To see the future of AI on iPhones, check out Samsung

Since January, Samsung has rolled out many of the same AI features that Apple has promised, REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (REUTERS)
Since January, Samsung has rolled out many of the same AI features that Apple has promised, REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (REUTERS)


Apple says it will soon introduce generative artificial intelligence to its new iPhones. Its chief smartphone rival offers clues on how the experience might go.

SEOUL—Apple says it will soon introduce generative artificial intelligence to its new iPhones. Samsung Electronics, Apple’s chief smartphone rival, offers clues on how the experience might go.

Since January, Samsung has rolled out many of the same AI features that Apple has promised, from real-time translation to photo editing to text summarization. The generative AI capabilities, which is the most-promising leap for smartphones in years, are now available to roughly 100 million users of Samsung’s recent flagship devices, the firm says.

The initial takeaway: The new AI services have won greater adoption than expected, but the features alone aren’t swaying people to upgrade their years-old devices. At least not yet.

Dylan Huynh of Calgary, Alberta, is one of the early adopters, having tried many of the generative AI features on his Galaxy S24 Ultra, which hit shelves early this year. He has taken most to the “Circle to Search" feature, where he can instantly summon a Google search for anything he sees on his phone by highlighting it. In the past, Huynh would have needed to toggle among different apps, he said.

“You don’t need to stop what you’re doing," said the laboratory research assistant. “I’m definitely using it multiple times a day."

With Apple soon coming on board, the smartphone’s generative AI era is primed to go mainstream among affluent buyers who deliver the bulk of the industry’s profits. Just under one-fifth of smartphones shipped worldwide this year will be packed with generative AI features, according to market research company International Data Corp. By 2028, such devices will represent an estimated 70% of global shipments, IDC said.

Samsung added to its AI-phone lineup on Wednesday when it unveiled its new Galaxy Z Fold 6 and Galaxy Z Flip 6 foldable-display devices, and some of the generative AI features offered will be new and optimized for the phones. Samsung also introduced next-generation wearables, including a new Galaxy Ring that uses AI to monitor a user’s sleep patterns and energy levels.

The phones hit shelves in the U.S. and other markets on July 24. The new Galaxy Fold 6 costs about $1,900 and the Galaxy Flip 6 at around $1,100—an increase of roughly $100 from last year’s models.

‘Not AI gimmicks’

It remains unclear whether generative AI can juice hardware sales. Smartphone buyers worldwide have expressed strong interest in AI features, according to a recent survey by market researcher Canalys, though consumers still value more traditional draws like improved cameras or processors when considering an upgrade. While the hype has built around so-called AI PCs, just 3% of PCs shipped this year will meet Microsoft’s threshold for AI processing power, according to a recent IDC analysis.

Kevin Lee of Cincinnati may need to see more. Lee, who isn’t fluent in Korean, tried the real-time “Interpreter" translation feature of his Galaxy S24 Ultra on a recent trip to South Korea. He said it worked well in quiet settings, like giving directions to a taxi driver. But during a family meeting at a restaurant, the phone produced solid Korean-to-English translations—of the music playing in the background.

“It was very accurate," said Lee, a transportation engineer, “but it wasn’t what we wanted."

When the generative AI features launched in January, Samsung expected uptake would be modest given their novelty, but those internal expectations have been exceeded, said Patrick Chomet, who heads the firm’s customer experience office for mobile products. For instance, the Circle to Search feature has a weekly usage rate of roughly 55%, while certain photo-editing features have adoption in the 20% range, he said.

“I was very surprised," Chomet said. “These are not AI gimmicks but real useful things that people are using."

Juan Pablo Gutierrez, a business-operations analyst in Leon, Mexico, sends emails or text messages in English from his work computer—sometimes with the help of ChatGPT. But when he is on the go he likes having similar translation and text-editing features on his Galaxy S24+ device, which can check his English grammar and the message’s tone. “It helps me sound more professional," he said.

David William Knox of Tonsberg, Norway, found Samsung’s generative AI photo-editing software handy when he wanted to spruce up hundreds of photos taken with his Galaxy S24 Ultra after a recent trip to the U.S. The software, powered by Google, allowed him to crop out random people or background objects with just a few taps, swipes and presses. AI then regenerated the background naturally.

“No need to download anything. It’s built into the phone," said Knox, who works in food production.

Apple’s entry

Though it has an in-house generative AI engine, Samsung works closely with long-running partner Google. The South Korean firm’s head start over Apple offers some bragging rights and more lead time to develop new features, but may not produce many crossover sales, said Bryan Ma, an IDC vice president. That expectation is largely because the iPhone is seen getting similar features and users are willing to wait.

Last month, Apple unveiled plans to introduce new features powered by generative AI including voice transcription, text summarization and photo editing. The iPhone maker also said it would upgrade the capabilities of its Siri voice assistant and join with OpenAI’s ChatGPT for more complex tasks requiring stronger computing capabilities.

Some of the so-called “Apple Intelligence" features, like the ChatGPT add-on for Siri, will be available in the coming months, with the iPhone 15 Pro and Apple’s coming phones likely to be announced this fall. The remaining features are expected to arrive next year, according to Apple.

The announcements drew a jab from the official X account of Samsung’s U.S. mobile division. “Adding ‘Apple’ doesn’t make it new or groundbreaking. Welcome to AI," the X post read, with an apple emoji at the end.

Samsung delivered the first large-scale release of generative AI phones in January. Google’s Pixel 8 phone came out late last year with similar features, though it has a fraction of the user base. Several Chinese brands, including Huawei and Vivo, have also fielded rival products for their home country—a cutting-edge advantage that has contributed to a weakening of Apple’s standing in the world’s largest smartphone market.

Phonemakers are at a trial-and-error stage now with users, though the industry’s current push in research and development into generative AI is significant, said Nicole Peng, a senior vice president at Canalys. “There is a big rush now," she said.

Cha Moon-su, a software engineer in Seoul, has experimented since January with the new AI features on his Galaxy S24 Ultra device. He generated a new AI-made wallpaper for his phone by creating an image using the prompts of “beach" and “radio." It produced an image evoking a Van Gogh painting, a radio plopped on the sand at sunset. He still uses it.

But the other features haven’t become habitual, so his new AI-packed Samsung device doesn’t feel too different from his prior ones, he said. Cha had other reasons to have upgraded. “I had used up all my previous phone’s storage," Cha said, “and needed something bigger."

Write to Jiyoung Sohn at

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