iPhone 16 in China to Reportedly Use AI Services by Baidu and Come With Ernie Bot

Apple is reportedly in talks with Chinese tech giant Baidu to use its large language model (LLM) and artificial intelligence (AI) services for its own ecosystem in China. The rumoured partnership could see the local AI player letting the Cupertino-based tech giant access its AI capabilities and even the 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 was considering a similar deal with Google where it will leverage its Gemini AI for the rest of the world.

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

Reportedly, Apple also held discussions with Alibaba and another Chinese AI company before selecting Baidu. The Chinese tech company has been one of the most active players in the AI space. It introduced its AI chatbot Ernie Bot in August 2023 which is powered by the company’s native large language model Ernie 4.0. In December 2023, the company’s Chief Technology Officer Wang Haifeng revealed that the chatbot had surpassed 100 million users.

As per WSJ, the reason Apple is looking for a local AI technology provider in China is because of the 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. Since OpenAI or Google Gemini do not operate in the region, Apple’s only option was to tie up with a local player, as per the report.

It is currently not known whether the deal will see Baidu’s branding on the AI features that Apple adds. However, it is said that the iPhone maker is planning to bring on-device AI features instead of cloud-based features. As such, users in China may not see Ernie Bot or any familiar AI tools by Baidu as only the engine to run the AI features might be used by Apple.

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