Even the worst smartphone seems better than these new AI gadgets

Even the worst smartphone seems better than these new AI gadgets

AI hardware is finally shipping and with big promises, but given how the experience seems to be with the first high-profile launches, it really seems like even the worst smartphone would probably be better.

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The promises of AI are big. In theory, these models could one day automate tasks and get them done faster than a human ever could. But in these early days, the experience is inconsistent, prone to ridiculous errors, and often very slow. In other words, it’s pretty bad.

That’s what makes these new AI gadgets pretty hard to swallow. The Humane AI Pin and Rabbit R1 started shipping in April and they’ve been widely panned thus far. The Pin is insanely experience, overheats quickly, and is very slow to respond in many cases. The Rabbit R1, meanwhile, has trouble knowing where you are, has a battery that can’t make it through a day, and often just gets things completely wrong. Watching my friend Joe Maring’s experience behind the scenes ahead of his review on Digital Trends was quite something, often full of laughter and visible frustration at just how poorly and ridiculously the Rabbit responded to his queries. His verdict ended up being that it’s a “good-looking $199 paperweight.” That checks out for a device that quite literally told him the temperature was going to be 78 degrees Celsius when asked about the weather.

And it’s not like these AI gadgets are even promising to do anything truly revolutionary. They’re basically just using voice interfaces with AI to do the things you’re already doing, like ordering food, asking questions, and more.

They’re just worse at the job.

You know what’s really good at that stuff? Your phone.

The idea of asking AI to get things done for you is compelling, I get it, but even in the things they’re best suited for, it just seems like your phone will always be faster, more consistent, and just better at that task. A demo by Marques Brownlee comparing the speed of recognizing the Cybertruck using multimodal AI on the Humane AI Pin vs a Galaxy S24 Ultra using Google Lens really just cements that.

NEW Video – Humane Pin Review: A Victim of its Future Ambition

Full video: https://t.co/nLf9LCSqjN

This clip is 99% of my experiences with the pin – doing something you could already do on your phone, but slower, more annoying, or less reliable/accurate. Turns out smartphones… pic.twitter.com/QPxztCuBls

— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) April 14, 2024

But I’d argue that even the worst, cheapest smartphone is still probably a better experience than these AI gadgets. A super-cheap $200 Android phone can still use Google Lens for these multimodal AI experiences, and can use ChatGPT or Gemini easily to do the rest.

The appeal of these AI gadgets, I feel, has to be all in the hardware.

The Rabbit R1 misses the point entirely, it seems. It’s just another rectangle to carry in your pocket that doesn’t do anything your phone can’t already do (especially considering your phone can technically run the whole experience the Rabbit uses). The Humane AI Pin presents a genuinely compelling vision with its hardware, but it’s clearly fallen well short of where it was aiming.

AI is exciting, and I want to see fun and useful gadgets come out of it. But there are a lot of folks out there talking about how phones are so boring now and these gadgets are going to eclipse them and… I disagree. Phones have gotten really good, and it’s going to take some truly astonishing work to make any new AI-focused device surpass what we’ve been building out for the past couple of decades. And, as it stands right now, AI gadgets are not off to a good start.

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And at $50, it looks compelling. There’s no word on the release date, though.

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