Exploring the Concept of an AI Smartphone: Samsung and Other Tech Leaders Discuss the Technology

Samsung Electronics Co. presented the Galaxy S24 smartphones at a media preview event in Seoul, South Korea, on Monday, January 15, 2024. Samsung, the world’s most prolific smartphone manufacturer, is embracing artificial intelligence as the pivotal element for boosting sales this year. Photojournalist: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesSeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty ImagesArtificial intelligence smartphones are set to dominate the conversation this year as mobile device manufacturers aim to capitalize on the AI trend to enhance the sales of their gadgets after a challenging period.OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which was unveiled in late 2022, ignited significant interest in generative AI, particularly — models that are trained on extensive data and capable of producing text, images, and video prompts. Since then, AI enthusiasm has pervaded every industry and captured the popular imagination.Manufacturers of smartphones perceive an opportunity to profit from this trend and are preparing to promote this technology at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), the largest mobile industry expo globally, commencing on Monday in Barcelona, Spain.”Nobody wants to be perceived as lagging behind, and AI is the focal point this year that all vendors will be capitalizing on,” Bryan Ma, vice president of client devices research at IDC, remarked to CNBC.The specifics of this technology are challenging to pin down, varying depending on the manufacturer consulted.Analysts interviewed by CNBC generally concur on a few points — that these gadgets will feature more advanced processors to run AI applications, and that these AI applications will operate on the device itself instead of relying on the cloud.Companies like Qualcomm and MediaTek have introduced smartphone chipsets enabling the necessary processing power for AI applications.Although AI technology integrated into smartphones is not novel — some AI elements have existed in devices for a while, enabling functions such as background blurred effects on photos and image editing.What’s novel is the introduction of expansive language models and generative AI. Large language models are extensive AI models trained on vast datasets that serve as the foundation for applications like popular chatbots. These models unlock new functionalities, such as chatbots generating images or text in response to user prompts.”It’s not just about having a chatbot; we’ve had virtual assistants for some time. The distinction lies in its generative capability, enabling them to produce poetry or summarize meetings. Previously, text-to-image creation was not feasible,” Ma explained.Another crucial aspect of AI in smartphones is “on-device AI.” Previously, many AI applications on devices were partly processed in the cloud before being downloaded onto the device. However, advanced processors and the ability for large language models to become more compact are likely to steer more AI applications towards running exclusively on the device, bypassing the need for cloud processing.”One of the primary narratives at MWC will likely be the independent operation of AI models on the devices themselves, potentially marking a significant shift,” Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, predicted for CNBC.Smartphone manufacturers argue that on-device AI bolsters device security, unlocks novel applications, and accelerates functionality by conducting processing directly on the device.This innovation could pave the way for new applications developers can create, as noted by both Ma and Wood.Eventually, Wood envisions smartphone makers striving for “anticipatory computing” — the notion that AI can learn user behavior and make the device more intuitive, predicting the user’s next actions without explicit input.Despite advances in AI technology within devices, its current application with large language models is still in its early stages.Device manufacturers at MWC are poised to showcase various AI-powered features, some of which are already making waves. In January, Samsung launched its flagship Galaxy S24 smartphone series, highlighting its AI capabilities. One feature that stood out was the ability to highlight an image or text within any app, prompting an immediate Google search.MWC is likely to exhibit demonstrations of AI functionalities, ranging from camera enhancements to chatbots on smartphones.Nonetheless, as per IDC’s Ma, many of these features still rely on cloud processing rather than on-device capabilities. Furthermore, he indicated that it may take several years before third-party developers uncover a “killer” use case for consumers that revolutionizes the user experience.Wood cautioned about the peril of manufacturers focusing excessively on AI jargon rather than emphasizing the technology’s practical benefits for users. “Consumers are clueless about what an AI smartphone entails; they need use cases to contextualize it,” Wood remarked. The risk is that consumers may experience “AI fatigue.”Ultimately, the ambitious AI applications smartphone manufacturers envision could be a distant reality.”We are laying a solid foundation for AI on devices. 2024 could be the year recognized as the critical turning point, but realizing these game-changing experiences may take quite some time,” Wood concluded.

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