When it comes to smartphones, machine learning is the next big thing. The Pixel and Pixel XL pack Google’s computer-powered Assistant, and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 has Bixby. So it’s no surprise that Turing’s next smartphone ships with the firm’s take on an AI. What is surprising is that it’s powered by humans.
The Android 7.1.1-powered Appassionato is a smartphone of superlatives. It’s machined from a “liquidmorphium alloy,” with a diamond-like carbon coating. It features a scratch-resistant sapphire screen. And it boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
But by far the most intriguing feature is a dedicated physical button — dubbed the “Sir Alan” on the Appassionato’s side. Borrowing a page from the Galaxy S8 and its Bixby button, the Appassionato’s button launches an AI-powered concierge on demand.
Turing’s chief executive, Syl Chao, described it as “amplified intelligence.”
AI with a human twist
Here’s how it’ll work: When you press the Appassionato’s concierge button, you’ll be connected to a personal assistant who can schedule flights, book hotels, and perform other tasks on your behalf. Turing’s human assistants will be able to glean information from AI software that has access to your chat history, emails, calendar, and more.
Say you task a concierge with booking a flight to Thailand — if you’ve traveled there before, the AI collates such information as which airline you booked (from your email), where you stayed (from your phone’s location history), and the people with whom you traveled (from your text message conversations). It then supplies that information to the concierge, who’ll suggest a travel plan that best fits you.
Turning’s terrible track record
It seems like a lot to promise, and Turing doesn’t have great track record of delivering on its promises. The eponymous Turing Phone was scheduled to ship in December 2015, but was delayed till April 2016, and then again to June 2016. When it finally did arrive, the operating system had changed, and it performed so poorly that we gave it a low score of two stars out of five.
But Chao said the company is committed to meeting expectations and shipping the Appassionato on time. Turing has contracted TCL, the Chinese manufacturing partner behind the BlackBerry KeyOne, and expects the Appassionato to ship to customers in the U.S. and China this summer.
A sky-high price for vaporware
One thing is for sure: If and when the Appasionato does arrive, it won’t be cheap. A low-end version that lacks the sapphire display, diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating, and access to Turing’s concierge service will start at $1,100. The top-of-the-line Appassionato GX8 will run $1,600 and only comes with one year of concierge access — Chao declinedg to break down service pricing.
Despite the sky-high price tag, Chao sees the Appassionato as the first Turing phone aimed at average buyers. “We’re very much after designers and fashion-savvy customers, but we think it’s priced competitively,” he told Digital Trends. “If you compare the price of the Appassionato to an iPhone with the same storage, it’s pretty close.”
Time will tell. But Chao is confident the Appassionato will turn heads. “It’s a life organizer,” he said. “People will love it.”