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Does what happens on your iPhone still stay on your iPhone?

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Does what happens on your iPhone still stay on your iPhone?

AI consumes a lot of energy and that is causing problems for Apple.

We’re still working through the ramifications of the company’s global developer conference, where it revealed how it intends to incorporate AI into your daily life—but only, for the most part, if your daily life involves a new iPhone:

Apple’s new AI models will run on the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, the only two devices the company has shipped so far with its A17 processor. Macs up to three years old will also be able to take advantage of the update, as long as they have an M1, 2 or 3 chip, as will iPad Pros with the same internal hardware.

The cheaper iPhone 15 models run the A16 Bionic, a chip that debuted in 2022. They also have 6GB of memory, compared to the 8GB included in their more expensive Pro siblings, which may be the relevant difference, as the M1 chips that can work. The AI ​​models in Mac are equivalent to the 2020 iPhone A14 processors.

Lots of model numbers to drive home the fact that AI features won’t run on just any old phone. But many of the most advanced AI models don’t work any phone, or at least, not at a speed that users would find acceptable. If Apple wants to offer artificial intelligence technology, it has to do it with a data center. And that poses difficulties. Kari Paul writes:

At the heart of Apple’s privacy assurances regarding AI is its new Private Cloud Compute technology. Apple seeks to do most of the computing processing to run Apple Intelligence functions on devices. But for features that require more processing than the device can handle, the company will outsource processing to the cloud while “protecting user data,” Apple executives said Monday.

To achieve this, Apple will only export the data necessary to fulfill each request, create additional security measures around the data at each endpoint, and will not store data indefinitely. Apple will also publish all tools and software related to the private cloud for third-party verification, executives said.

You can’t offer complete privacy for AI queries, like you can for online backups or messaging services, because the point is that the server on the other end needs to know what’s being asked in order to give the answer. correct answer. But that is a problem for Apple, which has been arguing for years that a crucial The distinction between it and corporate rivals like Facebook and Google is that, to quote a multimillion-dollar ad campaign, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc, during an event at the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California, September 2023. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

The solution is quite impressive. Apple will run its own dedicated data center, on hardware it designed itself and that is configured to never retain user data. Apple will hand over the software running on those servers to security researchers, who will be able to upload it themselves and verify that it does what the company says, and who will be given the tools necessary to verify that the software running in the data centers is identical. .

But the question is: does that mean you don’t have to trust Apple? The last time I covered a company that went to such lengths to force itself was Huawei, which launched a “cybersecurity assessment centre” and partnered with GCHQ for almost a decade to try to free itself from alleged ties to the Chinese state.

It didn’t work. Huawei could not offer the evidence necessary to clear its name, and probably never could. If you don’t trust someone, you shouldn’t run their software, and there’s almost nothing they can tell you to persuade you otherwise. (Even posting the source code is not much help).

Apple is not Huawei and, for many, the company has earned the trust that it is now seeking to spend. But try as it might, Apple can’t escape the fact that the rise of AI has forced it to commit to one of the founding principles of the iPhone era.

“What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone, unless you use some Apple Intelligence features, in which case it can leave your iPhone to go to a server controlled by Apple, which runs software, meaning it stays on the server “. be almost as focused on privacy, but definitely doesn’t fit on a billboard.

Am I ready to switch from smartphone to Light Phone?

It is sold on the back of what it does not have… Light Phone III. Photography: LightPhone

I’m perpetually fascinated by the fringe products of the smartphone world, which exist in the few niches that aren’t stifled by Apple and Google. On the one hand, that covers AI devices from companies like Humane and Rabbit: hardware that hasn’t lived up to its lofty ambition, suggesting the market is open because it can’t yet be met.

At the other extreme is a growing type of product that could be called an anti-phone: devices created for people who don’t want a full digital detox, but also don’t want to carry around a £1,000 distraction box. Devices like the Light Phone III:

The Light Phone III is based on a user-customizable menu of optional tools. All tools are custom designed for our LightOS to ensure a thoughtful experience.

Tools currently available include: alarm, calculator, calendar, directory, directions, hotspot, music, notes/voice memos, podcast or timer.

It features large ergonomic metal buttons, including a dedicated two-step camera shutter: half-press to focus and full-press to take a photo.

It’s a fascinating cross-section of features that attempts to square the circle between people’s stated desire to be free of distractions and their practical need to access the conveniences of the digital world.

Some of the limitations are obvious and deliberate: the lack of a web browser, for example, means that even if you feel like accessing social media, you can’t simply log into the Instagram website.

Others, however, talk about the difficulty of trying to play in this space as an independent company. The “music” app necessarily plays only local files, since it cannot access streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music without developer support. The phone cannot access encrypted messaging services like Signal and WhatsApp for the same reason.

Every time I think about switching to a device like the Light Phone, I tell myself that the demands of my work and family life mean it would be irresponsible to isolate myself in that way. Is that just an excuse? Do I even want an antiphon or do I simply want fewer demands on my life?

The wider technologyScape

Miles Astray’s award-winning ‘AI’ photography. Photography: Miles Astray

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