Apple Intelligence will face a big uphill battle to launch in China

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in iOS

The new Apple Intelligence features won't be available in China any time soon, because of the country's strict regulations on artificial intelligence as well as the competition Apple has from domestic brands.

Man standing in a futuristic room with curved ceiling lights, large screen behind him displaying 'Apple Intelligence' in colorful letters.
Apple could face significant challenges with Apple Intelligence in China



In June, at its annual Worldwide Developers' Conference, Apple recently announced a variety of features operating powered by the company's in-house generative AI software, known as Apple Intelligence. Features such as text summarization, AI-powered image generation, and image editing will be available in US English later in 2024.

In other regions of the world, such as China, however, these new features may not be available nearly as soon. This is due to the country's restrictive laws in relation to generative AI software, large language models, and data privacy.

CNBC spoke to several different analysts and offered their educated opinions and analyses concerning the potential debut of Apple's AI-related features in China, in a Thursday report.

The report claims that Apple will face significant challenges in bringing its AI technology to the Chinese market, due to strict regulations currently in place. In particular, companies doing business in China need to acquire approval for the commercial use of their large language models.

This ultimately means that Apple will need to obtain approval from China's officials for its on-device and cloud-based models.

The company may also need to collaborate with a third party that would actually own the servers used for cloud-based AI tasks, as is the case with servers that host iCloud data in China. In 2021, China passed a major law that regulates data privacy, and Apple will undoubtedly have to comply with it.

The issue of censorship is another problem Apple will have to tackle if they want to make their AI software available in China. OpenAI's ChatGPT, which will be able to handle requests from Siri in iOS 18, is currently banned in the country.

As a result, Apple might have to partner with a different company, one that already has approval for the commercial use of its LLM technology. Companies such as Alibaba and Baidu are among those Apple could decide to partner with in China.

In late March, a report revealed that Apple was looking to partner with a local AI provider in China. Shortly thereafter, it was claimed that Apple had decided to collaborate with Baidu in order to bring new AI-related features to the Chinese market.

In addition to finding a local vendor, Apple will likely need to employ additional safety measures to prevent the generation of anti-government content in applications such as Image Playground. The company already has similar checks in place, which prevent the generation of copyrighted, adult, and photo-realistic images within its apps.

"We certainly want to find a way to bring all of our best product capabilities to all our customers," Apple's senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi said in a recent interview.

He added that "in some regions of the world, there are regulations that need to be worked through."

Apple already has established competition in China, as certain companies already have state-approved LLM and AI technology. In the area of smartphones, Apple has fallen behind domestic brand Huawei -- which enjoys significant popularity in China.

Apple's market share in China has decreased from 20% to just 15% in the first quarter of 2024, compared to the same period last year, the report says. Huawei represents its main competitor in the area of premium smartphones.

One of the analysts cited in Thursday's report, CCS Insight Chief Ben Wood, described Apple's approach to AI in China as "a marathon and not a sprint." Practically, this means that Apple could face competition in the initial years of its AI software rollout in China, but that it may come out on top sometime after.

Rather than debuting unfinished or features that aren't competitive, Apple typically invests a significant amount of time, money, and marketing effort into its new offerings. This is all done to ensure that customers are educated and receive a usable product at the very least comparable to rival offerings, if not better.

In the case of generative AI software, for instance, Apple only debuted its in-house large language models after products such as OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's Gemini became mainstream. The company will likely take the same approach to making its AI available in China, as the process could prove to be challenging and quite lengthy.



Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 891member
    It's probably why it's (almost) completely absent from the betas.  Meaning it'll be a complete (automatic) ADD-ON in US or don't include in China...
  • Reply 2 of 9
    At some point none of the tech will be working across the world. Each country freaked out by other countries tech. This will have a huge impact on world economies. Maybe the end of these huge multinational tech corporations.
    williamlondondanoxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 9
    holycowholycow Posts: 13member
    Another win for the China government and Lose for the Chinese people
    VictorMortimerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 9
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,545member
    I hope Apple has a Contingency Plan in place regarding their rather large dependency on China and Taiwan. 
    nubuswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 9
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,107member
    dewme said:
    I hope Apple has a Contingency Plan in place regarding their rather large dependency on China and Taiwan. 
    The Apple plan is a huge fork in the road for the EU and China.........Apple doesn't need either to advance forward on the Apple Intelligence software front the genie is already out of the bottle. However the days of one world one Apple smartphone/iPad/Mac is coming to an end.

    If you live in the USA you will get the best Apple products software/hardware if you somewhere else you will less than as dictated by government China, EU, kinda like the USA without high speed rail notice the rest of the world has moved on with high speed rail but the USA hasn't (government). 

    https://archive.is/WTrgb  EU going backwards.....

    https://archive.ph/UFDra.  Big Fork Coming.


    edited June 21 Calamanderwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 9
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,897member
    I can't speak of the China side with too much knowledge, but the Huawei side of Apple's problems in China is fairly easy to break down and 'uphill battle' for Apple fits the bill as things stand today (and have been since last August). Almost a full year now. AI is simply part of the puzzle. 

    At an OS level, it was rumoured last year that HarmonyOS could surpass iOS in China at some point during 2024.

    It seems that came to pass very quickly: in Q1-24:

    https://eu.detroitnews.com/story/business/2024/06/21/huawei-mobile-devices-near-a-billion-as-apple-rivalry-heats-up/74168313007/

    And just today, HarmonyOS NEXT was officially presented at Huawei's Developer Conference with major new advances in kernel and security aspects. It will debut on the Mate 70 series later this year which Huawei is aligning to go head to head with Apple's end-of-year releases. 

