Siri and Apple Intelligence | What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Artificial Intelligence Has Never Looked This Good
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Last week, Apple kicked off its 2024 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC24) at Apple Park in California. Each year, the tech giant uses the event to introduce developers and users to upcoming updates to its platforms, giving developers time to prepare their apps ahead of launch.

Also known as Apple Campus 2, Apple Park is the corporate headquarters of the world’s most beloved tech company. It’s famous for its giant ring-like building, often nicknamed “the spaceship.” This futuristic setting is the perfect backdrop for Apple’s flashy announcements, often focusing on reinventing — or simply renaming — existing technologies.

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In an over-the-top keynote, Apple executives peppered viewers with upcoming updates to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, their respective mobile and desktop operating systems. They also announced welcome but minor updates to watchOS and visionOS. But the highlight was the announcement of One More Thing.

Apple’s Catching Up

Siri logo

Apple has an interesting relationship with artificial intelligence (AI). When Siri debuted, it was ahead of its time. Up until then, talking to your phone was like talking to your pet: uncommon and simple commands like “call John Smith” and “open calendar.” Siri introduced natural language prompts like “call my wife” and “what’s on my calendar today?”

Over time, Siri got smarter. Neural networks and machine learning helped it adapt and grow. But updates to Siri have been rare in recent years. While Apple stood still, the tech industry zoomed forward. OpenAI stole the crown with ChatGPT and Nvidia briefly surpassed Apple in terms of market cap.

Even I had started to lose hope that Apple would make an appearance at the party, but the company has decided to show up.

Apple Reinvents… Er, Rebrands… AI

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After a lengthy introduction to its latest operating systems, AI seemed absent from the table. In fact, Apple never mentioned the word AI. But then it happened; only it wasn’t “artificial intelligence,” it was Apple Intelligence.

Apple has a long history of rebranding everyday terms. Apple Intelligence is the company’s take on artificial intelligence… and it’s a pretty good take. Instead of focusing on lengthy conversations with a digital entity, Apple uses AI to power its entire ecosystem behind the scenes. They’ve long done this with Siri and Spotlight, but it’s always been fairly limited… until now.

Hey Siri, What’s New?

Apple calls it “AI for the Rest of Us.” It’s catchy but vague. So rather than decipher Apple’s cryptic marketing lingo, let’s explore what Apple Intelligence really is and why you might want to use it.

Smart Writing Tools

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Whether creating a document or drafting an email, Apple Intelligence helps you capture the right length, format, or tone. With a click, you can sound friendlier or more professional, organize your text into a bulleted list or table, or create a quick summary.

Apple Intelligence also proofreads your text, suggests changes, or completely rewrites content if needed. These features go beyond standard spellcheck and are built right into the system, available almost anywhere you can type.

Custom Emoji

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Emoji is getting a little old, but what if you could create the perfect one for any occasion?

Introducing Genmoji: Users can generate new emojis from any prompt using Apple Intelligence. These generative emojis can be just about anything, such as a “chicken riding a dinosaur” or a “dabbing smiley face.” Just ask and see creations based on your request.

Since Genmoji aren’t standard emoji, you might wonder if they will only work as images or stickers. They haven’t shown up in beta tests yet, but it looks like they can be used as standard emoji across Apple devices and maybe anywhere inline images are supported.

Image Tools

Image generation isn’t limited to Genmoji. Users can convert their sketches into images or generate new images using Image Playground.

Image Playground creates brand-new images based on descriptions. You can even create images from people in your Photos library or match the contents of a particular document or message thread.

Finally, Photos gets a little smarter. Apple Intelligence enables users to search for specific images using descriptive sentences, remove unwanted objects and people from photos, and view higher-quality Memories with matching music and better photo grouping.

Siri Glows Up

Is it just me, or has Siri been getting worse? It seems like everything it does involves searching the web, and it can’t seem to keep up with contextual conversation. Now, Apple appears to be addressing this with Apple Intelligence.

Siri just got better at understanding you on so many levels. When you summon Siri, instead of a glowing marble obstructing the bottom of the display, your screen will display a glowing light around the edges.

Want to type to Siri? Simply double-tap the bottom of your iPhone’s screen to bring up the keyboard and type your request.

Siri is now aware of what’s on your screen, making it easy to give commands based on onscreen content. It will keep track of your conversation and even learn about you based on your device usage and data.

Make a mistake? Siri understands that we sometimes stumble over our words. Just correct yourself and move on. Siri will recognize the correction.

Siri, Meet ChatGPT

Logos of Siri and ChatGPT combined into one image

Siri’s new powers don’t stop there. Right now, if you ask Siri something it doesn’t understand, it offers to search the web; but it doesn’t always read the results or answer naturally.

With Apple Intelligence, Siri will now offer to reach out to ChatGPT when it doesn’t have the answer. Simply give Siri permission and ChatGPT will step in. You don’t need a subscription to ChatGPT Plus, but current subscribers can benefit from paid features by connecting their accounts

Privacy

What impact do these new features have on your privacy? In order to keep your information private, Apple Intelligence works on-device for many basic requests. When it needs to access the Internet, it does so through Apple’s Private Cloud Compute. There isn’t a lot of information yet, but this approach likely involves security measures such as limiting or encrypting information and using separate servers.

Apple says your data is never stored, used only for your requests, and offers a “verifiable privacy promise.” Users are always prompted before ChatGPT requests are sent.

Personal Intelligence Baked In

Apple Intelligence is artificial intelligence across the Apple ecosystem. No matter the device, Apple’s AI is ready to make your life easier.

That said, don’t expect Apple Intelligence on all your devices; only those Apple deems worthy will receive this newfound power. For current products, this means anything with an M1 chip or higher, or an iPhone 15 Pro. The standard iPhone 15 won’t be compatible with the new AI features in iOS 18.

But, with the exception of the iPhone 15, most current devices will support Apple Intelligence at launch.

AI for the Rest of Us

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Apple is making AI more private, less intrusive, and more useful for everyday tasks. Rather than focus on creating a human-like interaction, Apple is placing AI behind the scenes, delivering a solution that “just works” when you need it and fades into the background when you don’t.

To sum it all up, here’s what to expect from Apple Intelligence:

  1. An all-new Siri: Smarter, with an option to type requests, and better at understanding you. Siri no longer takes up the bottom of the screen and is aware of onscreen content.
  2. ChatGPT: Siri can connect to ChatGPT to provide more assistance. Users can also use ChatGPT to generate text for documents and emails.
  3. Genmoji: Generate and select from custom emoji using prompts.
  4. Writing tools: Apple Intelligence can proofread text, summarize it, or reformat it. Users can even request a rewrite in a specific tone (friendly, professional, or concise).
  5. Image generation: Transform sketches made with Apple Pencil or generate entirely new images.
  6. Improved Photos experience: Create more personal Memories and search for photos and videos using detailed sentences.
  7. Mail: The Mail app now shows priority messages at the top, summarizes messages, and lets you quickly generate responses with Smart Reply.
  8. Notifications: Reduce interruptions with a new Focus mode and see priority notifications at the top of the list.
  9. Messages: View a summary of conversations without opening the message itself.
  10. Recording summaries: Record and transcribe calls and get a summary of audio recording transcripts.
  11. Privacy: Many features of Apple Intelligence happen on-device. When necessary, Apple uses privacy solutions to keep your information private.

Apple Intelligence is scheduled to debut alongside iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia this fall as a beta, although not all features will be available at launch.

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