I hope iOS 18 will bring generative AI like ChatGPT to the iPhone search

iOS 18 will deliver Apple’s first generative AI features for iPhone. That’s the expectation, at least, considering what’s available out there. ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot, and Google Gemini are only getting better, with updates dropping frequently. Apple isn’t ready to announce anything. But Tim Cook did tease recently big AI announcements for later this year. That can only mean WWDC 2024, where Apple should unveil iOS 18 and all its other software updates.

Separately, Apple has released studies that teased the kind of generative AI features it might be working on. Apple MGIE lets you edit photos via text prompts. Keyframer can animate static images once you tell the AI what from a photo. 

A new report detailing Apple’s AI plans for the upcoming future gives us good news about the kind of generative AI product I want to see on the iPhone once iOS 18 drops. A direct rival to ChatGPT that can answer anything you’d throw at it. Well, at least attempt to do it, anyway. And that ChatGPT alternative might sit exactly where you might look for it, inside Spotlight search.

I hardly use Spotlight on my iPhone, and when I do go to it, I’m looking for something on the iPhone rather than the web. I might change my habits if iOS 18 adds generative AI features to Spotlight. 

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According to Bloomberg, that might be the case. The report focuses on Apple’s plans to bring generative AI features to Xcode. That’s Apple’s software development platform for the iPhone. AI should help developers write and test code faster than before. Similar features are available on competing platforms, like Microsoft’s GitHub Copilot.

Referring to Spotlight search, the report notes that Apple is working on a big upgrade for the iPhone. The current version lets you look for content on the iPhone, launch apps, and perform internet searches. I use Spotlight mostly for finding apps if they’re not already placed inside a folder.

Generative AI will give Spotlight new abilities on the iPhone. Apple would add large language models to Spotlight to answer more complex questions. The AI would also tie into apps, and it might let you launch specific app functions, according to Bloomberg.

How to fast charge iPhone 15 ProYou can launch Spotlight search directly from the home screen on iPhone. Image source: José Adorno for BGR

But none of that is confirmed. Also, it’s unclear if Apple will have these features ready by the time iOS 18 comes out. Apple is behind the competition here. While I expect it to catch up soon, there’s no telling when it’ll happen. Or what sort of AI features Apple will be ready to open to the public.

Using natural language to interact with AI is the breakthrough feature of products like ChatGPT. Having that functionality built into the iPhone (and iPad and Mac) would be amazing. If Apple adds AI to Spotlight, then it’s also coming to Siri. Siri and Spotlight are, after all, intertwined. 

Forget answering complex questions for a minute. Imagine telling the iPhone to open a specific app for a specific purpose. That would be an amazing use of AI on the handset and something I look forward to. 

But I’d also love it if I could use Spotlight and/or Siri to perform the kind of searches I do with ChatGPT. On that note, it’ll be interesting to see how Apple stores conversations and whether the Spotlight app will grow into an iPhone app come iOS 18. 

 WWDC 2024 will start answering these questions. If generative AI is coming to iOS 18, we’ll have to see it in action during the beta months from June to September. 


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