Will Apple go big on AI at WWDC 2024? Almost certainly – but it could ‘think different’

Girl talking to an AI robot
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Yuganov Konstantin)

You can’t swing a metaphorical cat in a virtual room without some tech-savvy person harping on about AI. And over the past year and a bit, AI interest has exploded thanks to the rise of generative AI; for the uninitiated, that’s smart algorithms and modes that can basically create things from various commands and inputs rather than acting as a smart assistant. 

As such, we saw the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro go hard on generative AI, specifically with its Magic Editor and smart features that can pretty much handle calls for you. Samsung then did the same with the Galaxy S24 series, on which the rather snazzy Circle to Search AI feature made its debut. Google I/O was a feast of AI announcements and forward-thinking, with Gemini AI in the limelight. 

So that leads me to think, what will Apple do with AI and generative AI at WWDC 2024? The crew at Cupertino will surely talk about AI, given we’ve seen it crop up with the launch of the new iPad Air and OLED iPad Pro models both with the M4 chip that has been designed for running AI workloads. 

But will it also go deep into generative AI in the same vein as Google? That’s a trickier question to answer – not that I can answer it, as Apple is super tight-lipped about nearly everything, so this is all educated speculation. However, I’d place a hefty bet that Apple will indeed go big on AI, but it’ll do it in a slightly different way to its rival; it’ll ‘think different’ if you’ll allow the wry joke. 

Seamless and consumer focussed 

ChatGPT Gardener

(Image credit: Future /ChatGPT)

While Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is, as its name suggests, a developer-centric showcase, it’s also distinctly consumer-tinged. All the announcements ultimately have Apple’s end users in mind, which means the likes of you and I, and creative types who use MacBooks at fancy coffee shops. 

By that, I mean generative AI tools will be neatly integrated into Apple’s platforms. I’m thinking agendas automatically developed and popped into your iPhone’s notifications as AI tech peruses your calendar and emails – with your permission of course. Slick auto editing for videos and photos that transform mediocre shots into something more presentable at the tap of a button, or even serving up suggestions in real time. 

Clever fitness features that can customize workout and diet plans for you via data sucked from your iPhone and Apple Watch sensors. Smartly turned playlists created on the fly in Apple Music via a simple directive of ‘make me a playlist for a summer party.’ Auto-generated summaries of meetings, calls, presentations, or even the latest Apple TV Plus show. And smarter searching, web page summaries, and information surfacing in Safari and across iOS 18 and macOS. 

Furthermore, we can expect a big AI upgrade for Siri. Not only has that been rumored with the idea that Apple’s virtual assistant could tap into the likes of ChatGPT, but Siri is arguably the dunce of the virtual assistants when compared to Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant, so it’s well overdue a dose of new smarts. 

The overall idea here is that Apple will surely make generative AI tools feel more like part of the experience of using an iPhone, iPad, MacBook, or Apple Watch rather than having features that you have to actively search for or enable, something that’s arguably the case with the aforementioned Pixel and Galaxy phones. 

And I feel that’s the key to getting the general public interested in actually using AI in a holistic way. It’ll be all about making it feel natural and useful rather than a nice to have or an ‘oh that’s cool’ feature that one only uses once. 

I think this in the context of the iPhone 15 Pro’s Action button – at first, it seemed a tad pointless given its limited scope, but once I set it up to trigger the flashlight function in iOS, it just became something I use without thinking. Apple’s ability to make new features that might seem a tad ‘meh’ suddenly useful and frictionless to use is something many other tech brands could keep learning from.

Going alone or partnering up?  

A hand holding a phone running ChatGPT in front of a laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The other question about Apple and AI at WWDC 2024 is whether Apple will use in-house AI models or partner with external generative AI developers. 

Apple is no stranger to AI, as machine-learning tech has been used for multiple generations of iPhone to help deliver the best phone photos. But the best generative AI tech will surely need multimodal models – whereby data can be harvested from multiple sources and sensors and then processed together – which could see Apple step outside its walled garden and look for help. 

Such help has been tipped to come from OpenAI and its ChatGPT models, though there was also some murmurings Apple could turn to Google’s Gemini AI

It’s standard practice to see Apple as the company that does its own thing. But I can see it joining forces with one of the big AI players to tap into trained AI models while it provides the customer experience and hardware that's so appealing to millions of people worldwide.

Ultimately, this is all pondering on my part based on nearly a decade of working in technology journalism, so I could be completely wrong about how Apple approaches AI and the thrust of WWDC this year. But I’m confident in my predictions and reckon this will be a conference to watch. 

Speaking of which, if you want to watch the keynote live, check out our guide on how to watch WWDC 2024. Equally, if you want all the latest news from WWDC, including rumors in the run-up to it, you’re in the right place – TechRadar will also be attending the conference, so make sure to check back here for more news, views and analysis. 

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Managing Editor, Mobile Computing

Roland Moore-Colyer is Managing Editor at TechRadar with a focus on phones and tablets, but a general interest in all things tech, especially those with a good story behind them. He can also be found writing about games, computers, and cars when the occasion arrives, and supports with the day-to-day running of TechRadar. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face and a nose for food markets.