    Last year's iPhones saw discounting in China almost from the get go and that discounting had to be increased even further earlier this year. 

    Apple’s much anticipated 'large and thin' iPad Pro release this year already had a very high bar to pass because, in China (and globally), it was going up against last year's already large and thin MatePad Pro/M-Pencil combo, with NearLink. Rumours suggest its tablets will get a further update this year and satellite connectivity is already known to be coming (via certification channels) to some of their tablets this year. 

    Huawei phones have always been ahead of iPhones in that that regard and connect to high orbit satellites. Something Apple engineers recognised in an interview as 'challenging'. 

    Huawei has also included satellite voice calling on its flagships since last year. 

    On AI, Huawei has enjoyed a homegrown, full stack solution for years now via its Ascend platform and offshoots. 

    LLM's and tLLM's have been deployed across various industries already and today (during the Huawei Developer Conference) it announced major updates across the board on AI. 

    On the wearables front Huawei has always had the battery advantage to play off, with watches going a week or two between charges. It has also played well in the fashion side of smartwatches. If those two factors are important it's a no brainer for Chinese consumers. 

    According to Digitimes, Huawei is ramping production of Kirin chipsets for wearables right now and Counterpoint was estimating massive gains for Huawei wearables this year. 

    In terms of 'ecosystem' Apple can't touch Huawei (or Xiaomi for that matter) in terms of breadth. HomeKit really needed Matter/Thread support to keep it going yet Huawei is already on the 5th generation of its Whole House smart solutions (which cost thousands of dollars) and has agreements with home development companies to include the solutions during construction and HarmonyOS itself is tuned to IoT and multiple devices at its core. 

    https://longportapp.com/en/news/108256197

    Of course, Huawei extends that idea beyond the consumer home setting into industrial Smart Cities. 

    Today Huawei doubled down on the fact that some companies have an OS for every type of device whereas for Huawei it is just 'one' (HarmonyOS) and built from the ground up to be truly multi device. Then there are Open Harmony and Harmony OS Connect which form the base of open source variants and an easy way for appliance vendors, for example, to integrate HarmonyOS support in 'simple' low memory devices. 

    Huawei HiSilicon has been producing IoT chipsets for years now which obviously HarmonyOS can target well. 

    Apple’s 'new' iPhone 'mirroring' feature has been around on Huawei devices for years now, so Chinese users won't be too impressed by that (or many other new features that Huawei or the wider Android field has had for ages).

    Obviously, folding phones are gaining traction in China and Huawei has brought many to market but Apple has none. Likewise Huawei has always had a stellar premium range which takes a cut out of the Chinese premium pie. 

    Apple has abandoned its car plans but Huawei has been there for years, providing overall software solutions, cockpit solutions, autonomous driving solutions as well as mini mobile-data-centers for compute and a wide range of key EV and autonomous drivong hardware technologies. Sales are beating expectations and there is now a very wide range of car types with 'Huawei Inside'. 

    In April this year, it released its ADS2.0 technology to bolster things. 

    Super-fast liquid cooled Huawei car-charging stations are rolling out across China with 100,000 planned for this year alone. 

    Everything is tied together over networks and cloud infrastructure and there are continuous advances in its self driving network solutions too. 

    Then there is Huawei's Industrial and Residential PV solutions divisions using its cutting edge battery tech. 

    It's not hard to see why Huawei has such strong options and according to the Economist, sanctions have simply made it stronger still. 

    https://www.economist.com/briefing/2024/06/13/americas-assassination-attempt-on-huawei-is-backfiring

    That doesn't mean things are impossible but competition is currently intense while of course, geo-political tensions remain high and last year's iPhone offerings didn't really move the needle in consumer appeal. 





    nubus
  • Reply 7 of 9
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,897member
    danox said:
    dewme said:
    I hope Apple has a Contingency Plan in place regarding their rather large dependency on China and Taiwan. 
    The Apple plan is a huge fork in the road for the EU and China.........Apple doesn't need either to advance forward on the Apple Intelligence software front the genie is already out of the bottle. However the days of one world one Apple smartphone/iPad/Mac is coming to an end.

    If you live in the USA you will get the best Apple products software/hardware if you somewhere else you will less than as dictated by government China, EU, kinda like the USA without high speed rail notice the rest of the world has moved on with high speed rail but the USA hasn't (government). 

    https://archive.is/WTrgb  EU going backwards.....

    https://archive.ph/UFDra.  Big Fork Coming.


    The FT piece states 'hundreds of AI features'. It then goes on to say three won't make it to the EU. 
    gatorguy
  • Reply 8 of 9
    longfanglongfang Posts: 493member
    danox said:
    dewme said:
    I hope Apple has a Contingency Plan in place regarding their rather large dependency on China and Taiwan. 
    The Apple plan is a huge fork in the road for the EU and China.........Apple doesn't need either to advance forward on the Apple Intelligence software front the genie is already out of the bottle. However the days of one world one Apple smartphone/iPad/Mac is coming to an end.

    If you live in the USA you will get the best Apple products software/hardware if you somewhere else you will less than as dictated by government China, EU, kinda like the USA without high speed rail notice the rest of the world has moved on with high speed rail but the USA hasn't (government). 

    https://archive.is/WTrgb  EU going backwards.....

    https://archive.ph/UFDra.  Big Fork Coming.


    There has alway been 3 SKU’s for each model. As for best Apple hardware being from the US, Apple Watch would like a word. 
  • Reply 9 of 9
    longfang said:
    There has alway been 3 SKU’s for each model. As for best Apple hardware being from the US, Apple Watch would like a word. 
    Also iPhone 15 series with only eSim - useless in many parts of the world including China. 


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