Apple Adds AI Patent as it Preps for AI-powered iPhones

“Generative AI could fuel the next big Apple iPhone refresh cycle.”

Photo of an Apple patent
Photo via U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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Apple wants its AI to fit into every part of your iPhone experience. 

The company is seeking to patent an AI controller that “procedurally tailors itself to an application.” Apple’s patent details a system for an AI model that can adapt to whatever context is needed. 

While AI can be a helpful tool in software “to make decisions during normal operation … software applications are often limited to use of a prearranged AI algorithm for a given situation,” Apple said in the filing. 

First, Apple’s system monitors the “state information” related to a given application, such as user activity or functionality, to understand the context for use. One example Apple gives is monitoring the progress of a user’s virtual chess game in its gaming app by tracking what pieces are on the board and who is winning.

The system would then pick one AI algorithm out of a pool – stored locally on the device – to help optimize the user’s experience, transmitting it back to the app and finally implementing it. In the context of a virtual chess game, it may pick an algorithm based on a user’s performance to decide moves or strategy. 

While the primary example in this filing uses gaming, Apple notes that the system isn’t limited to just that use case, potentially allowing the tech to be implemented across several apps. 

As the AI race heats up, Apple probably wants to extend far beyond virtual chess. The company is expected to unveil a host of new AI features in its upcoming iOS 18 update at its developers conference in June, including things like AI-enhanced search and text message summarization with Siri. The company also reportedly aims to make its models run locally on Apple devices

Apple has also poached hundreds of AI experts from Google to create a European lab in Zurich, according to an investigation from The Financial Times. CEO Tim Cook said in the company’s earnings last week that Apple is making significant investments in AI, and has “advantages that will differentiate us in this new era” in areas like hardware, software, chips and privacy. 

“Generative AI could fuel the next big Apple iPhone refresh cycle, similar to how the first 5G iPhone did in 2021,” said Ido Caspi, research analyst at Global X ETFs.  

While Apple has been quieter with AI than its Big Tech counterparts, it’s not necessarily lagging behind them, Caspi noted. The company already has dominance in the smartphone market, giving it major potential in a relatively untapped market. Though Apple is mulling integration partnerships with OpenAI and Google, it’s likely to develop its own solutions down the line, he noted. 

“Smartphones stand to gain significantly from generative AI … these factors position Apple well to lead in Edge AI — a potential that the market has yet to fully recognize,” said Caspi. 

Plus, Apple has a far better reputation for privacy than other tech giants, and therefore has largely gained the trust of consumers. “This makes it likely that users will prefer Apple’s potential integrated AI solutions over third-party applications, particularly those that require subscriptions,” Caspi noted.