iOS 18 rumored AI features — what I like and what has me worried

iOS 18
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We're less than two weeks away from WWDC 2024 and the June 10 keynote Apple just scheduled. And that means sooner rather than later, we'll have a pretty good idea of how Apple's going to implement more advanced AI into its software. As with many things involving Apple, the iPhone is going to lead the way.

Specifically, AI has long been rumored to be the major focus of this year's iOS 18 software update. We've heard in broad terms what that could mean for iPhone features, but thanks to a new report, we've got an even better picture of the kinds of AI-based capabilities that could be at our disposal when the full version of iOS 18 ships later this year.

From the sound of the features detailed in this new Bloomberg report, it doesn't sound like Apple's reinventing the wheel here. And that's very good news for iPhone owners.

According to Mark Gurman, a reporter who's keyed into a lot of the goings-on at Apple, the company is not looking to add a lot of razzmatazz with the iOS 18 update it's previewing at WWDC. Instead, in Gurman's words, the focus will be on features people will find useful in day-to-day tasks with Apple looking to "appeal to a user’s practical side — and leave some of the more whiz-bang features to other companies."

From my perspective, that's exactly the kind of approach that will serve Apple well in rolling out iOS 18. You don't have to look any further than Samsung, Apple's chief rival, for proof. The most successful Galaxy AI features that debuted as part of the Galaxy S24 launch before rolling out to older Samsung flagships emphasized practical benefits and simplifying time-consuming tasks. You don't see too many parlor tricks — that is, features that demo well but have little practical usage — available on Samsung's latest flagships.

With that in mind, here's a look at the iOS 18 tools detailed by Gurman that sound pretty appealing at this stage, along with the ones that may require a few more details to fully appreciate.

iOS 18 — what I'm  looking forward to

Siri

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Mind you, when we say that new details have emerged about iOS 18's likely AI capabilities, we're talking about basic descriptions, not full-on deep dives into what Apple's planning. But there's enough information here to have some understanding of what Apple's likely going for with this year's software updates.

Summaries figure to be a big part of iOS 18, with the Bloomberg report noting that Apple plans to bring AI-powered descriptions of webpages, notes, news articles, missed notifications and even text messages.

I find that last item particularly promising, as I'm in several group texts where the messages always seem to fly fast and furious right when I'm on deadline and can't pay attention. I'd love to get a concise summary of what was said during one of these conversations, and if there are any actions I need to take based on what was said. Presumably, the new summary capabilities will provide a detailed enough recap so that I can get all caught up relatively quickly.

ios 15 features notifications summary

(Image credit: Apple)

Summarized notifications sound a lot like the morning and evening summaries available in the current version of iOS; they flag up overlooked alerts that may have come through during the day. The idea here seems to be a new and improved summary feature will provide greater context, and that notifications as a whole will get a little smarter before clamoring for your attention. Recently, I attended a soccer match where the score was still pretty close with less than 10 minutes to play; that was when Siri pinged me with a TV app notification suggestion that maybe I'd want to watch the app on TV. "I am literally sitting behind the goal, Siri," I may or may not have yelled at my phone.

Speaking of Siri, Bloomberg builds on early reports of Apple updating its virtual assistant to be a little bit smarter with the help of AI. Specifically, the new report says, Siri is going to use Apple's large language models for more natural-sounding conversations.

I've given Siri plenty of guff over the years — as recently as two paragraphs ago, as a matter of fact. But I can appreciate Apple's efforts this time to improve Siri. I speak with a slight stammer, and in recent years, Siri has gotten better about waiting until I'm done talking. It's also smart enough to know that when I say "Set a timer for 4 p.m.," what I really mean is an alarm. So yes, I'm excited to see what AI improvements mean for Siri's ongoing growth as an assistant.

Some of the other teased features sound like natural extensions of current iOS apps. Transcription features are apparently coming to iOS 18, as a wise man once requested. Searches in Spotlight will get faster. You'll get smarter photo retouching tools. And apparently, the iOS 18 interface revamp hinted at earlier this year will not only let you place apps and widgets wherever you want on the screen, but you'll be able to color code them as well for easier reference.

What worries me about iOS 18 AI

Shutterstock head exploding emoji

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

At the risk of revealing myself to be an incredibly old man easily befuddled by the ways the kids are texting and tweeting these days, there is one potential iOS 18 feature touted in the Bloomberg story that I don't understand the need for at all. For reasons unclear to my old-fogey brain, you'll be able to use generative AI to create emojis on the fly.

As Gurman puts it, "You’ll suddenly have an all-new emoji for any occasion, beyond the catalog of options that Apple currently offers." Since I have never willingly used an emoji in a text or email when a properly chosen word will do, I'll just have to leave others to explain the value of that feature.

There are more worrisome developments than America's apparent embrace of emojis. Despite earlier reports that Apple was planning to limit its AI capabilities to on-device only, it now sounds like some of the more demanding capabilities will be off-loaded to the cloud. That raises questions about privacy that Apple — normally a stickler for such things — is going to have to spend a lot of time answering at WWDC.

Also, the Bloomberg story makes it sound as if an Apple-OpenAI partnership that will place the latter company's chatbot on the former company's phones is now a done deal and not still in negotiations as previously reported. Over the weekend, I detailed why I'm concerned about letting OpenAI anywhere near my phone and my resistance hasn't wavered in the ensuing 36 hours.

iOS 18 outlook

When you've been following iOS 18's development as long as I have, it's exciting when reports like the one in Bloomberg fill in more of the details about what to expect from Apple's iPhone software update. But we obviously don't have the complete story yet — look for more on Apple's AI plans to emerge as we get closer to Apple's WWDC keynote on June 10.

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Philip Michaels

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.