Apple is known for its measured, cautious approach to doing things, and the company sure took its sweet time to announce AI-related updates coming to its devices even when artificial intelligence has been the focus of all major announcements from the competition. Apple's take on AI is more like an underlying framework for its devices, which it calls Apple Intelligence, which will be bringing new features to iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

One of the most eagerly-awaited features of Apple Intelligence is Image Playground, which will let users generate original images using prompts directly on their devices. You can then use these generated images in various apps like Messages, Pages, Keynote, and Freeform. While the feature will be making its way to devices running iOS 18 later this year in beta, you can learn all about it here right now.

What is Image Playground?

Image Playground is a new AI-powered feature coming to devices running iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS 15 that will let users generate images using prompts.

Enter a prompt and Image Playground will show you a preview of the image to be generated, along with a few different images you can choose from. This makes it similar to other AI image-generating tools that are flooding the internet. However, there is one major change.

While most other tools use cloud processing to generate images, Image Playground works on-device for the most part. It will only rely on cloud processing for the most complicated requests, which means that user privacy is ensured.

Unfortunately, this also means that devices have to be quite powerful to generate images without having to access cloud-based resources. It may explain why this feature is only coming to Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max powered by the A17 Pro chip.

How does it work?

Users can generate images of almost anything using Image Playground with prompts, and they don't even have to enter highly detailed prompts. Just typing in words, ideas, and concepts will allow the AI to generate images based on those. You can also add descriptions using the text box if you have something particular in mind. In addition, Apple offers a few suggestions in the app, like places, costumes, and themes.

Source: Apple

These suggestions will be personalized and will vary from user to user, so what Apple recommends to you will be different from what it recommends to someone else. Image Playground can also pick up ideas and concepts from conversations and suggest images that make the conversations more engaging and fun. For instance, if you're planning a beach trip with friends, it may show images of a sandy beach, palm trees, and the like.

Here's an example for how it works. You can add words like 'Party', 'Chef', and 'Hat' to the Image Playground.

Image Playground can use ideas and concepts to offer suggestions. Source: Apple

Image Playground will then generate multiple options for an image of a cat in a chef hat that seems to be preparing a meal for a party.

Image generated by Image Playground. Source: Apple

Is it a feature or an app? When it was first announced, many people were confused about whether Image Playground is a feature that can be used anywhere, or will be available as a dedicated app. The answer is both. While it is baked into various apps like Messages and Notes, allowing you to generate images directly within those apps, it will also be available as a standalone app.

So, if you want to generate an image but do not want to use it in the above-mentioned apps, you can use the app for that purpose. Alternatively, it works fine in apps like Messages, so when you send Birthday wishes to a friend, you can create an image of them surrounded by balloons, cake, and flowers.

Image Playground in the Messages app. Source: Apple

Image Playground has a few other nifty tricks as well, depending on which app you use it in. For instance, in the Notes app, you can use the Image Wand tool by circling with your Apple Pencil or finger to transform any sketches you made using Image Playground.

Circle your sketch to use the Image Wand tool. Source: Apple

The tool will then transform it into more detailed artwork depending on your sketch and the context around it. Image Wand can also add images to notes depending on the context alone if you circle empty space.

Creating detailed artwork using the Image Wand. Source: Apple

Lastly, Image Playground will also be available as an API, so developers can implement it in their own apps.

Generating images in different styles

With Image Playground, you can not only generate images using your own ideas but can use photos in your library to do so. For instance, you can use a photo of your friend or a contact on your device to generate a cartoon-like image of them. And when you generate images using the feature or app, you can choose between three different styles - Sketch, Illustration, and Animation.

Keep in mind that Image Playground does not generate realistic images and all generated images have a cartoonish appearance. This is a deliberate choice by Apple since there is a lot of controversy around realistic images generated using AI. Once you have generated an image, you can save it to the Files or Photos app, or export it to share it with others.

Image Playground lets you generate images of your contacts using AI. Source: Apple

With Image Playground, Apple is bringing AI image generation to its devices with Apple Intelligence, its AI-based framework. However, if you want to use it on your iPhone, you will need the iPhone 15 Pro or the iPhone 15 Pro Max, since it will not be available on older devices.

The feature will arrive with the final version of iOS 18 when Apple releases it this fall. Apart from iOS 18, Image Playground will also be available on iPadOS 18 and macOS 15 Sequoia. So, if you have devices compatible with those updates, you may still be able to try it out.