These iOS 18 features will really help journalists out

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Amid all of Apple’s announcements at the start of the WWDC June 10, 2024, was a collection of features that are likely to help journalists a lot: Live call recording and transcription and AI summarization. 

The new feature, which will accompany the release of iOS 18 in the fall of 2024, will allow anyone with a compatible device to have Apple transcribe a conversation — live.

The phone will also record calls in real-time and even take care of letting everyone know the call is being recorded.

According to the preview website, the transcription feature will be designed to distinguish between speakers (though it’s not clear if it will work with more than two callers).

Apple will also provide a way to toggle the feature on and off on per-call basis.

This could prove to be a valuable tool when conducting phone interviews, allowing journalists to focus on the conversation rather than being bogged down by taking notes. 

Apple will also use new AI features to add the ability to automatically generate a summary of the conversation as well.

The transcriptions will also become searchable across the entire iOS and can be attached to documents and to-dos, which could come in handy for referencing previous interviews at a later time.

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It appears iOS will also keep the original audio of select calls around in case of a transcription issue or even if you’d like to integrate audio from a phone call into a story (though the ability to export saved call audio has not been confirmed).

Apple also says it will handle letting parties know that the call is being recorded to avoid any prickly consent law issues. 

A similar feature has existed on Google Pixel phones for some time now.

One potential limitation might be that the feature is likely only to work for calls made inside of the native Apple-provided Phone app and not third-party telephony apps that come with many corporate phone systems.

A potential workaround to this, however, would be to use a common feature of many of these systems that allow a user to originate a call within the third-party app and then take the call on any connected land or cellular line. In this case, it would appear that users could use this feature, if available, to start a call within the service and direct the call to the number on the iPhone in question. 

Once the call comes in, this would presumably be treated just like any other call and able to be transcribed and recorded by iOS.

Right now journalists typically have use a third party app or service to record and transcribe phone interviews. 

A potential privacy concern with the feature, however, is that AI obviously needs to be able to “listen” to the call recording to transcribe it, though that’s true of any other AI transcription feature and the data would be protected in a similar way to any other piece of information on an iPhone, which has been introducing more and more security and privacy features.

Apple’s site indicates it will use a combination of on-device processing and the new Apple Private Cloud Compute service for AI processing as a way to protect privacy as much as possible.

It’s not clear, however, how permanent, for example, deleting a recording and the accompanying transcription would be should a journalist need to protect a source. Again, this can be a concern whenever another party processes or stores data.

All that said, for most day-to-day phone interviews, the feature would likely be safe and private enough for most users.

Live transcription is slated to be available in select countries in a handful of languages, including English and Spanish, at launch. It’s not entirely clear how the feature might integrate with new or existing translation options.

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In addition to the live transcription feature, for those who use the built-in Notes app, improvements to that are on the way as well.

Users will be able to create collapsable sections within notes, which could be helpful for organizing longer notes or reference lists stored in the app.

Apple is also planning to add the ability to highlight portions of notes in a color to help it stand out.

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