Apple has licensed millions of Shutterstock images to train its AI — what this means for the iPhone

iPhone 16 prototypes
(Image credit: MacRumors)

Apple has grand plans for AI this year. The company has said as much itself, and word is that the iPhone 16 is going to be an AI powerhouse. But an AI is only as good as its training, and that means finding suitable content for the AI models to work with — and Apple appears to have found a partner in stock image library Shutterstock (via Reuters).

The problem with AI training is that finding suitable content can be a challenge. While companies like OpenAI have been known to train AI based on content publicly available online, that can cause problems. An AI that reproduces copyrighted material could be in breach of copyright law, and similarly AI that encounters misinformation could end up repeating the same nonsense to other people.

Companies like Shutterstock already own a huge range of image, audio and video content, and are apparently happy to let tech companies utilize it for a price. Apple isn’t the only company to have made this kind of deal with Shutterstock, according to Reuters. Apparently Amazon, Meta and Google have all struck their own agreements, but the specifics of them aren’t known.

Reuters claims that the deals range from $25 million to $50 million each, giving those companies the ability to train their AI on millions of images in the Shutterstock library. The possibilities of AI being trained on content libraries like Shutterstock is pretty exciting since the AI models will have a huge range of higher quality images and metadata to learn from.

How the iPhone's AI could get better

For starters, this reported deal between Apple and Shutterstock could help boost the capabilities of AI image recognition, which can be beneficial for searching and automatically organizing your photo library.

Working with Shutterstock could also enhance the potential of generative AI for the iPhone in terms of image generation and editing. An Apple equivalent of Google’s Magic Editor couldn’t fill in the gaps during editing if it has no idea what’s supposed to go there, after all. For example, if you were erasing part of someone when taking a portrait in front of a well-known tourist attraction, Apple's Photos app could know what's supposed to be in the background.

Then you have Shutterstock’s audio and video content on top of that, which could enhance features like voice recognition, automatic transcription, Personal Voice and countless other things.

Of course, we don’t know exactly what kind of AI features Apple has planned for us just yet. We’ll just have to wait until the WWDC 2024 keynote on June 10, where we’ll no doubt see the first reveals of iOS 18, iPadOS 18 and macOS 15.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.