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The one thing I really want to see at WWDC 2024

Someone holding a natural titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Well, folks, it’s almost time. WWDC 2024 — Apple’s annual developer conference — kicks off in a matter of hours. The Worldwide Developers Conference is always a big deal for Apple, but this year’s gathering is especially important.

In addition to the usual array of software updates, WWDC 2024 is where Apple is expected to have its big AI moment. After headlines being dominated by ChatGPT, Microsoft Copilot, Google Gemini, and Samsung Galaxy AI, WWDC 2024 is where we’ll almost certainly see Apple’s vision for an AI future.

Because of this, Apple is under a lot of pressure. It’s one of the few big tech giants that hasn’t made a splash in the AI world yet, and given the company’s pedigree, there’s an expectation for it to do something special.

As we rapidly approach WWDC 2024’s opening keynote, there’s just one thing on my Apple AI wish list that I desperately hope to see,

The boring state of smartphone AI today

Two Pixel 8 Pro smartphones laying on top of each other.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

As I write this in early June 2024, artificial intelligence has crept into a lot of smartphones already. Take the Google Pixel 8 series as an example. When Google announced the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro last October, so much of the company’s focus was on the phones’ AI features.

What kind of AI features? Well, there’s the Magic Editor, which gives you a lot more creativity and control over your photo editing. It’s a powerful tool, but it can also be downright horrifying. Then there’s Best Take, which can harness the power of AI to swap out faces in a group photo to make sure everyone is smiling and has their best face on. You can also use a text prompt to generate AI wallpapers. These are all perfectly fine, and they certainly add to the Pixel 8’s toolkit. But are they reason alone to buy a Pixel 8 over a competing smartphone? Hardly.

Editing a photo on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra using the AI toolkit.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

What has Samsung been up to? Galaxy AI, which launched on the Galaxy S24 series and has since expanded to numerous other phones, is in a similar boat. Samsung has its own suite of AI-assisted photo-editing tools, some of which are better than Google’s. If you ever find yourself talking on the phone to someone in a different language, it can provide real-time translations. Galaxy AI can also adjust the tone of a text or email you’re typing, and it’s incredibly bad at it.

AI on phones today is a bit all over the place. Some AI features are fantastic, others are just fine, and some are embarrassingly bad. However, they all have one thing in common: As impressive as some of them are, none of them feel all that special.

Is it cool that I can change the sky of a picture I took? Sure. Is it technically impressive that Samsung phones offer real-time, on-device language translation without a required internet connection? Yep. But even when good AI smartphone features work well, they never rise to the level of being something that changes the way I use my smartphone. They’re extra features on my phone that I sometimes use, and that’s about it.

Apple has a chance to do something different

WWDC 2024 banner.
Apple

Leading up to WWDC 2024, we’ve heard plenty of rumors about what Apple’s AI features in iOS 18 will look like. So far, they sound mighty similar to what we’ve seen already from Google, Samsung, and others.

Leaks suggest that iOS 18 will offer AI-assisted search capabilities through Spotlight Search and Safari, AI-generated emojis, notification/message summaries, suggested replies, new photo-editing tools, etc. In other words, many of the same features that are available on Android phones today.

These things are all fine, and Apple should offer these features. But what I really want to see from Apple is something completely new. I want to see AI capabilities so fresh and so imaginative that no one else has thought of them yet. AI on phones today can be useful, sure, but I want something so incredibly impressive that I’ll feel like I’m missing out if I don’t have an iPhone. No other AI smartphone feature has managed to do that quite yet, and I’m holding out hope thatApple will be the first company to change that.

The lock screen on the Apple iPhone 15 Plus.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Although iOS 18 leaks don’t suggest anything quite so groundbreaking is on the horizon, leaks don’t always paint a complete picture. Leading up to the iPhone 14 Pro, there were endless leaks surrounding its hole-punch cutouts at the top of the display. However, no one predicted it would be accompanied by the Dynamic Island — one of the most whimsical iPhone features we’ve had in the last few years. Surprises like that are rare, but they do still happen.

And that’s precisely what I hope to see at WWDC 2024. Give me the boring and expected AI features, but follow those up with something that’ll knock my socks off. If any company is going to make me a firm AI smartphone believer, it’s Apple. And the time to do it is now.

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Joe Maring
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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