Tech Updates

Use that everyday AI in your pocket

3 Mins read

Virtual assistants are usually in the spotlight regarding artificial intelligence software on smartphones and tablets. But Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, and the company aren’t the only tools using machine learning to make life easier — other common programs 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 are usually invited to enroll in the facial recognition security program, which captures and analyzes your image so that the program recognizes you in different appearance and lighting situations. Later, when you want to unlock the device or use apps such as digital payment systems, the camera confirms that your face matches the saved data so that you can continue.

With both Apple’s Face ID on the far left, and Android’s Face Unlock feature, the information about your face remains on the phone, and you can adjust the settings or delete the data if you wish. Credit… Apple; google

If you decide to use the feature, check your device maker’s privacy policy to see where that data is stored. For example, Apple states that “Face ID data doesn’t leave your device,” and Google says it keeps facial data on the security chips on its Pixel phones. If you sign up and change your mind, you can always go to your phone’s Face ID or Face Unlock settings, delete or reset the data, disable the feature, and use a passcode.

If you’ve ever typed on your phone’s keyboard and seen suggested words for what to order next, that’s machine learning. Apple’s iOS software includes a predictive text feature that bases its suggestions on your past conversations, Safari browser searches, and other resources.


Google’s Gboard keyboard for Android and iOS can provide word suggestions. Google has a Smart Compose tool for Gmail and other text input apps that uses personal information collected in your Google account to adjust word predictions. Samsung has predictive text software for its Galaxy devices.

The Predictive Text feature in Apple’s iOS system suggests words or emoji icons help you write, but you can disable this feature in the keyboard settings. Credit…Apple

The suggestions can save you time, and Apple and Google maintain that the custom predictions based on your personal information remain private. But 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. They can perform other useful tasks, such as Apple’s “visual lookup.” Google Lens can identify plants, animals, and products seen by the phone’s camera and save those searches. You can delete the information or disable data collection in the Web & App Activity settings in your Google Account.

On the far left, Google Lens identifies objects in photos and can search based on an image, but your Lens activity is stored in your Google Account until you delete it. Apple’s Live Text tool, near the left, can manipulate Text in photos, but you can turn it off in settings. 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 getting the job done.

These AI-in-action tools are most useful when they have access to personal information such as your address and contacts. If you’re concerned, read your phone manufacturer’s privacy policy: Apple, Google, and Samsung have all posted documents to their sites. The nonprofit Common Sense Media has posted independent privacy reviews for Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby.

Your phone’s virtual assistant settings give you control over the software. Credit…Google; Apple

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

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