iPhone 16 in China will reportedly use Baidu's AI services and come with Ernie Bot

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Apple is reportedly in talks with Chinese tech giant Baidu to use its large language models (LLM) and artificial intelligence (AI) services for its own ecosystem in China. The rumored partnership could see the local AI player give the Cupertino-based tech giant access to its AI capabilities and even native AI assistant Ernie Bot. These capabilities are said to be added to the iPhone 16 series with iOS 18 and macOS 15. Earlier this month, a report claimed that Apple is considering a similar deal with Google, where it would leverage its Gemini AI for the rest of the world.

It was first reported by the Wall Street Journal on March 22, which said Apple had held preliminary discussions with Baidu on using generative AI technology for its devices and operating systems. On Monday, a report from Morning Star revealed that Baidu shares rose 5.4 percent after an unnamed Chinese media outlet reported on a collaboration between the two tech giants.

Reportedly, Apple also held discussions with Alibaba and another Chinese AI company before choosing Baidu. The Chinese tech company has been one of the most active players in the AI ​​field. It introduced its AI chatbot Ernie Bot in August 2023 which is powered by the company's original large language model Ernie 4.0. In December 2023, Wang Haifeng, the company's chief technology officer, revealed that the chatbot had surpassed 100 million users.

According to WSJ, Apple is looking for a local AI technology provider in China, due to regulatory hurdles in the region. China requires all LLM models operating in the country to be inspected and approved by its cyberspace regulatory body before they can be launched to the public. Currently, more than 40 LLMs have been approved by the regulators. According to the report, since OpenAI or Google Gemini do not operate in the region, Apple's only option was to tie up with a local player.

It is not known at this time whether Baidu's branding will appear on the AI ​​features added by Apple in this deal. However, it is being said that the iPhone maker is planning to bring on-device AI features instead of cloud-based features. Thus, users in China won't be able to see Ernie Bot or any of Baidu's familiar AI tools as those are the only engines used by Apple to run AI features.


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