Apple’s AI Ambitions: Startup Buys & Hiring Spree Signal On-Device AI Focus Apple is stepping up its game in the AI realm, with a strategic focus on enhancing its iPhones through artificial intelligence. This has been evidenced by the tech giant's recent acquisitions of AI startups and a significant increase in AI-related job postings.

Apple Generative OS | Cover Illustration by Ivan Castilho | AppleMagazine Issue #639, Jan 26, 2024 | Digital Magazine Cover Production.

Apple, a leader in technology innovation, is reportedly making significant moves in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Sources indicate that the company is gearing up to bring advanced AI capabilities directly to its upcoming iPhone models. This initiative has been highlighted by Apple’s acquisition of several AI-focused startups, including the California-based WaveOne, known for its AI-driven video compression technology.

The hiring trend at Apple underscores this shift towards AI. A Morgan Stanley research note revealed that almost half of the AI job listings at Apple mentioned “deep learning”, a critical component in powering generative AI technologies. This hiring spree indicates Apple’s commitment to advancing AI capabilities within its devices.

Unlike other large language models (LLMs) such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Apple’s efforts are concentrated on developing generative AI that functions efficiently on devices like iPhones, without the need for cloud-based data centers. The project, known internally as “Ajax”, has been in the testing phase since early 2023.

Apple Generative Siri | AppleMagazine Cover Illustration.

The primary challenge in this endeavor is to optimize these LLMs for mobile use, which requires them to be compact yet powerful. This necessitates more robust mobile hardware and enhanced Apple silicon chips.

In pursuit of this goal, Apple is reportedly planning significant upgrades to its hardware, such as improving the iPhone 16’s microphone to augment a new AI-enhanced Siri experience. This aligns with Apple AI researchers’ recent breakthrough in deploying LLMs on devices with limited memory, achieved through an innovative use of flash memory.

Looking ahead, Apple is on track to unveil a series of generative AI-based tools at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June. This is expected to coincide with the preview of iOS 18, which, according to Morgan Stanley analysts, will likely focus on enabling generative AI features.

iPhone 11 Pro Max and Siri

One of the anticipated highlights is an LLM-powered Siri, marking a significant step forward in Apple’s AI journey.

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