Apple famously doesn't acknowledge what other phone makers are doing, so don't expect any comment from the company next week when Samsung shows off the new Galaxy S24 during the January 17 Galaxy Unpacked event. But Apple would do well to pay attention to some of the features Samsung is allegedly planning for its new phones.
That's because AI figures to be at the heart of the Galaxy S24 unveiling, with Samsung making features powered by artificial intelligence a centerpiece of what its new phones can do. And that puts Apple in a rather awkward position.
It's no secret that Apple's AI efforts are well behind what we've seen from other top tech players like Microsoft, Google and others. With Samsung joining the mix with AI-focused phones, that leaves Apple in the unfamiliar role of being well behind the rest of the market and not in a position to do much about it until later in the year.
What Samsung's planning with the Galaxy S24
To better understand the predicament facing Apple and the iPhone, it helps to review Samsung's Galaxy S24 plans — or at least what rumors suggest those plans are going to be. Nothing's official until Samsung announces its new phones on January 17, but the company has already made it pretty clear that artificial intelligence is going to be a big focus of this year's flagship update.
To understand how big, we've got to rely on rumors and leaks. For instance, a leaked version of One UI 6.1 — the Android interface that's slated to debut with the Galaxy S24 release — reveals a number of potential AI features. Specifically, the software will supposedly be able to offer AI-generated wallpapers to give your Galaxy S24 device a unique look. The Notes app would be able to automatically sort your notes into bullet points while the phone app will support in-call translation that will let you converse with people speaking another language in real-tme.
Other reports claim that the Galaxy S24 will ship with a generative AI feature called Samsung Gauss. That would enable capabilities like email composition, document summaries and the ability to generate images with text prompts — all from the comfort of your phone.
There's also talk of AI boltering the Galaxy S24's photo editing capabilities. One rumored feature has the Galaxy S24 able to expand the borders of a photo, using AI to generate additional background. It's also widely believed that you'll be able to resize and move around the subjects of photos, much like you can do with the AI-powered Magic Editor feature available on Google's Pixel 8 phones.
It's worth noting that all of these capabilities are slated to be available to all of the new phones Samsung is producing, and not limited to higher-end models like the upcoming Galaxy S24 Ultra. That's quite a contrast from Apple, which has put considerable effort into making its Pro models stand out from the standard iPhone.
How Apple can respond with iOS 18 and iPhone 16
The rumored photo features coming to the Galaxy S24 pose a particular challenge for Apple, which typically sees its iPhones rank among the best camera phones available. With Samsung joining Google in promoting AI-enhanced editing tools, Apple risks falling behind the competition for producing quality images.
That risk is compounded by the fact that it'll be some time before Apple can show off its own AI efforts. We're unlikely to see new iPhones from Apple before the usual fall launch, so the earliest we'll hear about what Apple has planned will most likely be June's Worldwide Developer Congress. Early rumors have Apple making AI a centerpiece of this year's iOS 18 update.
Details are sparse at this point, but an initial report in the information suggests that the Siri assistant will undergo an update that lets it handle more complex tasks with simple voice commands. There's also been hints of Apple adding its own generative AI to the iPhone later this year.
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg offers the most detailed report yet, noting that Apple could more auto-summary and auto-complete features to the core apps built into iOS 18. Apple Music could also benefit from an AI boost with improved playlist creation, according to Gurman. All of this is based on a large language model named Ajax that Apple's been testing since early 2023.
What's more, the iPhone 16 due out in the fall should feature new A18 silicon — not just on Apple's iPhone 16 Pro models but on every phone released under the iPhone 16 label. That could mean the new handsets will have enough processing power to handle AI features entirely on device with no need to turn to the cloud for help.
If it's any consolation to Apple, the company's biggest hits have rarely come when its first out of the gate. There were other home computers before the Mac just as there were other smartphones before the iPhone. Apple succeeded not by creating something new but by improving something already out there so that it could find a wider audience.
Will history repeat itself with AI-centric mobile devices? Apple better hope that it does.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.