Apple and Google deal on generative AI for iPhones now looks more likely

Tim Cook with iPhone in front of Apple logo
(Image credit: Apple)

We're getting more details on a potential partnership between Apple and Google that would bring the search giant's generative artificial intelligence to iPhones.

We already knew, courtesy of Bloombert, that Apple and Google were holding discussions about incorporating Google's Gemini AI model onto Apple devices such as the iPhone. According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple would license the Gemini model from Google and that Gemini would potentially run “on-device” instead of relying on an Internet connection to work.

Now the New York Times has its own report on the Apple-Google talks, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the discussions. Those sources described the discussions as “preliminary,” and that Apple has been talking to other companies  about AI.

The series articles illustrate just how much Apple wants to make a big splash in AI, after falling behind many of its fellow tech giants in the AI race. Microsoft has invested in OpenAI and relies on that model to power its Copilot service. Google’s Gemini has been a bit slower to the market than OpenAI's ChatGPT and has faced its fair share of problems, but is well on its way to being integrated across all Google products. Samsung, meanwhile, has signaled its full commitment to AI and integrated the technology into its flagship Galaxy S24 phones in the form of Galaxy Ai features.

Apple has only made promises on its AI future. And at its annual shareholders meeting last month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was preparing to unveil its AI vision for the future, but didn’t say when — or how.

It's widely believed that this year's iOS 18 update will draw heavily on AI in bringing new features to the iPhone. We're expecting an iOS 18 preview at WWDC 2024, Apple's annual developer conference which will likely happen in June.

Last month, when Apple reportedly ditched its Apple Car initiative, executives told at least some of the people working on the project that they would be moved to Apple’s now-critical generative AI work, according to reports at the time. It was a signal that Apple, which spent billions of dollars on Apple Car, saw more value in the future of AI than something with a significant sunk cost.

Now, though, the Times’ report suggests that perhaps Apple is further behind than the company would like to admit and needs the help of other generative AI platforms to catch up — or face the possibility of being permanently left behind.

That said, there are still opportunities for Apple to capitalize on any deal with a potential deal with Google. After all, with more than 2 billion devices in use worldwide, Google stands to benefit greatly from getting access to those users. And considering the company’s paid Gemini model costs $20 per month, it could also be a financial boon for the search giant.

But since Apple is providing access to its users, it likely wants to benefit, too. And according to the Times, Apple and Google are negotiating an agreement where Apple would earn some form of revenue-share on the revenue Google generates through its user base. 

It’s a model that both Apple and Google should find suitable — the companies have been partnered on search since the iPhone's release in 2007. Every time iOS users input queries into mobile Safari's default Google search engine, Apple gets a cut. A deal involving generative AI could play out the same way.

Of course, neither Apple nor Google are commenting on their future plans, but if anything is certain, it’s now looking more than ever like they’re looking to partner on AI for iOS.

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Don Reisinger is CEO and founder of D2 Tech Agency. A communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter, Don has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine, The New York Times, Forbes, Computerworld, Digital Trends, TechCrunch and Slashgear. He has also written for Tom's Guide for many years, contributing hundreds of articles on everything from phones to games to streaming and smart home.