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The Nothing Phone 2a has an incredible feature no one’s talking about

Rear transparent shell of Nothing Phone 2a.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

It all started with a joke on the online doom pit that is X (formerly Twitter) and ended up with a free $200 bonus for Nothing Phone 2a buyers. Or at least that’s what it seems like based on the social media exchange between Nothing CEO Carl Pei and Perplexity AI chief Aravind Srinivas.

So, here’s the deal. The Nothing Phone 2a was launched at $349, went down to as low as $250 in India with a limited-time deal, and then Nothing served a blockbuster $200 freebie. That complimentary perk comes in the form of a subscription to the Pro model of Perplexity AI (worth $200) for early adopters. The offer runs through March 19 and covers a year’s worth of usage.

Right now, the Nothing team is on a marketing blitzkrieg, meeting fans and buyers at Pop-up events with the hope of getting them interested in the flashy new budget phone. And deservedly so. This phone is quite a firecracker, and from my brief experience, I feel it’s the best phone Nothing has made to date. It came as no surprise that Digital Trends’ review labeled it “the best cheap phone in ages.”

This is a deal you really shouldn’t miss

Perplexity on Nothing Phone 2a.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

What Nothing hasn’t focused on in its marketing blitz is the seriously good value served by its Perplexity partnership. At its heart, Perplexity is a web summarizing generative AI chatbot that blends the smarts of ChatGPT with the versatility of trying out other top-tier AI models.

Digital Trends’ section editor, Joe Maring, called it “the perfect ChatGPT iPhone app.” That description is apt, and in my own experience, it has taken over half the work that I used to get done with Google Search. In fact, for research and finding information on the web without getting stuck in a sludge of ad-ridden SEO-bait articles that currently plague Google Search, Perplexity finds a clustered answer sourced from reliable websites.

I’ve used Perplexity in tandem with Arc Search, another excellent web-summarizing AI tool, and can confidently suggest both as a viable replacement for your Google Search chores — or at least a healthy share of them. So, how does Perplexity Pro add practical value for an average Nothing Phone 2a buyer?

The most notable benefit of going Pro is that you get access to OpenAI’s latest and most versatile GPT-4 Turbo chatbot model. But if GPT doesn’t fancy your AI-assisted tasks, you can switch to Anthropic’s excellent Claude 3 model, which is claimed to surpass GPT-4 and Google’s Gemini in critical parameters such as mathematics, reasoning, and knowledge processing.

Perplexity finds a clustered answer sourced from reliable websites.

Getting access to the latest Claude models isn’t a free perk either, as Anthropic offers its own subscription service that provides the best of Claude starting at $20 per month — the same as ChatGPT Plus, Microsoft’s Copilot Pro, and the Google One AI Premium Plan for accessing Gemini Advanced. Access to the latest GPT-4 model for ChatGPT Plus is also locked behind a subscription wall.

Talking with Perplexity chatbot on Nothing Phone 2a.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

That means if you seek to experiment with Anthropic’s latest AI models or those from OpenAI to ease or enhance your workflow, the Perplexity Pro freebie is your golden ticket. There are some differences between the standalone subscriptions and Perplexity Pro in terms of feature parity, but if you take the combined value, a year’s worth of free access to the latter is still an unbelievable offer.

Perplexity also throws its in-house experimental model into the mix alongside Mistral’s largest model. With the Pro subscription, you also get generous access to Perplexity’s own language model. This one performs a more comprehensive search, offers more concise answers, lets you rephrase the original query with a single tap for more clarity, and pushes related queries to serve more relevant details wherever necessary.

Or, as the company puts it, “no fluff, all substance.” It’s a fundamentally new take on take on web search, a segment that has been overwhelmingly synonymous with Google Search. It’s not a full-blown replacement, but it’s not too far from it either. With the right balance, Perplexity can supercharge your internet-based tasks.

