Rumored Apple and Meta collaboration might make the iPhone 16 a better AI phone

Apple may be augmenting its new Apple Intelligence Artificial Intelligence (AI) features with models built by Meta, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The two tech giants are supposedly discussing incorporating Meta's generative AI services into iOS 18 and the next generation of iPhone models.

The WSJ report cites conversations Apple has begun with most of the big names in AI, including Google (Gemini), Anthropic (Claude), and OpenAI (ChatGPT). Plans for Apple Intelligence to include free ChatGPT access and GPT-4o integration were mentioned among the deluge of Apple Intelligence news at WWDC this year. That is clearly a non-exclusive arrangement if a Meta collaboration is underway.

Apple's interest in Meta's Llama 2 and Llama 3 large language models makes sense on both ends of any deal. Meta would get to bring its AI to the massive global network of iPhone users, while Apple could cite Meta's AI features as another selling point for the iPhone. And while both Meta and Apple have some deals with OpenAI and its main funder, Microsoft, an alliance between the two might help build a competitive alternative even as OpenAI and ChatGPT may be what people first point to as generative AI.

Mutually beneficial

For Apple as a hardware platform, it's especially good to widen the available AI model choices. That way, Apple can pitch iPhones as an AI hub, switching among models depending on what people want the AI to do. Apple explicitly pointed toward that goal at WWDC this year when announcing the deal with OpenAI to provide ChatGPT on Apple products.

“We wanted to start with the best, and we think ChatGPT from OpenAI and their new 4o model represents the best choice for our users today,” Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi explained at the event. “We think ultimately, people are going to have a preference perhaps for certain models that they want to use – maybe one that great’s for creative writing, or one they prefer for coding, and so we want to enable users ultimately to bring the model of their choice and we’re going to look forward to doing integrations with models, like Google Gemini for instance, in the future."

Any speculation on how Apple Intelligence will change thanks to Meta is premature, but the fact it's happening at all might surprise some. Meta's advertising income took a beating after Apple changed its policies to give users more control over their data in 2021. Requiring user permission before tracking data across other apps and websites cost Meta billions of dollars and prompted Meta to release a method for advertisers to avoid Apple's service fee for boosting ad posts. The stakes of those business battles are apparently no match for Apple and Meta's anticipated AI earnings, and both now seem happy to let bygones be bygones.

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