An iPhone shows a screen with Siri in action.
Touchapon Kraisingkorn
min read
June 20, 2024

The Future of Workflow with Apple's Small Language Model

In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence, Apple has emerged as a key player with its innovative approach to integrating AI into its ecosystem. One of the most intriguing developments is Apple's use of small language models to enhance user interactions and streamline workflows. This article explores how Apple leverages these models, the benefits they offer, and the broader industry trends that validate the future of agentic workflows.

Apple Intelligence Architecture

Apple's intelligence architecture is designed to optimize user experience by employing a small language model as the first agent to receive and process user queries. This model acts as a gatekeeper, determining the most efficient way to respond to or perform a given task. For instance, when a user asks Siri to set a reminder, the small language model quickly interprets the request and executes the action without needing to consult a larger, more resource-intensive model. This streamlined approach not only enhances performance but also ensures a more responsive and intuitive user experience.

Diagram of Apple's Personal Intelligence System architecture with on-device models and cloud integration
Overview of Apple's Small Language Model Intelligence System Architecture.

Efficiency and Privacy of Small Language Models

One of the key advantages of small language models is their efficiency. Unlike large language models that require significant computational power and data resources, small language models are lightweight and can operate directly on the user's device. 

This localized processing not only speeds up response times but also significantly enhances data privacy. For example, when Siri processes a voice command, the data remains on the device, reducing the risk of data breaches and ensuring user privacy. 

In contrast, cloud-based chatbots often transmit data to remote servers, increasing the potential for data exposure.

Generative AI on Device: Agent-and-Tools Pattern

When ChatGPT and generative AI arrived at the end of 2022, the initial vision was that these cloud-based models would serve as the ultimate solution for question-and-answer tasks, capable of performing a wide range of functions independently. 

Early adopters and businesses invested significant effort into enhancing these large models to make them smarter and more versatile. However, a significant shift in the conversation has emerged, moving away from creating ever-larger language models to developing smaller, more specialized models.

Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple have started to focus on small language models such as Microsoft's Phi-3, Google's Gemma, and Apple's intelligence architecture. These models are now being used in agentic workflows, where multiple models communicate and collaborate to perform more complex tasks. This approach leverages planning, reflection, and tool-use patterns to achieve higher-order functionalities. 

For example, in an agentic workflow, one agent might be responsible for planning how to solve a task, a second agent could perform the necessary research, a third agent would execute the plan, and a fourth agent would validate and critique the results. This collaborative approach demonstrates how these models can work together to enhance productivity and achieve more sophisticated outcomes.


In conclusion, Apple's use of small language models and the Agent-and-Tools pattern represents a significant advancement in the field of AI. By prioritizing efficiency and privacy, Apple is setting a new standard for user interactions and workflows. As industry leaders like Apple and Microsoft continue to innovate, the future of generative AI and agentic workflows looks promising, offering tailored solutions that enhance productivity and user experience.

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