AI for the rest of us? Apple Intelligence won't boost iPhone upgrades

Can Apple Intelligence start iPhone upgrade craze with 'AI for the rest of us'?
When Bank of America analyst Wamsi Mohan ushered in their prediction for a multi-year iPhone upgrade cycle spurred by the premise of the so-called IntelliPhones, or handsets harnessing the power of AI, Apple still hadn't unveiled its take on the matter.

Now that Apple Intelligence as iOS AI is a fact, the claim that "the introduction of AI smartphones (IntelliPhones)" will be "a once in a decade upgrade event" similar to the move from feature phones to smartphones deserves a closer examination.

Apple's AI is derivative

What Apple revealed while talking about the Greymatter AI project that materialized in iOS 18 didn't strike investors as brilliant. After it announced the take on AI-driven features called Apple Intelligence, of all things, its stock price actually fell.

Hardly a ringing endorsement, but who could blame investors given that what Apple unveiled can already be found elsewhere and on phones of the major Android competition like Samsung, Google, or Oppo. Not only that, but even there, the most popular and widely used AI feature is a fairly basic image editing tool.

According to Oppo's statistics, the AI Eraser function that can remove unwanted sections of your photo as if they have never been there with the flick of the finger is used multiple times a day, and is the most popular AI-driven feature, ahead of live transcripts and translations, or AI chatbots.

Apple is just now replicating what Google brought with Magic Eraser, Samsung with Object Eraser, or Oppo with AI eraser, but calls it Clean Up. Regardless, it does the same thing. 

The rest of Apple Intelligence is Siri becoming a glorified chatbot with the help of OpenAI's ChatGPT, real-time transcript and translate functions, as well as AI-powered sorting of content like images or emails. Again, nothing really new, yet handily woven into the iOS 18 interface and workflow, as Apple usually does. As per Mark Gurman, Apple Intelligence is still very much under construction:

Who will upgrade their iPhone for Apple Intelligence?

That's a good question, given that Apple Intelligence only runs on the expensive iPhone 15 Pro models for now. When the iPhone 16 comes around, the lowly member of the series should inherit the iPhone 15 Pro processing power and thus enjoy Apple's AI features, too.

Still, anyone stuck on iPhone 15 and below will have to actually pay for a new handset if they want to type questions to Siri, or do the Clean Up trick with their photos. Is Apple Intelligence as enticing, and will the iPhone 16 IntelliPhones bring a supercycle of upgrades just for the sake of Apple's AI features?

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That remains to be seen, but from what Apple announced on June 10, it hardly seems so. Apple didn't want to be called an AI laggard anymore, so it is carefully treading the water, but that is hardly going to take iPhone fans by storm and usher in a "multi-year cycle of upgrades," at least for now.

Still, Apple is right to take the slow and steady approach to generative AI integration, as nobody seems to be sure what exactly to do with AI, and how to integrate it seamlessly into their devices. The interest in Apple Intelligence could quickly taper off after the initial demonstration of "party tricks" like Clean Up, Genmoji, or asking Siri less pointed questions. 

On the other hand, however, Apple calls its Apple Intelligence features "AI for the rest of us," but that is hardly so given the limited scope of its release.

Oppo, for instance, has the democratization of AI in its sights with its recently announced AI pivot. As a result, not only the flagship Find series phones, but also the midrange Reno handsets, and even the budget devices in the F- and A-series are getting some or all of its AI-powered features.

Can all iPhones run Apple Intelligence? Not really, and for now only iPhones that cost close to a grand can take advantage of what iOS 18's AI blitz brings, a host of its Siri features are coming next year, and it only works in American English.

A supercycle of iPhone upgrades? The "rest of us" will have to wait for future iPhones and gauge if Apple Intelligence will be worth it.

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