry of all the big tech firms.

Google is not stupid, the tech giant also knows people will be concerned about privacy when buying into its AI features. Hybrid AI used by Samsung allows users to have some of the privacy and security of on device processing combined with maximum functionality of AI features.

“It means simpler AI tasks processed on the device, and—ideally—any tasks that use personal, sensitive data also processed locally,” Forbes’ Zak Doffman writes. “Everything else—including research or document creation—is likely to be pushed to the cloud.”

How On-Device AI Prioritises iPhone Privacy

On-device AI processing “aligns seamlessly with Apple’s commitments to prioritising user privacy,” says Jake Moore, global cybersecurity advisor at ESET. “By processing data locally on the device, it minimizes external transmissions and increases security but when powerful enough, it also reduces latency for faster response times.”

“Local onboard processing also gives users greater control over their data and reinforces the important message of trust in a relatively new technology where data protection is paramount.”

Striking A Balance Between Security And Functionality

It’s certainly a difficult balance to strike. Security versus functionality is an age old problem, but it’s never been more prominent than with the fast growing and evolving AI features coming to smartphones.

How much will remain on device is difficult to pinpoint at this stage. Apple will reveal more about its AI strategy at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

It’s quite possible Apple will hire Google or OpenAI for more complex, off device processing. But for now, it can tout its privacy and security credentials with AI remaining entirely on the iPhone.

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04/29 update: Apple’s move into AI-enabled hardware on mobile devices could arrive even sooner than expected. The soon-to-launch iPad Pro is likely to feature the M4 chip, skipping Apple’s M3 as the firm makes waves in AI, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman’s PowerOn newsletter.

The M4 chip is significant because it contains a new neutral engine that “will pave the way for fresh AI capabilities,” Gurman wrote.

Gurman had previously predicted the M4 chip would debut later in 2024 when Apple launches its iMacs, MacBook Pros and Mac Minis. “I’m hearing there is a strong possibility that the chip in the new iPad Pro will be the M4, not the M3,” Gurman said.

He thinks Apple will position the new iPad as “its first truly AI-powered device” ahead of the launch of iOS 18 later this year. It’s a marketing strategy to highlight Apple’s credibility in AI—and it could be an effective one ahead of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June.

“By introducing the new iPad Pro ahead of its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple could lay out its AI chip strategy without distraction,” Gurman wrote.

Apple is due to launch a new iPad Pro, iPad Air, Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil at a “Let Loose” event on May 7. At WWDC, the iPhone maker could highlight how the M4 chip and new iPad Pros “will take advantage of the AI software and services coming as part of iPadOS 18 later this year.”

Apple will also position the A18 chip in the iPhone 16 line as built around AI, he predicts.

The iOS 18 reveal at WWDC will ensure Apple users are excited about what’s to come—and intrigued by the new chip’s capabilities, so many of them buy the new iPads ahead of the operating system’s arrival this fall. It will also get people excited about what the iPhone 16 can do with iOS 18. I’m certainly looking forward to pre-ordering my device later this year.

AI is on the agenda for Apple, but Gurman also questions whether iPhone users will actually be interested in the AI features Apple is planning. “There’s still some concern at the highest levels of Apple that most users won’t take advantage of the enhancements,” Gurman said.

In true Apple fashion, the iPhone maker is also putting its own unique slant on AI features that should appeal to its privacy-conscious users. “Of course, it’s not unusual for the iPhone maker to enter a market that’s already established. But it likes to arrive with a new trick. Apple’s plan this time: showing off features that are deeply integrated across the iPhone operating system—not elements just pasted on top of the existing software—with more privacy and security than rival systems,” Gurman wrote.

This will see Apple integrating AI into features and applications, with features using Apple’s own Ajax large language model processed on the device. As for chatbot style features, Apple will use a potential partnership with Google’s Gemini or OpenAI.

Alongside this, Google is ramping up its own AI strategy and boosting its own devices, aligning its team to be more like Apple’s, according to reports. A management shake up at the tech giant has seen hardware chief Rick Osterloh promoted to a role where he’ll over see the Android operating system.

While the change was positioned as a way to integrate AI more quickly and deeply, Gurman says it’s “an attempt to mimic Apple’s product development model.”

04/28 update: As if by magic, it has emerged that Apple has intensified talks with ChatGPT maker OpenAI to power new iPhone features that could arrive in iOS 18. After first entering talks earlier this year, OpenAI and Apple are discussing how a possible agreement would work including the specifics of how the technology could be integrated, according to Bloomberg Apple commentator Mark Gurman.

The discussions with OpenAI—which appear to have resumed after a brief hiatus—are in addition to Apple’s talks with Google about using its Gemini chatbot to help power iOS 18 features.

Apple hasn’t made a final decision about which partners it will use, and there’s no guarantee that a deal will be worked out, Gurman said, citing people familiar with the matter. “It’s possible that the company ultimately reaches an agreement with both OpenAI and Google—or picks another provider entirely.”

The talks with OpenAI and Google center around chatbot features that could arrive in iOS 18 and on the soon-to-launch iPhones. Apple will, of course, pursue its in house large language model in addition to this, which allows the iPhone maker to use AI to generate human-sounding text.

It’s just one month until Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off and there’s going to be plenty more rumors emerging ahead of this. Bloomberg’s Gurman has already said iOS 18 will be Apple’s biggest update yet and alongside the power the iPhone 16 will offer, this will definitely be the case. In June, Apple CEO Tim Cook will reveal its AI strategy, detailing features coming in iOS 18, as well as how they’ll protect iPhone security and privacy.

Without a doubt, AI requires a lot of user data to function and become better, so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Using partners adds more options for Apple, with additional benefits for the iPhone maker’s reputation.

“Relying on partners would help accelerate Apple’s push into chatbots and sidestep some risks,” Gurman says. In other words, outsourcing generative AI to another firm will remove liability from Apple and place it on the shoulders of OpenAI or Google. Functionality without the liability.

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