Chinese EV firm Nio is considering a line of smartphones in response to demand from tech-savvy customers, CEO William Li said in an interview with China-based news service Sina published Friday.
Customers want a phone that connects better to Nio's vehicles, Li said. He indicated that a Nio phone wouldn't be about making money or competing directly with traditional phone makers, but providing something that's a functional extension of the car.
“Getting the phone produced is easy, but building a good phone is challenging,” Li said, according to a translation by StreetInsider.com. But he does see Nio developing an ecosystem of products and services similar to Apple, which he views as a future competitor, according to the article.
2022 Nio ET7
Nio sells a lineup of EVs in its home country, and operates a network of battery-swapping stations. An expansion to Europe is underway as well, although the company appears to have dropped plans to sell cars in the United States.
The prospect of a Nio phone twists the cliche of "smartphone on wheels" for EVs in an entirely different direction.
Faraday Future, which was tied to China's LeEco, had a similar vision, with the phones fitting into a cohesive ecosystem with the cars—including LeSee cars and Faraday Future models. LeEco's financial troubles forced Faraday Future to scale down its plans and concentrate on simply getting vehicles into production.
And of course the long-rumored Apple Car might provide an extension of what we're accustomed to in watches, tablets, and laptops.
However, the one example so far of a company producing cars and smartphones simultaneously didn't yield particularly futuristic vehicles. Samsung started its own car division in the 1990s, eventually selling it to Renault, which sold versions of its own models with Renault-Samsung badging.
More recently, though, Sony has entered the EV business with Honda, and iPhone contract manufacturer Foxconn plans to start building EVs as well. So perhaps an automaker getting into the smartphone business isn't a far-fetched idea after all.