Reports earlier this week claimed that Apple has been talking to OpenAI and Google about integrating ChatGPT or Gemini into the iPhone’s iOS 18 software. While those talks are described as preliminary, Google Gemini seems to be the main option for Apple right now. 

I explained why I think Google Gemini is the best choice for the iPhone cloud-based AI’s needs. This might be the best option until Apple’s own large language models can match the best generative AI rivals out right now — and until it can catch up with the infrastructure it needs to deploy cloud-based AI to the iPhone

Those are just rumors, of course. Apple will not confirm anything, nor will the other parties. While we won’t have to wait too long to learn about the genAI features in iOS 18, there’s a new report detailing Apple’s purported negotiations.

Apple can’t handle the iPhone’s generative AI features on its own. At least, not yet. Therefore, it’ll surely partner with Google, OpenAI, or some other provider of genAI services. The report in question details Apple’s efforts in China, as the company reportedly negotiates with Baidu to integrate its generative AI model into the iPhone.

Rumors inicate that Apple wants to deliver some on-device generative AI features on iPhone with the iOS 18 update. Some of Apple’s own generative AI research that’s becoming public proves that’s what it’s going for. But the iPhone isn’t powerful enough to run everything locally.

That’s where cloud AI comes in place. Hence the need for not just a strong model, but the proper infrastructure to make genAI experiences feel instant on the iPhone. 

Previous reports implied that Apple can’t handle yet the cloud-based AI needs of iOS 18. Hence the talks with Google and OpenAI. This brings us to a report from Friday that confirms Apple is indeed looking for third-party genAI service providers.

Google Gemini can power the Google Assistant app on Android.
Google Gemini can power the Google Assistant app on Android. Image source: Google

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple has held talks preliminary talks with Baidu. The Chinese giant has what is among more than 40 generative AI models operating in China. We’ve talked about Baidu’s Ernie Bot before

The twist here is that China has not approved any international generative AI for public use. ChatGPT and Gemini are not available in the region. Also, if Apple is looking for Google and/or OpenAI’s help, it won’t be able to use their AI models in China unless regulators in the country approve them.

But say Apple has a strong Gemini rival of its own and doesn’t need Google. It would still need China’s approval to deploy its genAI services on smartphones sold in China. 

The WSJ report is slim on the details, as the discussions are exploratory. Apple could be holding talks with Baidu rivals in the region. It’s unclear what features cloud-based AI will power in iOS 18. But if Google does need Gemini or ChatGPT in international markets, then it’ll need Baidu or something else in China. 

Let’s remember that Samsung confirmed after the Galaxy S24 launch that Baidu AI is powering the series in China. Galaxy AI is the suite of genAI features Samsung developed for the Galaxy S24 phones. Back in January, Samsung said it was working with various companies to power its genAI features in addition to its own models. 

Google was an obvious highlight, thanks to the Circle to Search feature it launched on phones like the Galaxy S24 and Pixel 8. The Baidu reveal came later.

Therefore, Apple’s interest in Baidu can’t be accidental. Not only that, but Apple will soon have to move from exploratory discussions to something more final. 

Apple will likely unveil iOS 18’s genAI features come June at WWDC 2024. After that, some of these features will be available in iOS 18 beta releases. A deal for third-party genAI providers will have to be in place by then. 

iOn that note, it’s not just the WSJ reporting on Apple’s tentative discussions about generative AI features on the iPhone. Bloomberg ran a second story on Thursday saying that Apple’s talks with Google and OpenAI are ongoing. An announcement isn’t expected until the summer. 

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