What if the phone in your pocket was far, far smarter than you ever imagined?
That's no coincidence.
We carry phones around now like they are precious life-giving orbs. And, if you have spent any time with anyone under 30, you know a phone has started to become more like a laptop--they use then to answer email, look up their schedule, read and even edit Google Docs, and do just about everything else you can imagine doing from a tech standpoint.
My theory with Apple, however, is that the intelligence built-in to an iPhone is not going to compare to the vast resources Google is putting into Android and, more to the point, the AI that's built-in to the operating system. Apple has downplayed the importance of AI, letting Siri limp along for years without any real improvements.
Yet, Google has figured out how to make a robot sound convincing. A recent demo showed how a bot could make a hair appointment (a few tech colleagues have told me they think it was all faked). The Google Assistant is smart enough to engage with us in conversation. In a recent test, I found I could ask multiple follow-up questions and the bot kept answering in ways that seemed surprising and almost like a human conversation.
Over the next five years, Google will continue to improve not only the Assistant but also every other aspect of the Android operating system. We already know the Google Pixel 3 is on the horizon, but what's even more interesting to me is how AI will continue to improve at an accelerated pace. With a future Android phone, one that does 100 times more with AI than we can even imagine today, we'll be ready to pay to use this advanced tech.
I can think of a few improvements right off the bat.
One is that phones will predict our behavior, somewhat in the same way Google knows that we're leaving on an airplane later in the week and can send us a reminder. Take that and apply it to every area of life--what we eat, how we sleep, when we need to rest, when it's been too many hours since we last had a workout. An AI bot inside of an Android phone could radically change our lives and even what we do throughout the day.
Imagine the conversation we will have:
"OK, Google. Go ahead and monitor flights to Chicago and buy one when it's the perfect time."
"OK, Google. Find me the best car loan and go ahead and secure the financing for me."
"OK, Google. Drive my autonomous car for me across town and pick up my colleague."
"OK, Google. Order healthy food for me that I like and have it delivered to my house tonight."
These requests are not possible today, because there are too many variables and not enough machine learning. Yet, in the near future, our phones--the device we rely on so much everyday, that is essentially our lifeline to work and to friends and family--will know more about us, including our food tastes and even which cars we like.
The question you might ask, once a phone has that kind of AI available (that could save you thousands on airfare, arrange a loan, instruct your car where to drive, and buy healthy food) is how much would you pay for it? Is $1,000 almost a laughable price, if the phone saves you a few hundred dollars even in the first week of using a much more advanced AI that's only available on the Pixel 5? Or that new LG model? Or the one from Samsung that makes us all forget about the Galaxy 9?
There's a case to be made that a phone--not laptops, or televisions, or any other gadgets--will rise much higher in price, become much smarter, and become even more invaluable in work and daily life, to the point where we will spend more on them than ever before.
And, there's also a case to suggest that Google (not Apple) will put the resources into the AI needed to convince us to lay out that kind of cash for a much smarter phone.
Apple may rekindle their efforts to improve Siri. Amazon may re-enter the smartphone market with an Alexa-powered phone. But Google has the best chance to appeal to those with deep pockets. Or just everyday smartphone users ready to abandon Siri.