Nothing’s “Post-App World” of AI Sounds Terrible

Nothing Phone 2

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Nothing doesn’t plan on launching the Nothing Phone (3) this year, for those who were holding out hope. The company made that announcement today through a lengthy Tweet and video from founder Carl Pei, where he discussed the future and then had one of his software engineers show off their vision, which will be very AI-focused. Because, of course it will be.

Pei likes to speak as if he is some sort of tech visionary (I couldn’t tell you if he is or isn’t) who knows just what the world needs because, at least in his view (which helps his sales pitch), things aren’t changing in ways that he believes they should. His pitch for Nothing from the beginning has been that tech isn’t fun anymore. His company has tried to solve this problem that he made up by making devices lacking in competitive specs, but that are clear/see-through and have monotone, minimal software skins.

Knowing that bit of the story, you won’t be shocked to know that today’s announcement is led by Pei once again saying that it is time for change. He Tweets that “the way we use our smartphones needs to be redefined.” Why? His reasons are vague and somewhat preachy about needing to be “highly personalized, dynamic, and cross-device,” yet also able to create a “human connection that makes tech feel more at ease to interact with.” But the main point he gets to is because he wants to put AI everywhere, thus the reason for suggesting a redefinition. Because without first telling you that your phone is old and wrong, the AI pitch wouldn’t quite land.

But before getting into their vision for AI, Carl mentions in his included video that smartphones continue to get faster and better, yet the user experience hasn’t really changed over the years. He doesn’t then take any time to explain why that’s a bad thing, but is happy to tell you about AI overwhelming your phone as the solution. You see, Pei believes we are about to enter a “post-app world,” which he calls “exciting,” so we’ll need our phones to act as a hub to steal pull from all of the services we previously used apps for and make life easier in some way. I’m sure that will go over well with developers of those services.

The video moves to a demo of their first idea, which is a home screen launcher that is filled with supposed AI content that changes throughout a day. It showcases QR codes for flights, because we all fly every other day, a list of reminders you have, Tweets from people, the weather, shortcuts to what should be apps, and an ad to try to get you to buy stuff. Groundbreaking. Thankfully, it didn’t include an integration with Nothing Chats.

That’s not all, though.  The other idea is of an AI-voice companion that you are forced to have a conversation with in order to setup. It wants to know what qualities in people you look for, so that it can become that with a matching accent and everything. It’ll then be there to watch you at all times in overlays, through your earbuds, and in your dreams, or something.

And in the end, Pei gets to the big point, which is that the Nothing Phone (3) isn’t coming until 2025. They need extra time to build this device because they need to “get the product right” by “integrating hardware and AI in a way that is both useful and brings a smile to people’s faces.”

My tone around AI is that of someone who is going to be skeptical throughout its hype period and will likely never fully buy-in to the grander visions around it. The focus on AI feels a lot like the launch of 5G with a mix of NFT. There will be use cases for AI that can help people do their jobs more efficiently, as tools to help you be more creative, that can automate mundane tasks in your daily life, etc. But this idea that we all need to give up the way our smartphones currently work (just because) in favor of an AI assistant is, pardon my language, so fucking stupid.

A “post-app world” sounds like only something an AI evangelist would say to other AI evangelists at an AI conference held in the eventual remnants of the Humane offices. You know who likes using apps? We all do. We like using Instagram and YouTube and Google News and Reddit and Chrome and Gmail and Messages. You know who likes us using them? The companies who make them. The companies who build apps need us to use them and will build their own AI within their boundaries. People have been talking about a post-app world for years now (2016 as an one example), and yet we’re still here using them because apps are fine, good even.

You see, this is one of my biggest complaints with AI. AI isn’t often being sold to me as a solution to a problem. I’m just being told that AI is what I need because someone else has decided so. Like in this situation from Nothing, where I’m told to prepare for a world beyond apps. Not because apps are doing anything wrong, but because there needs to be something new instead.

Shit is tiring. I’m going to go open some apps.



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