AI is coming to your phone in a big way

Smartphones are about to evolve significantly. For years, industry leaders have considered the arrival of 5G and foldable displays to be the technological advances that would be a turning point for smartphones.

Now in 2023, the excitement has shifted to generative AI. Generative AI has the potential to be as monumental as the early days of smartphones and the internet itself, with powerhouses like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai believing This is the technology that exists.

Generative artificial intelligence (AI), which can create new content, has engulfed the tech world this year, shaping the trajectory of new products from Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Microsoft, Instagram and Facebook owner Meta, and other big tech companies. Ta. In the last quarter of 2023, we will have a better understanding of how that change will extend to smartphones.

Google put AI at the heart of the Pixel 8 it announced earlier this month, showing off how its algorithms can pick out the best facial expressions from a batch of group photos and easily paste them into another image. Leading mobile chipmaker Qualcomm’s next smartphone processor is designed to speed up AI processing tasks, as the company detailed at the Snapdragon Summit in late October. And, according to a recent report from Bloomberg, Apple is said to be developing a number of new AI-powered features for the iPhone and other products.

“AI is the future of the smartphone experience,” Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager of Qualcomm’s mobile, compute and XR division, said at the company’s event. “When it comes to mobile technology, that’s what we’ve been building for over 10 years.”

ChatGPT logo displayed on smartphone ChatGPT logo displayed on smartphone

ChatGPT started the generative AI frenzy late last year.

Rafael Enrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

ChatGPT and new AI-powered search tools from Microsoft and Google could be the starting point for generative AI in late 2022 and early 2023. Smartphone of the future. AI is not new to mobile devices. Features such as voice dictation, language translation, and facial recognition already leverage this technology. For example, Apple’s iPhones have been equipped with a Neural Engine to handle machine learning-related tasks since 2017’s iPhone X and iPhone 8 generations.

Generative AI is different. There’s no need for AI to work passively to detect people in photos or unlock your phone as soon as you hold it up to your face. Instead, it enables use cases that feel new, such as generating a new wallpaper on demand or adjusting someone’s facial expression in a photo.

“Giving users control over their use of AI and how they want to use it and how they want to apply it to their daily lives,” said Subhashish Dasgupta of Kantar, an analytics firm specializing in the technology and health industries. That’s important,” he says.

Google’s Pixel 8 and 8 Pro are the biggest examples to date. Both phones include regular upgrades like new processors and slightly improved camera hardware, but it’s the new AI-powered tricks that make the phones stand out.

A photo editing feature called “Best Take” analyzes recent group selfies and lets you swap facial expressions between images. In other words, Google’s AI can create the perfect photo of everyone smiling, even if that moment never happened.

Google’s Best Take feature lets you swap facial expressions.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Magic Editor similarly uses AI to allow you to manipulate your photos in countless ways. You can make yourself bigger or smaller, create the illusion of jumping superhumanly high, or even replace the ground itself.

These are just the latest examples of how Google is making AI more prominent on our phones. Another feature Google announced at its developer conference in May, called Magic Compose, uses generative AI to create suggested responses to text messages, or to change responses to a different tone within the company’s messaging app. or rewrite it with . Google’s AI wallpaper creator can create new backgrounds for your phone from scratch based on your prompts.

Screenshot showing Google's Magic Compse Screenshot showing Google's Magic Compse

Google’s Magic Compose feature in action

Lisa Adicicco/CNET (Screenshot)

From 2024 onwards, AI will play an even bigger role in smartphones. Qualcomm, which develops the chips that go into the phones of companies like Samsung, Xiaomi, and OnePlus, clearly had AI in mind when developing its new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 mobile processor. is. Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon unveiled the company’s vision for how AI will transform smartphones at the Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii on October 24th.

Chipmakers consider AI to be another layer running alongside the phone’s operating system and apps that can understand voice, text, and image input and provide suggestions. This is very different from the virtual assistants we’ve come to know over the past decade, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant. Rather than thinking about AI at the level of individual features, Qualcomm believes that in the future, AI will become a fundamental part of the daily operations of mobile phones.

“This is very much like voice assistant 2.0,” said Luke Pearce, senior analyst at technology research and advisory firm CCS Insight. “And it’s much more conversational, much more natural.”

The phone takes a photo of a mountain landscape with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip logo displayed in the corner. The phone takes a photo of a mountain landscape with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip logo displayed in the corner.

Qualcomm announced Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 at Snapdragon Summit.


