Apple has been holding off on committing to AI for a while now but with the recent reports of the Baidu AI integration in the iPhone 16, we won’t have to wait too much longer for Apple’s AI vision to come to life. We would have preferred to see more evidence of the AI integration being an in-house effort from the Cupertino company but we’re glad Apple is no longer waiting for their internal AI investigations to catch up to the market. We haven’t seen any official confirmations of Apple’s collaboration with Baidu in China, but the upcoming WWDC 2024 event should help clear things up for us soon enough. An Apple-Baidu iPhone AI deal will be groundbreaking for Baidu, especially after its recent deal with Samsung to become the AI provider for the company’s Chinese market presence.

_Apple collaboration with Baidu China

Image: Apple Event — November 10, 2020

What Do We Know About the Baidu AI Integration in iPhone 16?

The Apple-Baidu partnership reports place the Chinese multinational technology company in a position of considerable power, enough to dominate the AI market in China. There was some evidence of Apple considering Alibaba and other Chinese companies for this deal, but Baidu likely emerged as the winner with its expansive set of services. Technode reported that Baidu’s Hong Kong-traded stocks witnessed a 6 percent jump recently, but the numbers did not last the day. Once a deal is formalized, Baidu’s stock could see some stable growth numbers as a result. The Wall Street Journal first broke the news of the Apple collaboration with Baidu in China last week, but we’ve been hearing talk about Apple’s AI plans for a few months now. 

Due to China’s strict regulations and policies, breaking into the country’s tech market is as difficult as it is lucrative. Chinese policies require any LLMs and AI bots to pass very stringent checks to bring a product onto the market and it’s hard enough for China-based companies that already function under the country’s existing laws. It was after a considerable wait that a few LLMs received the necessary approvals to bring their product onto the market in hopes of catching up to where Baidu is right now. 

It’s for the very same reason that Samsung switched from their global Google AI partnership to focus on Baidu and its Ernie AI for its Galaxy S24 smartphone release in China. In the U.S. and other regions, for all on-device AI requirements of its latest smartphone series, the company relies on Google’s Gemini Nano, while Gemini Pro and Imagen 2 technology are accessed through the cloud. Apple appears to be on the same track for the upcoming iPhone 16 series. 

Apple Baidu Partnership Reports Aren’t The First of Apple’s AI Endevours

Before we saw reports of the Apple-Baidu iPhone AI deal, we’d heard of Apple’s conversations with Google to use its Gemini AI on the iPhone. Google finds a way to dominate any market it steps into and it’s the same with AI, despite the controversy surrounding its AI’s hallucinations and other flaws. The company has been leading the way for other businesses that want to introduce AI tools without devising the base structure for their own AI. Now Apple, Samsung, and any other company that chooses to integrate Google Gemini will have their developers focus on the tools they can create out of the AI rather than create the AI itself. 

With all this talk around Apple’s collaboration with Baidu in China or Google in the U.S., you might wonder why Apple isn’t just designing its own AI—it is known for selling “exclusivity” after all. It’s not that Apple hasn’t been working on AI at all these past few years. Apple recently announced its research on the Keyframer generative AI model that can generate animation from static images, which can be further edited through prompts and by altering the generated CSS animation codes. Prior to this, Apple’s research on an image editing AI tool was made available on GitHub and Hugging Face for those who wanted to test it out for themselves.

If these models are anything to go by, Apple’s AI investigations appear more limited to the development of specific AI tools that can be integrated into their services separately rather than a know-it-all AI entity that can lend itself to multiple projects. This strategy feels quite unusual and the company hasn’t moved to monetize these research results either, but perhaps there’s a long-term vision we’re currently missing. The company could have a future plan for integrating its own AI tools over the basic AI model it rents from other businesses, making its services more effective than competitors on the market.

Apple Baidu partnership reports

Image: Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2024 announcement

Looking to the Future of Smartphone AI Services

As it stands, all smartphone AIs will soon resemble each other considering they’re powered by the same LLM models. The basic features and capabilities of smartphone AIs will overlap, but hopefully, there should also be some innovative uses we see emerge as well. The Baidu AI integration in the iPhone 16 should arrive with iOS 18 and there is no reason to believe it will be limited to Apple’s smartphone. Generative AI via macOS 15 is also a distinct possibility. 

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference or WWDC 2024 has been scheduled to take place between June 10-14 this year. After CEO Tim Cook’s earlier suggestions that the company was “investing significantly” in AI, we should finally hear more about where it has been diverting its resources. Along with software upgrades for the Apple Vision Pro and the confirmation of a cheaper version of the VR device, we’re hoping to hear more about iOS 18, the upcoming iPhone 16, and any breadcrumbs they’re willing to throw out about an Apple Smart Ring. There could be a lot the company has planned on its road map for the year so we’re excited to watch the live stream when it goes up online.

Until then, the only conclusion we can draw is that the iPhone maker is determined to bring AI to its loyal user base. This makes the Google Gemini and Baidu AI integration in the iPhone 16 inevitable no matter how you look at it.