Use the everyday AI in your pocket

Use the everyday AI in your pocket

Virtual assistants are usually in the spotlight when it comes to artificial intelligence software on smartphones and tablets. But Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby and company aren’t the only tools using machine learning to make life easier — other mainstream apps use the technology, too. Here’s a quick tour of some common AI-powered apps and how to manage them.

When you set up a new device, you’re usually invited to “opt in” to the facial recognition security program, which captures your image and analyzes it so that the program will recognize you in different appearance and lighting 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 continue.

Credit…Apple; Google

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

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If you’ve ever typed along on your phone’s keyboard and noticed suggested words for what to 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 input apps that draws on personal information collected in your Google Account to tailor word suggestions. Samsung has its own predictive text software for its Galaxy devices.


The suggestions can save you time, and Apple and Google both state that the 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 off predictive text in the keyboard settings.

Google Lens (for Android and iOS) and Apple’s Live Text feature use artificial intelligence to analyze the text in images for automatic translation and can perform other useful tasks such as Apple’s “visual lookup”. 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 and 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 button. Later this year, Live Text will get an upgrade in iOS 16, with Apple emphasizing the role of “on-device intelligence” in its work.

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These AI-in-action tools are most useful when they have access to personal information such as address and contacts. If you have concerns, read your phone manufacturer’s privacy policy: Apple, Google and Samsung all have documents posted on their websites. The non-profit website 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 assistant guides you, but check out the app’s own settings to customize it. And don’t forget the general privacy controls built into your phone’s operating system.

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