Conversely, technology companies are working on connected car solutions, and some even want to develop their own vehicles. These efforts are equally difficult, chiefly for the same reason: lack of expertise. There's a reason the Apple Car is still a rumor, while Waymo (owned by Google's parent Alphabet) is struggling in the autonomous driving field.
Startups might be able to successfully unite technology and automotive, with Tesla and Rivian as best examples. They all offer state-of-the-art software and technology while producing compelling electric vehicles. NIO wants to go even further by launching a smartphone to integrate seamlessly with its electric cars. Although rumors indicated that other carmakers, including Tesla, would like to launch their own smartphones, such a move would not make much sense.
NIO is considered one of the most promising new contenders in the automotive landscape. Much like Tesla, it also develops its own self-driving solution and has recently announced its first computer chip designed in-house to control the LiDAR sensors on its vehicles. Still, entering the highly competitive smartphone market might not have been the best decision it ever made.
At least on paper, the NIO smartphone looks like a flagship device, with a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED screen supplied by Samsung and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC. Depending on the configuration, it sports between 12 GB and 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB or 1 TB of storage. Still, its starting price (6,499 yuan/$890) is higher than that of the iPhone 15, which starts at 5,999 yuan ($821). Good luck selling this smartphone when almost all flagships in the market are more affordable and desirable.
NIO touts its new smartphone as a car-centric device built for NIO owners. It offers an action button that allows users to launch more than 30 functions related to vehicle control. These include adjusting the air conditioning temperature and switching seat massage on and off. The phone's screen can also be mirrored on the car's display as a "virtual phone." NIO claims the device will be able to unlock its paired vehicle even 48 hours after the battery has drained.
NIO intends to refresh its smartphone once a year, similar to other smartphone makers, including Apple. This could drain the company's resources and divert them from NIO's main task: building electric vehicles. Instead of developing phones, NIO should've focused on offering a better smartphone app, as Tesla does.