Apple Partnering With Google For Some iPhone AI Features


Apple Inc. is in talks to build Google’s Gemini artificial intelligence engine into the iPhone, according to people familiar with the situation, setting the stage for a blockbuster agreement that would shake up the AI industry.

Apple is preparing new capabilities as part of iOS 18 — the next version of the iPhone operating system — based on its own AI models. But those enhancements will be focused on features that operate on its devices, rather than ones delivered via the cloud. So Apple is seeking a partner to do the heavy lifting of generative AI, including functions for creating images and writing essays based on simple prompts.

Apple Silicon was such a triumph that I think people now lean too heavily into the idea that Apple should design everything in-house, or otherwise they are doomed to fail. That is a misguided view. As well-resourced and technically proficient as Apple is, they are never going to be the best at everything; outsourcing and licensing some components inside your products is the usual and pragmatic route. You have to pick your battles.

Just look at what happened with the 5G cellular modems. Apple hates Qualcomm’s guts, and their hefty patent royalties, but they use them because they are the best. If Apple had waited until they had a competitive in-house modem, they still wouldn’t be shipping a 5G iPhone today.

I think the situation with generative AI is analogous. Apple is working on their own stuff to defend against the future as AI becomes increasingly more embedded in their products, but as of 2024, their home-grown technology is not ready to match the quality of OpenAI or Google’s models. Thus, they are licensing Gemini.

Some of Apple’s AI-powered features will be serviced by on-device neural networks, some will hit Apple’s servers only, and some will be shuttled off to a Gemini backend. I expect this to happen transparently to the user, depending on the task at hand. The routing and mix of suppliers may change over time, even. At least for the foreseeable future, a dependency on Google as a dumb pipe supplier of AI tooling is not a weakness.