What is Apple Intelligence? The new AI powers coming to your iPhone, iPad and Mac explained

WWDC 2024
(Image credit: Apple)

Unveiled at WWDC 2024, Apple Intelligence marks a push by the Cupertino company into the world of AI, specifically generative AI.

Much like Google, Apple is now exploring how AI can help people in their everyday lives, only Apple has a big focus on privacy. So for the lowdown on Apple Intelligence, and how it could influence our list of the best AI phones, read on. 

What is Apple Intelligence?


A selection of things Apple Intelligence can do (Image credit: Apple)

Apple Intelligence is Apple's multimodal, cross-platform approach to today's AI computing trend. It's coming to just about every Apple platform and most newer Apple devices. Apple Intelligence includes generative AI features, like writing and image creation, as well as an improved Siri assistant, and much more. 

Apple Intelligence takes a decidedly Apple approach to privacy, which means that the least information possible is shared with anyone, even Apple itself. Most Apple Intelligence features run on your device. When Apple needs to access the cloud for more power, it has a Power Cloud Compute standard to protect your data and privacy; in a nutshell that means cloud-power without data spreading between a load of servers and platforms. 

We mention privacy first because Apple mentioned privacy first, and no other AI company talks about your data privacy and how your data is being protected. 

Apple is also giving Apple Intelligence unprecedented access to your data, and it will be able to read all of your messages, monitor your calendar, follow your Maps and location, record your phone calls, look at your photos, and understand any other personal data. Apple Intelligence will offer a new level of contextual features, because it will have access to just about all of your personal information.

What does Apple Intelligence do?


(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Intelligence includes generative AI features, but it's a more robust platform than just a generative AI model, like ChatGPT. It will offer generative AI tools for writing and editing, image creation, and organization. It will also be able to offer summaries, just like current generative AI tools. 

Wherever you can type or input text, Apple Intelligence will offer suggestions to improve your writing. It will rewrite, proofread, and summarize text for you.

Apple Intelligence will stay aware of your incoming Mail messages and your notifications, and it will try to prioritize what is important to you. A new Reduce Interruptions Focus mode uses Apple Intelligence to only offer high-priority messages that need your immediate attention. 

Apple Intelligence will summarize conversations and messages for you, and it can even summarize audio recordings. You'll be able to record phone calls and have Apple Intelligence summarize the conversation, or you can record in the Notes app and get a summary of the audio recording there. 

For image creation, Apple has a new Image Playground app and tool that is part of Apple Intelligence. With this, you can either enter your own prompt or use a suggested one, and the suggestions will be personalized based on what you're doing at the time. So for example if you message a friend about hiking in a forest, then 'forest' might be one of the prompts.

Thanks to the iOS 18 beta, we have a clearer idea of the prompts Image Playground will suggest too.

You can select from several styles for your image, and you can also turn people in photos into cartoon-like images.

Besides the Image Playground, Apple will have an image generator that focuses on emoji as well. The generative Emoji will be called Genmoji. You type a description, and an emoji appears.

Apple Intelligence Genmoji feature on stage at WWDC 2024

The new Genmoji feature uses Apple Intelligence on iOS 18 (Image credit: Future)

Apple is applying its generative AI tools to photos as well, but not as strongly as most competitors. There is a Magic Eraser-style tool that removes unwanted objects in photos and replaces them with a natural background.

Otherwise, Apple is using Apple Intelligence to assist in searching photos and videos. You'll be able to search for a specific scene in a video, for instance. You can also search for a category of photos and Apple Intelligence will put together a video presentation that fits your search. It will include photos and videos, as well as background music it selects.

When will I get Apple Intelligence?

Apple Intelligence Image Playground feature on stage at WWDC 2024

Using Image Playground with iPadOS 18 and Apple Intelligence (Image credit: Future)

Apple Intelligence is available now for developers only. If you are an Apple developer, the latest macOS 15 Sequoia, iPadOS 18, and iOS 18 developer betas will have some Apple Intelligence features. 

If you are signed up for Apple's public beta program, Apple says Apple Intelligence will be available in the public beta for those platforms as well, though it is unlikely the beta will have every feature, or that every feature will work completely. 

The official version of Apple Intelligence will be available to the public in the latter half of the year. Apple traditionally offers iOS 18 just before it launches a new iPhone model, so if the iPhone 16 is announced in September, expect iOS 18 to be available a week before that iPhone. We also expect iPadOS 18 to launch around the same time. 

For macOS Sequoia, we will follow the progress of the beta software and it is likely that the final version of the platform will be available around the same time as iOS 18 and iPadOS 18, in September, 2024. 

Will Siri get Apple Intelligence?

iOS 18 Siri

Siri on iOS 18 will use Apple Intelligence to be smarter (Image credit: Future)

Of course Siri is getting a massive upgrade thanks to Apple Intelligence. Siri is no longer just a virtual balloon that sits at the bottom of your phone screen. Now, when you activate Siri, your entire home screen will ripple, to show that Siri has completely taken over. 

