ai robot

Will Pocket-Sized AI Devices Dethrone the Smartphone? 

Mirroring the seismic tech shifts of the last two decades, more is not always equal to better. In fact – the smaller a product is, the more likely it is to be adopted into everyday use. Fitting, then, that as we continue to see AI usage become semi-mainstream on laptops, computers, and programs it was truly only time until some startup, somewhere, developed pocket-sized AI devices.  

No longer confined to stationary devices, AI companions can break beyond the confines of traditional API-based smartphones. Three popular developers are venturing into unexplored territory and creating new products and applications centered on language/action models. By focusing on UX, ease-of-use and agnostic, app-free design, all of these miniature marvels hope to reduce complexities of the smartphone to a single touch request.  

In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the popular AI companions that have captivated users in recent years, and ask the question, will any of these usher us into a post-smartphone era? 

Rabbit r1 takes push-to-talk to another level 

Developed by California-based AI startup, Rabbit, the concept behind R1 is straightforward: it aims to perform any task that your smartphone can do, all through a single interface without switching apps. Interacting with the R1 doesn’t involve conventional app openings. You simply press a physical push-to-talk button to initiate tasks – much like triggering a voice command on a smartphone. Its software is powered by an extensive “large action model” that learns from human app usage, replicating and automating processes seamlessly. 

The r1 AI device is approximately half the size of an iPhone and boasts a 2.88-inch touchscreen. Sporting a rotating camera for snapshots and videos, as well as a scroll wheel/button interface for easy navigation, the R1 also includes a built-in AI assistant for smooth interaction. 

Operating mainly in English + bidirectional translation, the r1 is optimized for search, music, rideshare, food, vision, generative AI, and translation. Teaching the device to natively use apps, not just direct you to the appropriate app is a huge feat that requires millions of data training sessions – which Rabbit hopes you’re up for. The r1 features “training mode” and a developer mode. 

The company is now accepting pre-orders, and shipping for orders in the US and Canada is scheduled to commence in March-April 2024. The device is currently priced at £156.80. 

Humane AI Pin goes minimal

Crafted by a Silicon Valley startup Humane, the “Ai Pin” is a compact square-shaped device driven by AI technology. It’s handsfree in more ways than one: the pin can be affixed to clothing using magnets and provides smartphone functionalities through voice commands or gestures. 

Its primary functions enable users to initiate calls, send messages, and access information using voice commands. Additionally, it incorporates a laser display feature, transforming the user’s palm into a miniature screen capable of displaying the time, date, or nearby points of interest. Furthermore, the device can identify objects using its camera and AI technology.  

Though it comes with a lot of potential, users are already critical of the Pin. There’s no access to apps, which limits usage. The AI is outsourced to a third party API, short battery life, and confusion around features puts the device at a remarkable uphill battle to dethrone traditional smartphones – something the company explicitly aims to do. 

The Ai Pin is listed at £699+ and already available for purchase on the Humane website. Alongside the initial device cost, utilizing the Pin requires a monthly network subscription priced at £30.50 (plus potential additional app expenses), encompassing cell service. 

Tab AI devices mirror shiny, new pendant 

Tab’s founder, Avi Schiffmann, had a bold plan – to create a wearable friend. His small AI pendant quietly listens to your conversations, intuitively comprehends the essence of your daily activities, speech, and relationships. Then, it seamlessly transfers the audio to your smartphone, which then uploads it to the cloud. ChatGPT transcribes and analyzes the data, presenting a diverse array of insights that are readily accessible through your smartphone interface.  

Tab might offer personalized recommendations for enhancing productivity or provide reminders to help users stay organized and on track with their schedules. 

Tab takes a unique approach on AI devices compared to Humane’s Ai Pin and Rabbit’s r1. Unlike these devices, the AI pendant isn’t aiming to replace your phone; rather, it’s focused on making AI more personal to you by being constantly present. Schiffmann envisions Tab evolving into a virtual therapist, coach, or trusted confidant. Addressing privacy concerns, he assures us that the company will not retain recordings or engage in selling or sharing user data. In fact, the device will include a button for users to easily deactivate it whenever necessary. 

 Since the launch of preorders in October 2023, Tab has accumulated £78,100 in sales from early units priced at £468.6 each, inclusive of a year of service valued at £39.5 per month. 


As we witness the development of mini-AI devices and their integration into our daily lives, we have to ask: are we heading towards a post-smartphone era? By providing personalized assistance, enhancing convenience, and fostering connectivity, pocket-sized AI companions are a promising way to cut reliance on smartphones while enriching our everyday experiences through AI. 

Nidhi Singh

Leave a Comment