FB Pixel no scriptCan Apple catch up with Samsung and Google in the AI smartphone race? | KrASIA

Can Apple catch up with Samsung and Google in the AI smartphone race?

Written by Marvin Goh Published on   3 mins read

All eyes are on Apple following the integration of AI features into the latest smartphones of rivals Samsung and Google.

The rise of generative artificial intelligence has taken the world by storm, estimated to increase the global GDP by up to 10%, according to JP Morgan. Its impact spans beyond mere numbers, significantly disrupting the staples of life. The smartphone serves as a notable example, with manufacturers striving to enhance the capabilities of their latest smartphone models by swiftly incorporating AI features.

Among the frontrunners in this race include South Korean tech giant Samsung, which released its Galaxy S24 flagship series at the start of 2024, boasting various new features under the Galaxy AI umbrella. Pixel 8, the latest flagship of Alphabet’s Google, is also loaded with features powered by Gemini Nano, a version of Google’s Gemini AI model that has been tailored down for smartphone devices.

As other companies push to incorporate AI into their latest smartphone models, how might Apple catch up and compete?

Apple’s AI developments

In a report by The Wall Street Journal, Apple held talks with Chinese tech giant, Baidu, over the incorporation of the latter’s AI technology into its devices.

This development was later confirmed by the South China Morning Post stating that Baidu’s generative AI model, known as Ernie, will be used for Apple’s upcoming iPhone 16 and iOS 18, as well as the latest MacOS version.

However, Ernie will only be used for products distributed in China as Apple plans to utilize its own AI solutions for devices sold in other parts of the world, in part to navigate China’s AI regulations.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has already developed its own large language model (LLM), known as Ajax. The LLM reportedly served as the foundation of a chatbot dubbed Apple GPT, used only by Apple employees.

Apple has also been working to integrate AI into various apps, features, and services. While known specifics of such developments remain scarce, Bloomberg correspondent Mark Gurman said that Apple is currently exploring the following areas:

  • Text auto-summarization and auto-completion features for work productivity software like Apple’s word processor, Pages.
  • Generative features for slide decks for presentation software Keynote.
  • Generative tools in Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment (IDE) for MacOS.
  • AI-powered playlist generation features in Apple Music.
  • Enhancements to digital assistant Siri, including automated task completion features.

The aforementioned rely largely on LLMs (like Baidu’s Ernie or Apple’s own Ajax) to function, and are notably similar to features already introduced by competitors. For example, Microsoft launched Copilot in early 2023, boasting generative AI features that can be applied across various applications including Microsoft Office products like Word and Powerpoint. Additionally, Microsoft’s GitHub runs its own Copilot, which can provide auto-complete suggestions for code. Spotify also has AI-powered playlisting through its AI DJ feature.

It’s worth noting that Apple’s devices already incorporate AI to some extent. Aside from Siri, the cameras of newer iPhone releases feature a portrait mode that utilizes a combination of machine learning algorithms, such as depth maps, facial landmark detection, and semantic segmentation to achieve a variety of photo enhancements, such as subject isolation and background blurring.

Falling behind Samsung and Google

Two years after ChatGPT put generative AI on the map, the growth of AI technology has been unprecedented, leaving Apple behind.

For example, rival Samsung’s Galaxy AI boasts a myriad of innovative AI features, such as “Circle to Search” which enables users to trace an object of inquiry and receive Google search results nearly instantaneously. “Live Translate” and “Interpreter” allow real-time language translation of voice calls and texts. “Transcript Assist,” another AI feature, can transcribe and summarize recordings. Samsung also has its own built-in Grammarly with “Chat Assist” to correct and format tonations in text. Lastly, the “Photo Assist” feature enables retouching and generative fills.

As it stands, Apple is still lagging behind in terms of both the diversity and quantity of smartphone AI features:

With some catching up to do, much attention is being placed on Apple’s upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), set to take place from June 10–14, 2024.

Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, has spared no effort in hyping up AI developments to be announced by the company during the upcoming WWDC, describing the conference as “Absolutely Incredible” in a post on X, with the initials matching AI.


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