6 ways OpenAI just supercharged ChatGPT for free users

Dubbed GPT-4o, the upgraded LLM boasts faster performance, multimodal capabilities, a new Voice Mode, and more.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor

Since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in late November 2022, the free version of ChatGPT has remained relatively unchanged, using the same large language model (GPT-3.5) and user interface -- and with the same limitations. However, OpenAI's slew of ChatGPT upgrades will significantly improve users' experience with the chatbot. 

At OpenAI's live-streamed event on Monday, the company unveiled significant updates to the free version of ChatGPT that unlock a whole range of new multimodal capabilities for users, including new and improved voice and image assistance.

Also: The best AI chatbots: ChatGPT isn't the only one worth trying

Here's a round-up of the updates and what they mean for you.

1. GPT-4o 

The biggest news from the event was the launch of a new flagship large language model (LLM) from OpenAI -- GPT-4o. As the name implies, this model provides GPT-4 level intelligence; however, it boasts several upgrades from its predecessor, such as faster performance and multimodal capabilities across text, voice, and vision. 

Not only does this upgrade unlock cutting-edge features -- including a new Voice Mode and expanded languages -- but it finally gives free users access to most of the features that were typically limited to ChatGPT Plus subscribers for $20 per month. 

For example, free users can now experience GPT-4 level intelligence, get responses from the web via ChatGPT Browse with Bing, analyze data, chat about photos and documents, use GPTs, and access the GPT Store. Previously, all these features were available only to ChatGPT Plus subscribers. 

The advantages that ChatGPT Plus users continue to enjoy include five times the capacity available to free users, priority access to GPT-4o, and upgrades such as the new macOS app. In contrast, free users will get booted back to GPT-3.5 when GPT-4o is at capacity. 

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GPT-4o is being rolled out to ChatGPT Plus and Team users today, with availability for Enterprise users coming soon, according to the company. Free users also have the LLM rolled out to them; however, these users will have some usage limitations. 

2. New Voice Mode

The livestream demo that stole the show was the new and improved Voice Mode, supercharged with GPT-4o's new video and audio capabilities. Unlike the previous Voice Mode, users will now experience more natural conversations. For example, users can interrupt the voice assistant and have the assistant speak with various voices. In the live stream demo, the user had ChatGPT sing responses or speak in different tones, such as "dramatic robotic voice."

The AI assistant will also be able to use the context from your environment to provide voice answers. In the demo below, you can hear ChatGPT's voice mode chat with the user and elaborate on his surroundings, such as what he is wearing and where he is sitting. 

This could be useful if you want assistance with what you are viewing. For example, if you want to know the name of that beautiful building you encountered recently in a new city, or if you want a menu translated. The live-streamed demo included a portion in which two individuals had a conversation in two different languages, and ChatGPT's improved Voice Mode translated the entire conversation. 

The improved Voice Mode will be rolling out in alpha in the coming weeks, and ChatGPT Plus users will get early access as the company rolls it out more broadly.

3. Upload screenshots, photos, and documents

As mentioned above, GPT-4o enables users to upload images and documents, in addition to text, to get AI insights on the information they need. This is a huge win because the feature is arguably one of the most helpful that AI chatbots have to offer, and until now, it has been limited to ChatGPT Plus users. Furthermore, the only free mainstream chatbot that offered document upload until now was Anthropic's Claude

Also: 4 things Claude AI can do that ChatGPT can't

Users can benefit from the feature by uploading PDFs, such as research papers or lengthy legal documents, and asking the chatbot for detailed summaries or questions about the content, to which ChatGPT can provide conversational answers. Users can use the image feature to help with content they are viewing, such as a math equation on a worksheet or identifying what type of plant they're seeing. 

4. Expanded languages 

With GPT-4o, ChatGPT now supports more than 50 languages; you can see the complete list here. According to OpenAI, this is designed to make ChatGPT more accessible to a global audience. However, the expanded languages are also helpful for everyday users because they help with the chatbot's translation capabilities, which have also been improved with the new Voice Mode.

5. New browser interface and app

Since the launch of ChatGPT, its user interface has not changed at all -- until now. The chatbot now has what OpenAI calls a "simplified look and feel" that is both "friendlier and more conversational." When users visit the page, they will see a new home screen, message layout, and more, as seen in the screenshot below. 

ChatGPT browset update
Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

The changes seem minimal, with the biggest difference being a cleaner, more simplified appearance. Additionally, the company is releasing a new macOS app to ChatGPT Plus users starting today, which will be made more broadly available in the upcoming weeks. The company shares that Windows will get its own version later this year. 

6. GPT Store access 

GPTs are custom ChatGPT chatbots tailored to perform specific tasks. They replaced ChatGPT plugins in March because they are easier for developers to build; users can now find more than three million GPTs on the GPT Store. 

Also: How to use ChatGPT

This capability is valuable because it enables users to expand ChatGPT capabilities and integrate the AI with some of their favorite applications. For example, Canva has its own GPT, which allows users to design projects from within the chatbot. Another example is the Wolfram GPT, which assists users with math within the chatbot interface.  

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