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Apple's WWDC may include AI-generated emoji and an OpenAI partnership

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Apple will finally tell its own AI story at WWDC 2024, but it may not mean the sorts of showy features demoed by the likes of Google, Microsoft, or OpenAI. Instead, the event may see Apple rolling out basic AI features like transcribing voice memos or auto-generated emoji — and announcing a rumored partnership with OpenAI, according to Mark Gurman's Power On newsletter for Bloomberg today.

Recent rumors have held that Apple will be allowing chatbots to integrate more deeply into its operating systems, and it seems that OpenAI is getting the first crack at that with ChatGPT. But Apple is still working on an agreement with Google to do the same with Gemini, according to Gurman. It's also been rumored to be talking to Anthropic. (Those talks started before OpenAI's ongoing Scarlett Johansson dust-up, but they underscore why Apple might want more than one iPhone chatbot deal.) Outside of whatever those potential partnerships will mean, Apple's approach to AI will apparently focus on being practical.

One big, noticeable improvement Apple will reportedly announce could be a "smart recap" feature that Gurman mentions. This will apparently summarize missed texts, notifications, and other things like "web pages, news articles, documents, notes and other forms of media." That might be particularly nice when it comes to dealing with iOS notifications, which can be overwhelming and difficult to tame. And if you squint, it vaguely echoes Microsoft's recently-announced Recall feature that lets you look back at what you've been doing on your computer.

The Voice Memo app could also get a big boost in AI-generated transcripts, Gurman writes. Selfishly, that will be key for referring to interview recordings, but it could also be handy for, say, students recording their lessons for later reference. Apple devices have similar features already, like auto-generated voicemail transcripts and system-wide captions for videos, audio, and conversations.

The company also reportedly plans to announce AI-powered improvements to on-device Spotlight search, internet searches with Safari, as well as writing suggestions for emails and texts. And the company may also use AI to retouch photos and generate emoji on the fly, based on what you're texting — a type of feature that seems to consistently lead to trouble for these companies. (See Meta's gun-toting Waluigi AI stickers or Google's inappropriately racially diverse nazi pictures.)

Apple could showcase a better, more natural-sounding voice for Siri, based on Apple's own large language models, as well as better Siri functionality on the Apple Watch. Where it can, Apple's devices will do all of this stuff locally, but for complicated tasks, they'll offload processing to Apple's own M2 Ultra-based servers, Gurman writes. In general, he says devices "released in the last year or so" will gain most of the new on-device AI features.

Apart from AI features, the company may announce an iOS 18 feature to let users change their app icons to different colors, according to Gurman. Something similar is possible now, using the iOS Shortcuts app, but I'd sure welcome a more straightforward method. That's in addition to the other upcoming rumored iPhone home screen change will finally let users put app icons wherever they'd like instead of iOS forcing a top-to-bottom, left-to-right arrangement. What's next? Custom launchers?

Update May 26th, 2024, 11:38AM ET: Fleshed out some rumored features and added more context.

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