Don't wait for iOS 18's AI. ChatGPT offers these same 4 features now

Before you splurge on new Apple hardware to use the latest AI features, check out these ChatGPT alternatives that accomplish the same tasks.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
ChatGPT app on an iPhone (close-up)
Jason Hiner/ZDNET

After ChatGPT's launch in November 2022, nearly every company joined in on the AI craze -- except Apple. Two years later, at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled a collection of AI features known as Apple Intelligence. While they look impressive (and certainly are), many of the new features have been done before by OpenAI's ChatGPT.

This fall, Apple's software updates will bring generative AI capabilities to iPhones, iPads, and Macs. However, OpenAI already unveiled major upgrades to the free version of ChatGPT in May, and the similarities to what Apple Intelligence will do are worth noting. 

Also: Five iOS 18 features that Android users already have

The Apple Intelligence updates will be free, but the full experience will only be available on iPhones with the A17 Pro chip, which currently only includes iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, and iPads and Macs with the M family of chips. 

Instead of spending thousands of dollars rushing to upgrade to the newest Apple devices, you should check out ChatGPT first. OpenAI's free chatbot has many of the same features coming to Apple Intelligence. 

1. Writing tools 

With Apple Intelligence, users will be able to access a variety of writing tools that can help with rewriting, proofreading, and summarizing text. Apple says the tools will be accessible "everywhere" users write, including in Mail, Keynote, third-party apps, and more. 

ChatGPT's advanced natural language processing (NLP) makes it a great writing tool as well. It can generate new text from scratch, proofread, coedit, rewrite, and more. While the ChatGPT experience may not live natively within Apple devices the way Apple Intelligence will, users can easily copy and paste its output into a tab while accessing ChatGPT in their browser.

Also: How ChatGPT (and other AI chatbots) can help you write an essay

Another option for Apple users is to take advantage of the ChatGPT app for iPads and iPhones. There's even a ChatGPT app for MacOS, which allows users to access the chatbot quickly via a keyboard shortcut. The Mac app is available now for ChatGPT Plus subscribers, but OpenAI is planning to release access to all users in the coming months.

2. Image generator

Apple also unveiled its first text-to-image generator, Apple's Image Playground. This generator will be built into iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and MacOS Sequoia as part of Apple Intelligence, and will also live as a stand-alone app.

Also: The best AI image generators to try right now

It's unclear without testing it, but Image Playground's functionality will likely be similar to OpenAI's image generator, DALL-E 3, which can be accessed via ChatGPT Plus. Even though it requires a $20 per month subscription, it offers users a wider variety of options, since it can render images in any style. Image Playground is limited to three styles: Animation, illustration, and sketch.

3. On-screen awareness

At Apple's event, the company shared that with Apple Intelligence, Siri will have on-screen awareness, making asking it for help with certain tasks easier. During OpenAI's Spring Launch event, the company also showed a demo indicating that ChatGPT will have on-screen awareness as well, as seen below -- though it didn't clarify when we'll see this feature. 

The value of having an AI voice assistant that can see what you are working on and use it as context for your query is evident, and it will likely be the future of all assistants. 

4. Advanced conversational capabilities 

Another update coming to Siri is better NLP, meaning it will be able to understand you even if you stutter or pause. OpenAI indicated at its Spring Launch that the improved Voice Mode for ChatGPT will have the same capabilities, such as stopping when a user interrupts it, understanding queries better, and more. The improved Voice Mode will be rolling out in alpha in the coming weeks, and ChatGPT Plus users will get early access as the company rolls it out more broadly.

Also: Everything to know about Apple's AI features for iPhones, Macs, and iPads

5. Type and chat

With Apple Intelligence, Siri will be upgraded to accept typed and voice queries -- a significant change considering that it has only ever functioned as a voice assistant. However, as discussed above, ChatGPT can also take text and voice inputs. 

6. And, of course…access to ChatGPT

Apple also announced that Siri will have access to ChatGPT, which you can also access by going directly to the source. 

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