Siri is getting better all around. It will have "richer language-understanding capabilities," according to Apple. It will be more natural, and more contextually relevant. When you start a conversation with Siri, it will remember what you were talking about when you make your next request, so you won't have to start over every time. 

Also, Siri will finally accept typing instead of just speech. If you never use Siri, it may surprise you to learn you couldn't type to Siri, but it's true. Now you can use the keyboard to give Siri commands and queries. 

Siri is going to do a better job explaining how to use your device. Whether you use an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac computer, Siri will be able to answer thousands more questions about how to do things on your Apple product. Siri will also know what is happening on screen, and it will make suggestions based on what it sees. 

Apple Intelligence photos feature on stage at WWDC 2024

Apple Intelligence will let Siri find your favorite moments in Photos (Image credit: Future)

Apple Intelligence is a major upgrade for Siri that will enable far more third-party actions. Using Apple's new App Intent API, app developers will be able to program commands that you can use with Siri.

Siri will also know you. It will know much more of the information you have on your device. You'll be able to ask Siri to "play that song Edgar mentioned" and it will know because it read your iMessage conversation with Edgar. If you ask "when is Dad landing at Laguardia" it will look up his flight details from the message he sent and give you real-time tracking info. That's cool, but it's a lot more than we're used to a computer knowing about us.

How will Apple Intelligence protect my privacy?

Apple Intelligence feature on stage at WWDC 2024

Apple Intelligence knows the numbers on your driver's license (Image credit: Future)

Apple started its presentation on Apple Intelligence by talking about privacy, and it was clear throughout the WWDC 2024 keynote that privacy is a huge concern. Privacy will be a key feature that sets Apple's AI apart from the competition, at least for now. 

Apple is running everything on your device. While Siri may know everything you said in your text messages, it won't be sharing that information with anyone, not Apple or anyone else. At least, according to Apple. 


Apple Intelligence will use context to make a video from your photos (Image credit: Apple)

When you create an image in the Image Playground, Apple doesn't know what image you've created. Even if your iPhone 15 Pro needs some help from the cloud when it summarizes the last phone call you made, it won't report anything to Apple.

Apple is keeping more complex cloud requests locked in a Private Cloud Compute environment, which 'cryptographically ensures that iPhone, iPad, and Mac do not talk to a server unless its software has been publicly logged for inspection,' according to the Apple Intelligence news release.

Will Apple Intelligence use ChatGPT?

Apple Intelligence will offer free access to ChatGPT, in some way. We know that there will be a direct link to ChatGPT so that Apple owners can use ChatGPT to understand documents and images. We also know that Siri will be able to route a request through ChatGPT, if you ask nicely. 

Apple is adding a level of privacy to these ChatGPT requests. According to Apple, when you access ChatGPT through Apple Intelligence, your IP address is obscured, and OpenAi won't store your request. Otherwise, ChatGPT's data-use policies apply. 

ChatGPT is coming to all three major platforms – macOS Sequoia, iPadOS 18, and iOS 18 – later this year, powered by GPT-4. However, Apple has also said that other AI models will become partners in the future as well. ChatGPT may not be the exclusive large-language model (LLM) partner for Apple Intelligence for long, if ever. 

Which Apple devices will get Apple Intelligence?


(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Intelligence includes features across almost every Apple platform, including macOS 15 Sequoia, iOS 18, and iPadOS 18. Unfortunately, not every device that can run those operating systems will be able to use Apple Intelligence features. 

Apple says Apple Intelligence is coming to devices that use the Apple M1, M2, M3, and M4 chips, as well as the A17 Pro chipset. That means even devices you can buy brand new today will not get the features later this year. 

The current iPad Pro and iPad Air devices, as well as previous iPad devices that used the M1 and M2 chips, will all be supported. The base model iPad 10.9 and the iPad mini will not be supported, as they use older Apple Bionic chips. 

The only iPhone models that will work with Apple Intelligence are the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus use the A16 Bionic chipset, and not the A17 Pro chips. 

If you have a Macbook Air, Macbook Pro, iMac, Mac Studio or Mac mini with an M1 chip or newer inside, you should be fine. Apple computers with an Intel processor on board will likely not be supported.

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Philip Berne
US Mobiles Editor

Phil Berne is a preeminent voice in consumer electronics reviews, starting more than 20 years ago at eTown.com. Phil has written for Engadget, The Verge, PC Mag, Digital Trends, Slashgear, TechRadar, AndroidCentral, and was Editor-in-Chief of the sadly-defunct infoSync. Phil holds an entirely useful M.A. in Cultural Theory from Carnegie Mellon University. He sang in numerous college a cappella groups.

Phil did a stint at Samsung Mobile, leading reviews for the PR team and writing crisis communications until he left in 2017. He worked at an Apple Store near Boston, MA, at the height of iPod popularity. Phil is certified in Google AI Essentials. He has a High School English teaching license (and years of teaching experience) and is a Red Cross certified Lifeguard. His passion is the democratizing power of mobile technology. Before AI came along he was totally sure the next big thing would be something we wear on our faces.