Apple aims to run AI models directly on iPhones, other devices

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Apple is quietly increasing its capabilities in artificial intelligence, making a series of acquisitions, staff hires, and hardware updates that are designed to bring AI to its next generation of iPhones.

Industry data and academic papers, as well as insights from tech sector insiders, suggest the Californian company has focused most attention on tackling the technological problem of running AI through mobile devices.

The iPhone maker has been more active than rival Big Tech companies in buying AI startups, acquiring 21 since the beginning of 2017, research from PitchBook shows. The most recent of those acquisitions was its purchase in early 2023 of California-based startup WaveOne, which offers AI-powered video compression.

“They are getting ready to do some significant M&A,” said Daniel Ives at Wedbush Securities. “I’d be shocked if they don’t do a sizable AI deal this year, because there’s an AI arms race going on, and Apple is not going to be on the outside looking in.”

According to a recent research note from Morgan Stanley, almost half of Apple’s AI job postings now include the term “Deep Learning,” which relates to the algorithms powering generative AI—models that can spew out humanlike text, audio, and code in seconds. The company hired Google’s top AI executive, John Giannandrea, in 2018.

Apple has been typically secretive about its AI plans even as Big Tech rivals, such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, tout multibillion-dollar investments in the cutting-edge technology. But according to industry insiders, the company is working on its own large language models—the technology that powers generative AI products, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

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