With OpenAI offering GPT-4o for free, who should be paying for ChatGPT Plus?

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At its Spring updates event yesterday, OpenAI made headlines with the launch of GPT-4o, a truly multimodal AI that reasons across text, voice and vision in real-time with GPT-4 level intelligence. The company released a range of video demos showcasing the model’s prowess and how it can serve as a personal assistant, much like the one shown in the movie “Her,” helping people with everything from translations to solving math problems.

GPT-4o responds to voice inputs in about 320 milliseconds, matching the response time of humans engaging in a conversation. It can even detect a user’s emotional state from their voice and facial expressions and can adjust its voice to convey different emotions, much like what Hume has been exploring. But, what drew more attention was that OpenAI plans to make the new model as well as many more advanced tools available to ChatGPT users for free.

“I am very proud that we’ve made the best model in the world available for free in ChatGPT, without ads or anything like that… We are a business and will find plenty of things to charge for, and that will help us provide free, outstanding AI service to (hopefully) billions of people,” Sam Altman noted in his blog after the event.

This is a big upgrade for millions of free ChatGPT users, who had been stuck on GPT-3.5. But it also begs the question: who should now be paying for ChatGPT Plus, which has been the way to unlock advanced capabilities thus far? 

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Let’s dive in.

ChatGPT Plus: The subscription to unlock advanced features

Back in February 2023, OpenAI debuted ChatGPT Plus as a subscription which allowed users to upgrade from the standard GPT-3.5-powered ChatGPT experience to a more advanced version driven by the more capable GPT-4.

Over the subsequent months, the company bolstered the $20/month plan with advanced capabilities like advanced data analysis, internet browsing, DALL-E, memory of previous chats and the option to browse, create and use custom GPTs. The paid offering enabled many to do more with ChatGPT, especially for professional use cases. 

Now, with the new GPT-4o model coming to the free tier, the dynamics are changing. Essentially, anyone using ChatGPT will have GPT-4 level intelligence without paying. Additionally, when using GPT-4o, many tools that were previously limited to Plus subscribers will also become available for free, including the ability to pull responses from the web, analyze and create charts, image/file uploads for analysis and summarization, memory and GPT store.

This shift in strategy has left many wondering whether it makes sense to pay for the Plus subscription. But, here’s the thing, despite giving an upgrade to free users, OpenAI is drawing a clear line to ensure paid users get the value for their subscription.

For instance, when using GPT-4o, free users will have certain usage restrictions. There will be a limit on the number of messages (across text and images) they can send to the model, depending on the usage and demand at that specific moment. Once the limit is reached, the chatbot will automatically switch back to GPT-3.5, reverting to the same experience. 

On the contrary, Plus subscribers will have a 5x higher usage threshold, allowing them to use the model longer. Teams and Enterprise subscribers will have an even higher usage threshold, although the specifics remain undisclosed at this stage.

Beyond this, Plus subscribers will also retain the ability to create custom chatbots or GPTs and share them on the recently launched GPT Store. Free users will only be able to browse the Store and use these GPTs shared there. If anything, this would give Plus subscribers creating GPTs a broader audience to engage and make money.

Lastly, Plus subscribers will also continue to have exclusive access to DALL-E 3 – the model that generates images from text prompts – and early access to several advanced features from OpenAI. The company has already confirmed that it will roll out the next-generation voice and video capabilities demoed in the Spring event to Plus users in the coming weeks. Even the new MacOS app of ChatGPT has started rolling out for Plus users.

Is it still worth it?

For $20/month, OpenAI seems to be delivering a decent package. However, it is more suitable for power users who want to interact with the company’s most powerful model more often while having access to advanced features like image generation and GPT creation.

If the need is not extensive, like for work or school, the free version of the ChatGPT with new capabilities like web search and data analysis might do just fine, allowing users to get their tasks done.

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