A person holding the Nothing Phone 2a, showing the Glyph Lights.
Nothing Phone 2a Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Of course, AI has a habit of hallucinating, and even Perplexity CEO Srinivas explained it in a lengthy post earlier this year. On top of that, there’s the moral and ethical dilemma of “search killers” like Perplexity. If AI is going to read websites for you and present a wall of text as a summarized answer sourced from different websites, how are those independent websites and reader-supported outlets going to survive without human visitors?

It’s an existential web dilemma, and right now, there is no definite answer to it. If you ask me, I’ll say that tools like Perplexity are good when you’re need for information is urgent. But it’s always a good idea to read the work of journalists, which in itself is built on rigorous research, repeated tests, fact-checked interviews, and years of industry experience.

Why Perplexity is so darn good

Web search summary on Nothing Phone 2a.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

A recurring theme with products like ChatGPT, Gemini, and Copilot is that they are pretty good at quickly finding information from across the web and presenting it in a summarized form. Think of them as an AI companion that has ingested all the publicly available information on the web, learned from it, and can deliver it to you in whatever form you like.

Ask questions like “Who flew the world’s first airplane?” and Perplexity will offer a brief synopsis of the Wright brothers’ historic feat. At the top, you get a tab for the sources where the information was pulled from. In this case, most details were pulled from sources such as the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s knowledge bank.

The real beauty of Perplexity search is the conversational approach, which makes it dramatically easier to find niche information rather than getting lost in a maze of webpages, Reddit and social media posts, community forums, and YouTube videos. For example, if you are looking for directions on how to fix an appliance of a specific make in your kitchen, Perplexity does the source crawling and finds the right guide article or YouTube video for it.

Finding answers with Perplexity Search.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Of course, you can also use it for something as mundane as writing a sonnet about French fries … or engaging in a soul-stirring deep conversation where Perplexity AI talks like a monk with a few decades of meditation under their belt. On the more practical side of things, you can upload text files (PDF, code, etc.), and the AI will analyze and interpret the contents for you.

For example, it can summarize and translate uploaded documents, explain what’s happening in a code file, and present them in a more readable format with neat bullet points and headers. This particularly comes in handy if you plan to sift through multiple research papers, but don’t have the time or energy to read all the PDFs saved on your phone.

It also helps that conversations are saved across mobile and web, as long as you are signed in with the same account. For me, this is the most practically gratifying aspect of Perplexity. I’ve loved having summarized versions of a few dozen research papers and press materials, as it has helped me speed up the pace of working on stories that dive deep into peer-researched scientific work.

AI is here to stay, and Nothing is all-in

Perplexity Pro features on Nothing 2a.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Nothing is not the first company to offer generative AI on smartphones. Samsung’s Galaxy S24 and Google’s Pixel 8 phones are also reaping the benefits to a healthy extent. In fact, Google’s Gemini is already trying to replace Google Assistant with some of its on-device integrations.

Yet, over the past few months, during which we interviewed smartphone brands and chipmakers like MediaTek, there is very little clarity on how the AI-on-phone benefits will pan out in the long run from a cost perspective. Will it be the likes of Google charging a subscription fee for Google One AI Premium to access its latest AI products on phones?

Is smartphone silicon going to get expensive now that it offers on-device support for AI models like Llama 2 courtesy of partnerships with names like Meta and Stability AI? Will smartphone manufacturers ultimately charge extra fees at a flat rate? Or will apps like ChatGPT come with their own subscription?

Nothing Phone 2a
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung, for example, says it will start charging a fee for premium AI features on the Galaxy S24 after dangling a year of free usage for buyers. Nothing’s approach is straightforward. You enjoy a year of free service for a third-party AI tool — which also dips into the bag of rival products like OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Anrthropic’s Claude — and if you like what you get, you can pay for it next year.

There are no hidden caveats or uncertainty over exactly what features will go behind the paywall in a year, as is the case with the current brand-specific or freemium model. It would be interesting to see if Nothing expands its partnership with Perplexity in other meaningful ways.

One-tap summoning of Perplexity to analyze and offer actionable tips based on on-screen content? Yes, please. A custom integration that lets a text-to-audio AI tool gel with the glyph LED lights? Make it happen, Nothing!

Editors' Recommendations

Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
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