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Apple’s WWDC opportunity: how iOS 18 can make AI mainstream

AI is everywhere. Tech companies not talking about AI are hard to find. When compared to players leading in this space like OpenAI and Google, Apple is generally seen as being “behind.”

But despite AI being everywhere, in many ways it’s also still a fringe technology for the average person. It’s not truly mainstream. Sure it’s accessible to anyone with access to the web, but the number of people actually using services like ChatGPT is still relatively small compared to the total population of users with a smartphone or computer.

This is why next month’s WWDC presents Apple with tremendous opportunity. iOS 18 has the potential to truly bring AI to the masses.

The evergreen ‘Apple’s behind’ narrative

Micro-LED Apple Watch Ultra project

If you’ve followed Apple for long, you know that the company is almost always seen as behind on something.

Before the Apple Watch debuted and dominated the smartwatch market, Apple was said to be doomed because it was taking too long to launch. When smart speakers were all the rage, Apple took its time launching the HomePod, and was also slow to release the more cost-conscious HomePod mini. VR and AR products, too, existed for years before the Vision Pro’s launch.

Have the HomePod and Vision Pro dominated their respective markets like the Apple Watch? No, but they also don’t seem to have been hurt by launching later than their competitors. The challenges of those product categories overall seem like the main issue. Smart speakers and headsets make for cool tech demos, but they’ve yet to prove themselves as essential to daily life.

Heading into WWDC, Apple is once again seen as behind, and this time it’s with AI.

With its WWDC keynote coming at the tail end of the spring, Apple has to follow OpenAI’s own spring update where GPT-4o was announced, and Google I/O where a variety of AI features were shared, not to mention Microsoft’s Copilot Plus PC keynote.

Expectations are high for Apple to deliver something remarkable at WWDC.

But what if ‘remarkable’ isn’t the thing that takes AI mainstream?

Apple’s unique AI advantage

X Video Spaces | Photo shows an iPhone 12 Pro

Other companies have shown truly remarkable demos of how their AI tech can transform lives. But Apple has the product ecosystem and design know-how to create AI use cases that are transformative on a broader scale.

I don’t expect to see a ton of ‘wow’ moments during the WWDC keynote. Instead, I expect Apple to show off a lot of features that are practically very useful and aimed at the masses. The tech should get out of the way and “just work.”

When Apple launched the iPhone and iPad, it made computing more accessible to a wealth of new people. By reducing complexity and providing intuitive UI and input systems, the company helped create user-friendly experiences that shape billions of people’s lives today.

The same potential is there with AI.

iOS 18 will put AI tools in the hands of countless users in a package that’s familiar and, if Apple does its job well, not overly complex. Thanks to AI you’ll be able to:

These are just some of the rumored AI features coming to iOS 18, and I suspect there will be a lot more than what has been reported.

By focusing on AI tools that assist users with real everyday needs, and leveraging its huge customer base, Apple could take AI features to a new level of mainstream popularity.

If you have friends, family members, or neighbors who don’t really know what ChatGPT is, chances are by this fall they will be using AI features in iOS 18—whether they know they’re using AI or not.


It’s less than two weeks until Apple reveals all the AI features it’s been working on for iOS 18 and its other software platforms.

My expectation is that we won’t see anything particularly revolutionary on June 10, but that the way AI is baked into the systems and apps millions use every day will itself be the revolution.

When iOS 18 and its sibling platforms launch to the public this fall, AI will start to change more lives than ever before. Users may not even know or care that some useful feature is backed by AI—all they need to know is that it offers value.

What do you expect from Apple’s AI strategy? Is there anything you’re especially hoping for from WWDC? Let us know in the comments.

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