Apple is diving into AI. Here are the WWDC highlights from iOS 18 to Siri

Over nearly 50 years, Apple has navigated the rise of the PC, the smartphone revolution and a world made smaller by social media. But is it ready to enter the age of AI?

Apple today revealed its long-simmering AI strategy in a keynote at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. It’s adding a little bit of AI to many of its apps and devices, starting this fall. It also announced upcoming changes to iOS and its other big software, including for AirPods and the Vision Pro.

In the past, Apple has used this event to unveil ambitious products like its $3,499 Vision Pro headset. This year, the spotlight was firmly fixed on its software — the kind that power iPhones, iPads and Mac computers — and the new AI tools being woven into them.

“Apple intelligence is the personal intelligence system that puts powerful generative models right at the core of your iPhone, iPad and Mac,” said Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi in a prerecorded video at the event. “It draws on your personal context to give you intelligence that’s most helpful and relevant for you.”

Here’s what Apple announced.

Amid sustained AI hype, Apple is taking a measured approach to integrating AI features into its software. The focus, the company said, was to build “generative models” into the core of its products to simplify tasks.

That means the company’s AI — which it is trying brand “Apple Intelligence” — will let you handle table-stakes tasks like rewriting and summarizing text, as well as generating images on-demand. But it also taps into personal information you’ve stored on your device, and draws from what it sees on your screen, when it could be helpful.

In one example Federighi described, iOS could draw on its understanding of traffic at a given time, a user’s calendar, and data from the device’s GPS to see if a person could make it to a specific event on time. If there was one standout AI feature on display, it was an updated version of the Siri virtual assistant Apple first launched on its iPhones in 2011.

All demos were described or pre-recorded and the features would not be available to the public until at least this fall, so its unclear how accurate they are.


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In addition to being a natural conversation partner, Siri could interact with files and activate specific features inside apps when asked. It will also serve as a launching point for some of the AI features baked into other corners of Apple’s software. Users could ask, for example, Siri to automatically retouch photos, or add those photos into a new file in the Notes app.

In some cases, Siri can also call in a little help to tackle your requests. It can tap into ChatGPT’s GPT-4o model — though it will ask your permission before passing anything along to the chatbot. After that, Siri will pass ChatGPT’s response back to you verbatim. At least some of these features will be available only on higher-end devices, such as the iPhone 15 Pro series.

Some AI features require data to be ferried to remote servers for processing rather than being handled solely on the devices. To mitigate privacy risks, Apple says it has developed servers running on its own Apple Silicon chips.

Apple also says its AI tools will be free, though it’s unclear whether it will eventually charge for access. Samsung, which already launched AI features in its newest Galaxy phones, only guarantees they’ll be free until the end of 2025.

Monday’s announcements couldn’t come soon enough for the company. Since the beginning of the year, Apple — once the most valuable company in the world by market cap — has fallen behind Microsoft and Nvidia, two firms that have seen their fortunes flourish thanks to a brewing AI revolution. During that same period, Apple also began to wind down its decades-long work on an autonomous electric car, with many staffers on that project being shifted to work on the company’s burgeoning AI efforts.

iOS 18 will let you hide your secret apps

Apple’s new phone software iOS 18, which is expected to roll out in September, doesn’t bring any mind-blowing changes. But there may be some tweaks you like. The iPhone’s display is getting more customizable: iOS18 users will be able to place apps anywhere on their home screens, shift all apps into “dark mode” with a black background, or select color schemes to groups of apps (like green for travel or pink for shopping). App-makers can also create their own icons for the control screen where your flashlight tool lives, so you can add controls for your car, garage door or home security system. New privacy features help control who can see what on your phone. You can lock apps behind Face ID or hide them entirely in a secret folder. Use your new powers for good and not evil, when possible. Apple Maps is also adding a trails option, which could pair nicely with its satellite SOS option for people who are lost in the woods.

Texting and messages are getting some big tweaks, too. You probably fire off countless text messages a day without even thinking about it. In iOS 18, you’ll be able to do that even when you’re far off the grid. Apple confirmed that, once its latest update lands, users will be able to send iMessages — and even standard, green-bubble text messages — via satellite connection. Previously, the satellite communication features built into certain iPhones only let you send text messages to emergency services when out of reach of traditional cell service.

Also new to the fold: New text effects to add emphasis, gravitas, or whimsy to your messages, and the ability to “tapback” on incoming messages with any emoji — not just a chosen few. Meanwhile, support for RCS — a more modern messaging standard that Apple begrudgingly embraced at the end of last year — should make texting between iPhones and Android devices feel more up-to-date.

Apple is adding generative AI emojis — “genmojis” — that pop up based on the content of your message. We’ve yet to see whether the AI can handle odd situations, abstractions and (most importantly) snark. But it’s past time for a new option to express the feelings and images behind our words.

iPadOS gets a calculator app, finally

Some of the changes coming to iPads via software update are transplants from iOS, such as tools to personalize your tablet’s homescreen or its Control Center. Others are seemingly minor, as is the case with a new floating tab bar that keeps an app’s menu and options out of the way when you don’t need them.

Honestly though, some of the most interesting features coming to Apple’s tablets mainly seem geared toward people who like to jot things down. A long-awaited Calculator app includes the ability to write out math equations and expressions with an Apple Pencil, for the app to solve automatically. Note-takers, meanwhile, may soon see their chicken scratch transformed into something more intelligible thanks to Smart Script, a tool that analyzes your handwriting and improves it.

VisionPro gets a little upgrade

The software powering Apple’s most ambitious — and perhaps most divisive — product is getting an upgrade after just four months on the market.

When visionOS 2 becomes available this fall, owners of the company’s $3,499 Vision Pro headset will be able to view any of their photos — not just ones captured in a special, “spatial” format — in a slightly 3D way. The headset’s virtual desktop feature, which lets users peer at a purely digital version of their Mac computer’s screen, is being updated to offer a much wider view that’s better suited to multitasking in virtual reality. And a modified take on the headset’s travel mode means owners can use their pricey headsets on trains without their virtual windows sliding around in the front of them. The company also said it is working on bringing more content to the headset, including an original movie.

When you’re wearing Apple’s popular wireless ear buds, an upcoming software update will let you respond to Siri with a nod — which is a little more helpful than it sounds. If Siri announces you have an incoming call, for instance, a quick nod or shake of the head will signal to Apple’s virtual assistant whether you’re will to chat. Apple’s AirPods Pro are also set to receive a voice isolation feature that makes your side of a conversation more clear when you’re moving through noisy environments.

Apple Watch gets healthier

Changes to Apple Watch in the upcoming watchOS 11 will give us even more ways to track our health at a granular level, from inputting our effort level during workouts to tracking the gestational age of a pregnancy. You can even use the new Vitals app to watch how your current temperature, heart rate and sleep quality compare to past weeks. But perhaps the most welcome change is an escape from the tyranny of the Health app step counter. Now you can opt out of closing your rings when you need to rest or recover without breaking your streak.

Apple’s making its own password app

Do you want to look at your little screen while browsing on your big screen? You can do that now with MacOS’s new iPhone Mirroring. The feature lives right in your Mac dock. Click on it to see your iPhone screen hovering on your computer screen. You can swipe around, view your notifications or drag files back and forth from the phone to the computer. Apple is also debuting a Passwords app, which looks like a combination of an authenticator app and a password manager. The app syncs across Apple devices so you can keep your passwords on hand without paying per device like some password apps.

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