iOS 18: The Next Leap or Just the Next Home Button? Clearing the Smoke Around the AI Mirage in Apple’s Latest Update

Apple has always been a leader in the eternal race for technological ‘firsts’, and 2024 is going to be no different, with iOS 18 boasting new AI features that are set to transform the iPhone user experience at this June’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference). Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has already pre-emptively suggested that the iPhone-15 Pro and Pro Max, as well as the next-gen iPhone 16, will all gain some kind of AI assistance from the forthcoming iOS 18 – but are these new features merely a part of an evolutionary rather than revolutionary change in Apple’s approach to development?

PRO Features for PRO Users: The Exclusive AI Club

The Privilege of Performance

The A17 Pro chipset at the core of all these models represents another performance jump. According to Gurman’s reporting, advanced AI features that use on-device processing might exceed the capabilities of models powered by the A16 Bionic from last year. It’s easy to interpret this as a new pattern: Apple is increasing the use of ‘Pro’ not just as a description but, in this case, as a capability. A Pro machine should be better at it. The more powerful Pro palette could be particularly useful for intensive machine learning The significance of this envisioned development is that the ‘Pro’ will likely become increasingly good at AI-powered tasks in general, but especially those that require on-device processing.

Cloud-Based AI for All, But...

While an exception might be made for on-device AI features, Apple seems to be throwing a welcome bone with cloud-based AI features (thanks, it seems, to a purported partnership with OpenAI) that give all iPhones running iOS 18 a chance to experience a form of the AI pie – though it might be different in texture than the on-device features that will be reserved for the more recent models.

AI Features: The New Temptation to Upgrade?

Evaluating the Need for AI

While anticipation around the iOS 18 features that may come with the fusion of neural engines under the hood continues to build, the question remains – is the prospect of AI sufficient to entice an upgrade? With the prospect of a more virtual Siri lilt and the ability to transcribe voice memos sounding like a natural next step for Apple, the upgrades are quality of life tweaks at best.

A Proponent's Perspective

For my part, as a consumer eying the iPhone 16 Pro, my desires are, if not tugged by the promises of artificial intelligence applications, they are certainly tied to the evolution of camera technology. Rumoured AI features – however novel – aren’t a compelling reason to buy sooner. I imagine I’m not alone here, among ordinary users who don’t feel a need to upgrade hardware to get at a yet-to-be-baked piece of software.

Future-Proofing with the iPhone 16 PRO: A Wise Move?

Still, there’s a reason to be hopeful about these AI additions to iOS 18 – they at least indicate that Apple is gearing up for a far more advanced AI future. Perhaps the best thing for users to do is to get their hands on one of Apple’s newest models. Buying an iPhone 16 Pro might be the most thoughtful move available, as it’d future-proof one’s devices to ensure that they’ll be ready when features are introduced that live up to the promise of why you should want to upgrade in the first place.

The Evolution of iOS 18: Pros and Cons Unsolved

The PRO Debate: Is Exclusivity Justified?

The Justification of "PRO" Features

It’s possible that the constriction of AI capabilities to the Pro models is merely Apple’s attempt to differentiate their flagship devices. This is another way of justifying their high prices, as well as pushing their customers into a new expectation of what is possible for a smartphone.

The Counterargument

On the other hand, this approach leaves a part of the user base feeling left out of the latest and greatest – specifically, the millions who own recent, but not latest, devices. The piecemeal AI could be viewed as a rift, an insurmountable gulf that now exists not just between the ‘Pro’ and the regular user, but even between the users of different Pro models.

Decoding "PRO": Understanding the Prestige

The Essence of "PRO"

Today, ‘Pro’ means far more than just a model prefix; it’s a set of features and functionality tailored to those at the cutting edge, who seek the ultimate in performance and innovation. Thus, phones such as the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 16 series aren’t simply better than the regular models for the purposes of bragging rights. They’re solely the ones that get new cutting-edge AI, and by extension the ones that foreshadow future industry changes.

The Conclusion

That said, it is inescapable to note that the apparent direction Apple is setting its ecosystem with iOS 18 is towards a smarter model. Whether the AI additives are really necessary for an upgrade, that is up for debate. But, needless to say, Apple users are still excited about what the next upgrade will bring, as long as it is widely available or, failing that, irresistible. Overall, whether you’re ready to be called ‘Pro’ or not, or whether you’re happy with what your device can do already, iOS 18 is only the latest step in Apple’s plan to make artificial intelligence part of our everyday lives. Next time we return, whether for WWDC 2024 or not, the promise of iOS 18 is clear: the future isn’t what your devices can do, but how naturally they let you do them, so you can take care of tasks and, hopefully, experience the process instead.

May 29, 2024
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