Bangalore, August 6 2018: Remember the huge excitement with feature phones gave way to smart phones? It was a 'touching' experience -- Internet-ready; seamless switching from messaging to emailing to whatsapping and thousands of time-pass video and movies at the click of a soft button.
Prepare to kiss smart phones goodbye this year: Artificial Intelligence has embraced the mobile phone and recent weeks have seen the global launch of AI-fuelled handsets from a few brands like Huawei, iPhone, Pixel and Samsung. For want of a better term they are being called Intelligent Phones.
Faisal Kawoosa, telecom analyst at Cyber Media Research, anticipated this trend 8 months ago with a perceptive definition: "Smart is not necessarily intelligent but intelligent is always smart. so, today's smartphones are not necessarily intelligent devices."
What happens when you pump AI into a phone? Key differences should occur in the camera; in voice assistants; in User Interfaces that "learn" the owner's behavior. Last week I got to try out one of the first Intelligent Phones to reach India -- Huawei's nova 3.
Like the Honor 9 lite from the same parent company that I reviewed on this page earlier this year, nova 3 is a 4-eyed freak: double cameras fore and aft: 24 MP + 2 MP in the front and 24 MP + 16 MP in the rear. Where AI kicks in, is in the front lenses recognizing and automatically adjusting to any one of 8 scenes -- people, sunset, indoors, beach, snow, flowers etc. The High Dynamic Ratio( HDR) Pro software then provides a live preview and helps you "beat the backlight" -- that bane of portraits. The rear cameras are even more versatile, recognizing 22 different scenes in 500 scenarios.
Once clicked, the images reside in the phone's huge 128 GB ROM and AI intuitively then sorts them into galleries like landscape or portrait. Clicked pictures anywhere can be used to search instantly on Amazon in a "Shop by Image" mode by a simple long press of the click button.
Where to deploy AI on a phone is a bit of a trade-off and I am guessing, for starters, Huawei has decided to go for fun things rather than boring productivity: I tried out the cool Qmoji feature: Wink, smile or grimace at the screen and an emoji of your choice exactly replicates your gesture. You can then save and share the result as still image, animated GIF or a video.
AI also vastly improves the face unlock feature: it works even in very low light, a challenge on many phones.
All this is enabled by the new AI-ready Kirin 710 system-on-a-chip that includes a brainy Neural Processing Unit (NPU). This works hand in hand with the Huawei user interface EMUI 8.2 which offers a number of India specific and 'Made in India' enhancements -- some as basic but useful as bringing up a panchang calendar.
As AI on phones mature, we can hope to see more intelligence, anticipating our tastes and second guessing our usage patterns. Even as it is, the Huawei nova 3 is one super smart cookie. It costs Rs 34,999 and offers the latest 4G VoLTE connectivity on both SIMS. The nova 3i with 4 GB RAM instead of the nova 3's 6 GB and a different processor, costs Rs 20,999. Both are on sale from tomorrow, August 7.( ANAND PARTHASARATHY)