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What is ChatGPT Plus? Here’s what to know before you subscribe

Close up of ChatGPT and OpenAI logo.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

ChatGPT is completely free to use, but that doesn’t mean OpenAI isn’t also interested in making some money.

ChatGPT Plus is a subscription model that gives you access to a completely different service based on the GPT-4 model, along with faster speeds, more reliability, and first access to new features. Beyond that, it also opens up the ability to use ChatGPT plug-ins, create custom chatbots, use DALL-E 3 image generation, and much more.

What is ChatGPT Plus?

Like the standard version of ChatGPT, ChatGPT Plus is an AI chatbot, and it offers a highly accurate machine learning assistant that’s able to carry out natural language “chats.” This is the latest version of the chatbot that’s currently available.

The main difference about ChatGPT Plus, however, is its use of GPT-4. This most advanced LLM (large language model) is a major step up from GPT-3.5 in terms of accuracy and capability.

“We launched ChatGPT as a research preview so we could learn more about the system’s strengths and weaknesses, and gather user feedback to help us improve upon its limitations,” OpenAI’s announcement blog post states. “Since then, millions of people have given us feedback, we’ve made several important updates, and we’ve seen users find value across a range of professional use cases including drafting and editing content, brainstorming ideas, programming help, and learning new topics.”

Details about ChatGPT Plus had been emerging from insiders for weeks, but the official news finally broke on February 1, 2023, via a blog post from OpenAI.

How much does it cost?

ChatGPT Plus costs $20 per month, which is a lot less than it was originally rumored to cost. Of course, the free version of ChatGPT remains in place, so paying won’t be a requirement to use the service moving forward.

We’ll have to see how long OpenAI keeps this price, however. Some reports indicate that it may be costing as much as $700,000 per day to operate, but then again, we don’t know how many subscribers ChatGPT Plus currently has.

What does ChatGPT Plus include?

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When ChatGPT launched, it was described as providing access to three specific features:

  • General access to ChatGPT, even during peak times
  • Faster response times
  • Priority access to new features and improvements

At the beginning, having access to ChatGPT during peak times was the most obvious major benefit of paying for ChatGPT Plus. Some people were having to wait hours to get in, which ensured the popularity of the subscription model right from the get-go.

It’s more than just jumping to the front of the line, though. ChatGPT Plus officially supports GPT-4, which is this latest large language model (LLM), greatly expanding what standard ChatGPT, which uses GPT-3.5 can do. According to OpenAI, GPT-4 provides 40% more factual responses, and is a much stronger collaborative tool for creative tasks. In many ways, we’re still discovering just how much more powerful GPT-4 is that GPT-3.5, but some believe it even hints at the first sparks of AGI (artificial general intelligence).

Other major features added through GPT-4 are the ability to receive visual input instead of just text, much longer text inputs and outputs, and access to data gleaned from the internet prior to 2022. In particular, GPT-4 has a massive 25,000-word limit compared to the 3,000 of ChatGPT.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

But since then, OpenAI has also delivered on its promise to bring exciting new features to ChatGPT Plus subscribers. Among the most powerful are ChatGPT plug-ins, the ability to create custom chatbots, DALL-E 3 image generation, and access to the internet. The GPT Store is the latest addition, having been launched in January 2024.

People are already doing amazing things with all these new features, including building GPTs that find their way into the GPT Store. This is where the power of ChatGPT Plus really shines, allowing you to access an entire ecosystem of GPTs that have been built for more narrow use cases. There third-party GPTs that are the equivalent of apps.

A screenshot of a graphic from OpenAI's website, showing the GPT Store on desktop and mobile.

In the end, if you’re interested in trying any of this out, you can always easily check it out and cancel your account later if you don’t think it’s worth it.

Why does OpenAI want you to pay up?

ChatGPT has high running costs — for hosting, upkeep, upgrading hardware, updates, satisfying its investor, etc. — while its own popularity has led to an immediate need to improve its accessibility and speed to a greater user base. Some estimates peg daily running costs at $100,000, or up to $3 million a month! The premium subscription should help to cover server upgrades.

It’s safe to assume that a premium tier will let OpenAI control bandwidth issues, especially during peak times of the day.

Can I subscribe to ChatGPT Plus now?

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Yes. ChatGPT Plus initially launched in early access phase, which was by invite only through a waitlist. But now, you can upgrade your account to ChatGPT Plus just by clicking on “Upgrade to Plus” at the bottom of the sidebar.

As an alternative, you can check out some of what GPT-4 has to offer by using Bing Chat, which also uses GPT-4 as a basis for its chats.

The future of ChatGPT Plus

OpenAI is already working on the next versions of its LLM — most notably, GPT-4.5. We don’t know much about this updated model, except that it will build on the foundation laid by GPT-4. OpenAI had suggested in the past that GPT-4.5 could be finished training and ready to go by September or October of 2023. That didn’t happen.

It seems possible that GPT-4.5 will be released to ChatGPT Plus subscribers, but we don’t yet know how the company plans to roll out new versions of its chatbot.

There’s also the question of Sora, OpenAI’s new generative video platform that’s been taking the internet by storm. It’s still being held to a very early circle of testers, but the first videos posted online have already left quite an impression.

GPT-5 was at one point rumored to be in the works, but OpenAI now says it’s no longer even on the road map.

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Aaron Leong
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Aaron enjoys all manner of tech - from mobile (phones/smartwear), audio (headphones/earbuds), computing (gaming/Chromebooks)…
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