Qualcomm gave a glimpse of what this future could look like in its keynote. A teaser video demonstrated a virtual assistant that can extract important topics from a call, summarize them into bullet points, and provide recommendations. Another example shows an AI helper selecting keywords from a text messaging thread between two of her friends and proactively providing meetup recommendations. Powered by the company’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, the photo tool lets you zoom out on photos you’ve already taken and generate details beyond the frame, making them appear as if they were taken with a wide-angle lens. .

“It changes the way we think about devices. [operating system] and apps, and how we actually define the user experience,” Amon said on stage.

man standing and talking on the phone man standing and talking on the phone

At its Snapdragon Summit press conference, Qualcomm showed off how its AI summarizes calls.


Qualcomm is wasting no time in getting started. The company is working with Google, which will allow the search giant’s AI models to run locally on future Snapdragon-powered smartphones. Xiaomi also announced the new Xiaomi 14 mobile phone at the event, which will be one of the first devices to run on Qualcomm’s new chip. But perhaps next year, other brands like Oppo, OnePlus, Honor, and Vivo will also adopt this chip. Samsung typically packs Qualcomm’s latest processors in the U.S. version of its flagship Galaxy S and foldable Galaxy Z phones, but the Galaxy S23, Galaxy Z Flip 5, and Galaxy Z Fold 5 devices are equipped with customized versions. Runs on Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.

Not to be outdone, Motorola is also working on bringing more AI features to its smartphones. Lenovo, which owns Motorola, is developing his AI assistant for PCs and mobile phones that can learn from your behavior and perform tasks like composing messages and scheduling tasks on your behalf.

Between Google’s Pixel 8 launch and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit, there’s no doubt that the Android landscape in 2024 will be all about AI. But what about the iPhone? Apple rarely, if ever, discusses future products. However, Bloomberg’s Mark Garman reported that Apple is developing a number of AI upgrades for its family of products, including the iPhone.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, is reportedly spearheading efforts to bring AI to the iPhone’s next major update, likely called iOS 18. Apple wants to sprinkle its large-scale language learning models into its software, the report says. This may appear in Siri or Apple’s Messages app. Apple’s suite of apps could also be revamped with AI, with the company considering bringing auto-generated playlists to Apple Music and AI-assisted features to Pages and Keynote, according to Bloomberg. It has been reported.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET’s request for comment.

Siri on iOS 17 Siri on iOS 17

If the Bloomberg report is true, Apple could introduce more AI features to Siri.

Nelson Aguilar/CNET

But to get the personalized experiences envisioned by companies like Google and Qualcomm, we need to give tech giants an even bigger window into your life. After all, how can these devices provide recommendations based on text messages or summarize calls without AI dialing into the communication?

“What the AI ​​is trying to do is try to predict you,” Amon said in Qualcomm’s keynote.

This is the main reason why Qualcomm is pushing the benefits of its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip, which it claims is powerful and efficient enough to run AI tasks locally on the device without relying on the cloud. the company claims. That way, your information won’t have to leave your phone, improving your privacy and security. It can also make more personalized suggestions based on your behavior, frequently visited places, and other lifestyle patterns, without sending highly personal information through the cloud.

Apple takes a similar approach to personal data. Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 can process verbal requests on the device thanks to Apple’s new S9 processor, so Siri can now answer health-related questions on these devices. It will be.

“The more sensitive and personal the data, the more data is processed on the device,” Pearce said.

Two people erase rocks and jump off rocks Two people erase rocks and jump off rocks

This photo was edited using Google’s Magic Editor tool on Pixel 8. His colleague Patrick Holland removed the giant rock from this image to make it appear that the subject was jumping unusually high.

Patrick Holland/CNET

As my colleague Sarina Dayaram recently pointed out, there’s also the question of whether AI will draw the line between fact and fiction when it comes to images and videos created on mobile phones. Tools like Magic Editor and Best Take go beyond photo polishing and editing. They change what is happening in the photo.

“More power is now in the hands of more people,” Dasgupta said. “Therefore, the opportunity exists for it to be exploited in many more ways.”

Qualcomm and Google have thought about this. The chipmaker has partnered with Truepic to verify the authenticity of images and tell you if an image was taken with AI. Google also recently launched an “About this image” tool that provides more context about the origin of images that appear in search results.

It is unclear whether these protections are sufficient to prevent AI from being used in misleading or malicious ways.But what? teeth Clearly, AI will change the way we use what has become the most important device in our lives, for the better, and hopefully not for the worse.

“There may be killer use cases that don’t exist yet,” Pearce said. “But it’s going to come quickly and surprise us all and be completely essential.”

Editor’s note: CNET uses an AI engine to create some stories. See this post for more information.

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