Unveiling Apple Intelligence: How iOS 18 Transforms AI on iPhones

Unveiled at Apple WWDC 2024, iOS 18's groundbreaking Apple Intelligence suite sets a new benchmark for AI integration on smartphones, making the latest iPhone Pro models a showcase of advanced on-device capabilities

by Sededin Dedovic
Unveiling Apple Intelligence: How iOS 18 Transforms AI on iPhones
© Apple / YOutube channel

"I need to see something particularly useful that AI on iOS 18 can do," said a veteran tech journalist before the Apple WWDC 2024 event. We largely agree with that sentiment. By the end of the Apple conference, we felt that Apple might have just delivered the most practical dose of AI on a smartphone yet.

We have entered the era of Apple Intelligence on iPhones. The bad news is that all AI features are only available on the latest “Pro” models of iPhones. They are not available for either the iPhone 15 or the iPhone 15 Plus.

This appears to be due to the processor and built-in NPU, or perhaps memory limitations. Similar limitations apply to the iPad, which must have at least an M-class processor. Google's approach isn't much different. The company has limited on-device Gemini Nano to the Pixel 8 series of phones, while Samsung started with Galaxy AI features exclusive to the Galaxy S24 series.

However, the similarities end there. Apple Intelligence – a suite of AI features for the iPhone – is far ahead of the AI advancements we’ve seen on Android phones. Even at this early stage, Apple is well ahead in this race.

What makes iOS 18 and Apple Intelligence so special?

Apple aims for most AI processing to be done on-device, requiring a powerful AI accelerator and processor. Why isn’t the A16 in the iPhone 15 enough? We don’t know, even though it easily outperforms the Pixel 8 Tensor processor, and Qualcomm’s best processor in the Galaxy S24 isn’t far behind either.

But, we’d always rather put the security of our data first than trust AI tasks to a cloud server run by another company. How does AI in iOS 18 stand out compared to Android phones with their Gemini Nano licensing and deals with companies like Perplexity? How do we measure efficiency? Simply check how deeply AI works with the system and apps instead of functioning as an isolated feature with fixed limitations.

Apple Intelligence leaves the competition far behind here. It’s integrated at the system level in apps like Mail, Notes, Pages, and even in third-party developer apps. Apple’s writing tools, for example, let you change text style on the screen, summarize it, turn it into bullet points, and more.

Previously, you’d need a special app like Paragraph AI for this. It will also proofread and give editing suggestions as you work.

iPhone 15 handsets are on display as they go on sale at the Apple Store© Leon Neal / Getty Images

AI tricks that are genuinely useful

AI should add practical value, and there’s no better place for that than email apps.

In the Mail app, Apple AI will show you high-priority messages at the top and generate summaries of emails so you don’t waste time reading each message. Apple has extended a similar feature to notifications. iOS 18 will prioritize notifications and summarize them.

This functionality extends to emails as well. It seems Apple’s engineers were inspired by the Shortwave app. Speaking of summarizing, we also have transcription. Thanks to AI, your iPhone will finally enable call recording and transcription.

Audio recordings added to notes will also automatically be transcribed and summarized. As a journalist who has to carry a Pixel phone daily because of its fantastic Recorder app, Apple’s new transcription and summarizing features are a real treasure.

Apple also uses AI in Focus Mode. AI will now highlight important alerts based on their content so you don’t miss something urgent. This is another thoughtful addition.

Google walks while Apple runs

Another great feature is Smart Reply in the Mail app.

We love this feature in Gmail, but Apple goes deeper. AI won’t just suggest a general reply to an email; it will identify all questions asked in the message and suggest appropriate responses for each. Pretty cool and convenient.

For those who frequently take and share photos, the Photos app will let them search media using text prompts, like “find pictures of my cat with a purple hat”. There’s also a great feature that will remove unwanted elements from your photos and intelligently fill in the pixels.

Yes, inspired by Google Photos, but so are many of the Apple Intelligence features announced at WWDC. The most powerful – and significant – AI feature of iOS 18 is that Siri can now interact with other apps installed on your phone and perform necessary actions.

“Awareness of your personal context,” says Apple. For example, you can ask, “Find me cafes recommended by Joe,” and Siri will search conversations with Joe and find relevant information. Apple’s demo presentations show Siri searching Messages, Mail, and the file manager.

Thanks to the App Intents framework, developers can integrate Siri within their apps to perform a wide range of tasks. Image Playgrounds and Writing Tools (powered by ChatGPT) will also utilize this integration. This elevates Siri’s utility to a completely new and different level, where it can manage tasks in virtually any app with a voice command, without users needing to touch or tap the phone screen, writes DigitalTrends.