Use that everyday AI in your pocket

Virtual assistants tend to steal the spotlight when it comes to AI software on smartphones and tablets. But Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and co. aren’t the only tools using machine learning to make life easier; other common programs also use the technology. Here’s a quick tour of some common AI-powered apps and how you can manage them.

When you set up a new device, you are usually invited to “enroll” in its facial recognition security program, which captures your image and analyzes it so that the program recognizes you in different lighting and appearance situations. Later, when you want to unlock the device or use apps like digital payment systems, the camera confirms that your face matches the stored data so you can proceed.

Credit…Apple; Google

If you decide to use the feature, check your device manufacturer’s privacy policy to see where that data is stored. For example, Apple claims that “Face ID data does not leave your device,” and Google says that it stores facial data in the security chips of its Pixel phones. If you sign up and then have questions, you can always access your phone’s Face ID or Face Unlock settings, delete or reset data, turn off the feature, and keep a passcode.

If you’ve ever been typing on your phone’s keyboard and noticed suggested words for what you could type next, that’s machine learning in action. Apple’s iOS software includes a predictive text feature that bases its suggestions on your past conversations, Safari browser searches, and other sources.

Google’s Gboard keyboard for Android and iOS can offer word suggestions, and Google has a Smart Compose tool for Gmail and other text-entry apps that relies on personal information collected from your Google account to tailor its word predictions. . Samsung has its own predictive text software for its Galaxy devices.


Suggestions can save you time, and both Apple and Google say that personalized predictions based on your personal information remain private. Still, if you want fewer algorithms in your business, turn it off. On an iPhone (or iPad), you can turn predictive text off in the keyboard settings.

Google Lens (for Android and iOS) and Apple’s Live Text feature use artificial intelligence to analyze text in images for machine translation and can perform other useful tasks like Apple’s “visual search.” Google Lens can identify plants, animals and products seen through the phone’s camera, and these searches are saved. You can delete the information or turn off data collection in the Web & App Activity settings in your Google account.

Credit…Google; Apple

In iOS 15, you can turn off Live Text by opening the Settings app, tapping General, then Language & Region, and turning off the Live Text toggle. Later this year, Live Text will get an update in iOS 16, in which Apple emphasizes the role of “on-device intelligence” in getting the job done.

These AI tools in action are most useful when they have access to personal information like your address and contacts. If in doubt, read your phone manufacturer’s privacy policy: Apple, Google, and Samsung have documents posted on their sites. The nonprofit site Common Sense Media has published independent privacy assessments for Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby.

Credit…Google; Apple

Setting up the software is easy because the wizard guides you, but check out the app settings to customize it. And don’t forget the general privacy controls built into your phone’s operating system.

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