Apple Eyes Google's Gemini for iPhone 16 Upgrades

Upcoming iPhones may tap into the artificial intelligence abilities of Google's recently launched AI model, Gemini.

Sareena Dayaram Senior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
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Apple and Google

Apple may equip its upcoming iPhones with Google's Gemini AI models, according to a Bloomberg report published Monday

The report, citing people familiar with the matter, says Apple is in talks to strike a potential licensing deal with Google. Google's group of Gemini AI models could power some of the iPhone's generative AI features, including functions such as writing essays and creating images after being prompted. Apple's AI models, which are reportedly under development, would meanwhile focus on enabling features that operate on-device. 

Apple and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google's renamed chatbot introduces itself.
Google/Screenshot by Lisa Lacy/CNET

This news comes as rival phone makers rush to launch generative AI features on their flagship phones. More than 100 million generative AI smartphones are expected to ship in 2024, according to Counterpoint Research. Phone makers are racing to take advantage of gen AI mania, which OpenAI kicked off in late 2022 with its buzzy chatbot, ChatGPT.

The most salient upgrade to the Samsung's Galaxy S24 lineup, launched in January, is Galaxy AI, a catch-all term for a collection of Samsung's new features powered by generative AI. Galaxy AI is underpinned by Google's AI models including Gemini Pro. Google's Pixel 8 Pro, the company's highest-end phone, currently runs on Gemini Nano. Gemini Nano drives features including the ability to summarize conversations have been voice recorded and suggesting message replies in WhatsApp typed with Google's Gboard. 

However, Gemini, like other generative AI models, continue to be a work in progress. Gemini recently drew criticism for creating images of people that were historically inaccurate -- an incident that promptly forced Google to pause a new image generation feature. The debacle is reminder that generative AI cannot always be trusted as a valid source of information. 

Read more: Why iOS 18 Could Be a Bigger Deal Than the iPhone

If the deal pushes through, it could indicate Apple isn't as far along with its generative AI push as some would have liked. The Bloomberg report also said Apple previously had talks with OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. 

Apple typically adopts a wait-and-see approach when it comes to emerging technology. For instance, Apple is the only major phone make to hold back from launching a foldable phone. However, with a fast-developing category such as AI, some worry Apple could risk falling behind.

The Galaxy S24 Ultra showing the new Circle to Search feature

The Galaxy S24 Ultra showing the new Circle to Search feature, one of Samsung's popular AI-based features.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Up until this year, Apple was noticeably absent from the generative AI mania that has surrounded Big Tech. But CEO Tim Cook said he envisioned "a huge opportunity for Apple with gen AI and AI," in a Feburary earnings call. On the call, Cook said Apple "has some things that we're incredibly excited about that we'll be talking about later this year."

Apple has been developing its own large language model, since last year, according to Bloomberg. But the underlying AI model, nickamed Ajax, lags behind its rivals. This could lead Apple to strike a partnership with companies such as Google and OpenAI, which have more advanced AI models.

Apple's next mobile operating system, iOS 18, is widely expected to debut in June, which is likely when it'll debut new generative AI features. Whether those AI features are powered by Google or OpenAI or perhaps even Apple itself, remains to be seen.