iPhone 16, Galaxy S24, Pixel 9: Your “boring” phones will feel new again – all thanks to AI!

As a smartphone nerd, well… I hate saying I’m a smartphone nerd, but what I hate even more is how uninspiring year-over-year smartphone upgrades have become in the past five years or so.

To be clear, it’s a common misconception that “there’s no innovation” in the smartphone world. Although this might seem to be the case, I can assure you phones have gotten much better at doing what they were already capable of doing 5-10 years ago.

But the key phrase here is “doing what they were already capable of doing”. In other words, we’ve seen a great degree of progress but not much “proper”, undeniable innovation that even the average Joe can see (apart from folding phones, I suppose).And that’s because seeing isn’t always believing. Slab phones have pretty much reached their peak form, which is why very few people buy a new phone every year. But that’s where software comes into play, reminding everyone that “innovation” isn’t only a third/fourth camera on the back of your phone.

The Galaxy S24 would’ve been a disappointing upgrade if it wasn’t for AI; Google’s Gemini can make your old phone feel new and exciting

Without a shadow of a doubt, Android is the current leader in smartphone AI, which comes as no surprise considering Google’s expertise, data base, complex algorithms, Large Language Models, and the Google Assistant.For example, my Pixel 8 Pro is the smartest phone I’ve ever owned, with tons of AI features, including Generative AI, which can replace and recreate portions of my photos. Not to mention my favorite language-based AI features, which I discussed in greater length here.

However, Google’s greatest AI achievement (at least so far) is called Gemini – Google Assistant’s future successor, which is now available on the Play Store and App Store. Check out my practical test of Gemini’s ability to be your free, real-life assistant.

Samsung stole the AI show in the beginning of 2024 – can Google and Apple top that?

That being said, somewhat surprisingly, Samsung’s Galaxy S24 might be the current AI phone to beat. Thanks to Samsung’s grand partnership with Google, the Galaxy S24 series boasts AI tricks no other phone can do right now – not even the Pixel (at least not yet).In fact, the Galaxy S24 series of phones are the perfect example of smartphones that feel new thanks to software and AI, and not thanks to hardware upgrades – those are virtually missing from the new Galaxy S24 and S24+ (compared to their predecessors).

Generative AI and Siri revamp in iOS 18 to make iPhone 16 feel like one of the biggest iPhone upgrades ever; Tim Cook says AI (already) is in all of Apple’s products

Of course, no smartphone trend has fully caught on before it gets Apple’s stamp of approval, and, well… iPhone users will be thrilled to find out that Tim Cook & Co are working hard to make iOS 18 “potentially the biggest software upgrade to the iPhone ever”!According to tipster Mark Guerman, the most important upgrade to iOS 18 might be a much needed AI boost to Siri (which could finally make her… smart). Gurman says Apple will also jump on the Generative AI train wagon, with their own Large Language Model (codenamed Ajax), which “will transform Siri and other native apps like iMessage”.

Apple is also reportedly working on gen AI features for Apple Music, Pages, Keynote, Xcode and the already super-powerful and underrated Shortcuts app, including automation for complex tasks.

iOS 18 should break cover in June, three months before its official debut on the iPhone 16 series in September, so expect more (and more concrete) leaks and rumors about the new AI features coming to iPhone (and iPad?) in the near future.

Large sensors and variable apertures are cool but AI is already changing smartphone cameras – even if you don’t see/get/like it

Generative and language-based AI aside, another area of the smartphone experience, which is already seeing a big AI boost is photography. Let’s not forget that despite all the hype around AI, smartphone cameras remain a huge focus for manufacturers and users. Turns out, AI and cameras don’t need to fight for anybody’s attention, because they will be sharing the spotlight.While, in my opinion, the use of AI to make photos look better is a slightly controversial approach to photography (especially when it’s excessive), I must admit that the two samples you see above (courtesy of chestniyblog) prove AI totally has its place in smartphone cameras.

As you can see here, the Vivo X100 Pro’s powerful AI algorithm makes the photos taken by the Galaxy S24 Ultra look mediocre. It might not be obvious at first, but AI is all over the photos taken with Vivo’s flagship, helping it produce a much cleaner 10x zoom photo in low-light – even though it has a 4.3x optical zoom camera versus the Galaxy’s 5x snapper.

Moreover, although Vivo’s larger zoom sensor certainly helps, the Portrait mode sample wouldn’t be nearly as clean and put together if it wasn’t for the power of computational photography, AI, or whatever you choose to call it.

I’m planning to discuss how AI has/will change smartphone photography in a future story, so stay tuned.

Can AI finally make new phones feel interesting and “new” enough to justify upgrading?

Well, that’s a tricky question…

For one, AI is already making smartphones more exciting, and I’d go as far as saying that AI is breathing new life into the stagnant slab phone. That’s kinda the whole point of this story, so it’d be hilarious if I said the opposite.

However, what I’m not so convinced about is whether AI will help new phones sell better, and attract users to upgrade their old/existing phone sooner. And the reason is simple – AI is a piece of software, and software can be added to old/existing phones via an update.

As I said above, the Galaxy S23 series is already expected to get a bunch of the same AI features that make the Galaxy S24 feel so special. But if Samsung is willing to be generous, why would I upgrade to the S24 if I already have the S23? Moreover, Google’s revolutionary Gemini assistant is literally an app anyone will be able to download on their Android/iPhone soon.

Apple to reap the most benefits from the AI smartphone revolution?

Why? Well, Apple tends to be quite conservative when it comes to adding exciting new features to older iPhones via an update. So, don’t be surprised if the iPhone 16 gets some exclusive AI features that won’t be available on older iPhones running “the same version” of iOS 18.

Of course, that’s only an educated guess on my part. Still, Apple has a very long history in keeping exciting new features exclusive to the new iPhone to entice people to buy it.

Either way, users will always be looking to upgrade no matter what. What’s certain is that smartphones have reached a point where they feel like a necessity rather than something you buy because it’s exciting.

And that’s why the AI revolution was a much needed and important moment for smartphones. Now, is it going to be the game-changer we’d like it to be? I guess we’ll find out in the next few years…

Is AI an important smartphone selling point for you?

Articles, #iPhone #Galaxy #S24 #Pixel #boring #phones #feel

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