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Nothing’s Phone 3 will be all about AI apps

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Nothing CEO Carl Pei just published a video in which he makes two big claims: that smartphones are in fact the AI gadget of the future and that AI might change the way we use those phones. “People love their phones!” Pei says in the video. But “the user experience hasn’t really changed for a really long time.” Everything’s faster, prettier, and easier, he says, “but the fundamental experience hasn’t changed.” Pei now thinks that’s about to change.

I should note that Pei does casually mention the existence of the Phone 3, which has been rumored for a while and, if Nothing keeps to its typical July launch schedule, could be on shelves soon. According to Pei, the Phone 3 will also be the company’s first true AI phone.

In the video, the Nothing team shows off a couple of demos. One looks like a straight rip of OpenAI’s GPT-4o demo: a personalized voice assistant baked into the operating system. That is what everyone thinks the future of smartphone looks like. The other demo shows a personalized, dynamic homescreen that looks like a combination of app launcher and news feed. It automatically grabs and shows a QR code for a ticket you’ll need soon, pulls content from the web, and shows relevant reminders and weather. The idea, Pei says, is to think about how AI can move smartphones past their app-centric model and into a system that just knows what you need and where it is at all times.

Pei is careful to say that these are brand-new prototypes and that even messing with your homescreen will take a while to happen. “You can’t just ship a new product and be like, ‘here, there’s no more apps, are you going to buy it?’” he says in the video. “Of course they’re not going to buy it.” (I can’t prove that this is a dig at Humane or Rabbit, but… it definitely is.) Pei says Nothing’s job is to build a bridge from the current systems to the next ones. He also compares Nothing to Nintendo, in the sense that the job is not to compete on technology but simply to make fun and good stuff.

Nothing has clearly been thinking about AI for a while: it integrated ChatGPT into the recent Ear headphones, and last year on The Vergecast, Pei told me he was already thinking about a world beyond apps. “We feel like apps have gotten too powerful,” he said then, “and with the Phone 2, we’re trying to at least give users options to take some of that power back.” Last year, that largely meant reskinning the interface and giving users more notification controls, but now that seems to mean AI. “Maybe we can just tell the phone what we need to do,” he continued, “and it would use those apps for us without the apps even being visible in the foreground.”

As to the smartphone point: Pei has always said that the reason Nothing started by building headphones and smartphones is because they’re the gadgets everyone actually uses right now. “A computing device made up of a large screen with some camera capability, I think, is gonna be the dominating form factor for a long time,” he said last year. He believed that building phones was a safer, if more competitive, business, and the Humane and Rabbit experience seems to prove him right. He has been hinting, though, that there might be a next big thing coming soon — now it sounds like it might be the big thing you already have. Just a little different.

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