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Home / Features / Just say no: not every piece of tech needs subscriptions and AI

Just say no: not every piece of tech needs subscriptions and AI

If we don’t push back, even the simplest gadgets will run ChatGPT (whether you want them to or not) and cost $10 per month to even turn on

Jumprope and AI mouse

What do a skipping rope and a mouse have in common? If you’re thinking they both feature in the next Pixar movie, about an adorable rodent that trains a boxer to win the championship belt, prepare for disappointment. Because that movie doesn’t exist. And these things symbolise actual disappointment, in a tech industry obsessed with the wrong things. Specifically, subscriptions and AI.

That’s not to say subscriptions and AI are inherently evil. Unless Skynet is taking out yet another subscription to Kill All Humans Monthly, obviously. But subscriptions and AI do otherwise both have their place and their uses. Preferably far away from the vast majority of tech, admittedly.

Because the tiny snag is tech companies live in a world where endless growth is expected, and markets are increasingly saturated. So they flail around, looking for ways to raid your bank account and grab headlines, preferably simultaneously. And whether their cunning plans benefit you is, frankly, immaterial. Sorry to break that to you.

Pay up

Apple Replay and Spotify Wrapped – Apple Music and Spotify icons
Price rises might not be music to your ears, but at least there’s value in streaming subscriptions.

So what about that skipping rope? And the adorable mouse? I’m getting to them. But first: music, TV and games! I mention those because companies have been increasing subscription prices for streaming, which is very annoying. But at least you can see the value of those services. Spotify charges an extra buck per month now. But you do get access to a growing library of over 100 million songs. Even if some of them are by the Spin Doctors.

The problem with subscriptions is when they start to feel like pranks. A while ago, I wrote about BMW subscriptions for seat warmers being a bum deal. The story read like satire. It wasn’t. HP also has a spot at the top of the stupid subscriptions leaderboard with Instant Ink, where the company helpfully remote-disables your printer if you stop paying a monthly fee.

But it’s in sports and wellbeing where things have gone properly bonkers, with all manner of kit aiming to part you from your hard-earned on a monthly basis. Presumably, the industry has been inspired by people who buy gym memberships that go unused, thereby giving gym owners money for nothing. So their gadgets flip that idea: you get nothing – unless you pay money.

Skip it

AI Pin
A subscription and AI? You are spoiling us, AI Pin!

You might be familiar with treadmills that use this principle, locking vital features behind paywalls. But ‘smart’ skipping rope Crossrope took this idea to a comical extreme when it arrived last year. It costs $200 – and there’s a $15 per month subscription on top for functionality that includes the jump counter. Without that, it’s not smart – it’s just a skipping rope.

You might argue the smart person is whoever convinced people to part with that much cash for a skipping rope in the first place. But perhaps this is what we deserve, in a world where everything now has to be smart. Recently, AI Pin – the smartphone-priced gadget that can’t do much of what a smartphone can – was mauled by reviewers. Particular scorn was reserved for it also having a $24 per month subscription attached. Subscriptions and AI! The tech holy grail! Alas, also mostly useless.

So, finally, we reach the mouse. It’s not fluffy – it’s by Logitech, and it’s got AI. Because of course it has. AI is the next big thing and so by law must be injected into every gadget. But did anyone really want a mouse with a button to trigger an AI prompt builder (and that dumps junk in your user folder)? Well, you’re getting one anyway. Fume.

Still, let’s be thankful for small mercies – at least it doesn’t have a subscription. Although that’s probably only a matter of time.

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.

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