If there was one overriding topic at CES this year, it was, predictably, AI. Every booth, presentation, and product unveiling included those two letters. Sometimes, it felt shoe-horned (AI massage chair, anyone?), other times it was genuinely innovative (hello, Rabbit R1).

Everyone seems to be getting involved in generative AI and large language models. That is, everyone apart from Apple. Tim Cook and co. have remained curiously silent on the topic of AI.

At Samsung Unpacked earlier this month, Apple’s biggest smartphone competitor heralded the era of Galaxy AI by unveiling three S24 devices, all of which were capable of AI trickery. Translation, photo editing, photo capture, and assistive search were just some of the AI-infused features proudly unveiled.

All eyes are now squarely on Apple and iOS 18. Rumours suggest something big is on the way, but what on earth can we expect?

Before we get into that, though, there’s a far more pressing question.

Will Apple say “AI” at WWDC 2024?

Although I have no interest in re-watching all of the recent Apple keynotes to double-check, I’m fairly sure they have never uttered the phrase ‘AI’. ‘Machine learning’ appears to be acceptable, but artificial intelligence is something with which Apple steadfastly refuses to align itself.

I’m not sure why. I won’t get into the weeds with this because I don’t fully understand it, but machine learning and artificial intelligence are the same, yet the public is now far more cognisant of the latter. It feels like classic Apple stubbornness, to me, which is one of the company’s least palatable character traits.

Just say “AI”, guys – you’ve been working on it for years.

However, we all know they won’t do that during WWDC this year. They’ll invent a new name for it – ‘Apple Intelligence’, probably. Give me your guesses as to what it might be in the comments section, please.

Is Apple working on AI?

Yes. As noted, Apple has been working on and integrating AI-based tech into its products for many years. It’s just that most of it is described as ‘machine learning’ and is either invisible to the user or results in some fairly minor quality of life benefits.

They’re doing a lot more than that, though, if the rumours are to be believed. Last year, it was reported that Apple was spending millions of dollars every single day while building something that could rival the capabilities of ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. In 2018, they hired John Giannandrea as Head of AI, whose job back then was to help improve Siri. I won’t pass judgement on what John’s been doing since, but, well – if you know, you know.

Giannandrea’s team is, apparently, currently working on something that is known internally at Apple as ‘Ajax GPT’. This is, insiders say, a large language model similar to those powering ChatGPT and Bard. It has reportedly been trained on 200 billion parameters, which is the same as GPT 3.5, but far less than Google’s 240 billion. For comparison purposes, GPT 4 is trained on 1.76 trillion parameters.

I have no idea what this means in practice, but Ajax GPT is expected to be integrated into iOS 18. How, is anyone’s guess – current details and rumours are sketchy; translation, predictive messaging and improvements to Siri are all we have to go on at the moment.

The big question is why is it taking Apple so long? And the answer is probably very simple – privacy concerns. As impressive as the likes of ChatGPT and Bard are, they require access to copious amounts of data and permanent access to the cloud to process requests. Apple likely wants to differentiate Ajax GPT by ensuring most if not all of the AI trickery can take place on the device.

That’s a huge task and requires significant grunt on behalf of the device itself.

We know Apple, don’t we? And we know that they want to come out on stage and say that this is the most secure, privacy-focused AI (or whatever they decide to call it) platform ever developed. That’s gonna take time.

My Apple AI wish list

It’s easy to get lost in the AI conversation. Arguably, I have got rather tied up in it myself, above.

When you start using AI on devices like the Pixel 8 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, you realise that there’s usually only one or two features that stick. For you, it might be assistance with the tone of your emails and messages. It could be photo editing features that help you remove common issues like shadows and reflections. It might just be the fact that when you jump into your car, your phone reveals how long it’ll take to where it assumes you’re going.

Artificial intelligence is scarily impressive, but the impact it’s likely to have on your day-to-day life is minimal, compared to the traditional tech you do rely on. The latter is baked into your life and has been for many years – AI has to fight for a place. This should take the pressure off Apple a bit because when I list the features I’d like from its AI efforts, it’s pretty simple.

I want better Siri. We all do. Just a version of Siri that isn’t dim-witted, slow, and frustrating to work with would do wonders.

Circle to search on the S24 (and now the Pixel) is genuinely useful for quickly nailing down the name, location, or price of whatever it is you’re looking at. Something similar in iOS 18 would be very nice indeed – assuming Google and Apple can play nicely together.

I like the idea of Apple Notes gaining AI-powered formatting, translation, and summarisation features, too. The beauty of Notes is its simplicity, and that would be further aided by an injection of AI assistance.

Lastly, photo editing. The generative stuff where you can move subjects around in the frame and have AI fill in the gaps after centring the horizon is fun to play with, but the aforementioned ability to remove shadows and reflections is genuinely useful – and missing from Photos.

That’s it. And the good news is I think we’ll get most of this stuff from Apple later this year.

Wrapping up: what do you want from Apple AI?

Over to you. What’s your opinion on Apple’s efforts in artificial intelligence? What’s missing? What should be added, come WWDC 2024? Is this all overblown nonsense?

Get involved in the comments below, please!

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FAQ

Does Apple have AI?

Apple has used AI in its devices for over a decade. For example, Siri uses AI to understand commands whilst there are also certain AI features in the iPhone’s camera capabilities to refine photos on the fly. Besides this, Apple doesn’t yet have a dedicated generative AI platform like that of Google Bard or ChatGPT. However, Apple is reportedly working on their own AI entity based on a bespoke Large Language Model called ‘Apple Ajax’. This is expected to be released with the iPhone 16 in September 2024.

What is ‘Apple GPT’?

Apple GPT is the unofficial name of Apple’s own generative AI chatbot which is reportedly in development. Apple GPT will be powered by Ajax, the internal name given to Apple’s own Large Language Model.

What is Apple’s AI called?

There are no confirmed names for Apple’s AI, although internal reports suggest the working title is ‘Apple Ajax’. This name refers to the Large Language Model Apple will use to inform the generative AI features on its upcoming devices.

Does iPhone have AI features?

The iPhone has had AI features for a decade. For example, whenever you use Siri on an iPhone, you are using AI. The same goes for the camera system which also uses AI to calibrate photos as you take them. But dedicated AI capabilities like a chatbot or predictive messaging do not exist yet on the iPhone. The iPhone 16 is expected to be the first Apple device to debut dedicated AI features, driven by Apple Ajax.