In a move to redefine automotive innovation, Nio, a leading Chinese electric vehicle (EV) start-up, has launched a smartphone specifically designed as an accessory for its cars. This unique concept reflects the shift in the auto industry towards integrating more profound technological advancements into vehicle experience.
Unveiled as the world’s first smartphone explicitly manufactured for car integration, the device boasts over 30 distinct car-related features. Among them are activating a self-parking mode, unlocking the vehicle even if the phone is switched off, and seamlessly transitioning video calls from the mobile to the car’s multimedia system, the company revealed.
At the product’s launch event, William Li, the co-founder and CEO of Nio, emphasized the exclusivity of this innovative gadget for Nio car owners. Li expressed optimism that this venture would elevate the smart mobility experience for their customers, adding an entertainment factor.
Nio’s pioneering initiative is part of a growing trend. As the line between automobiles and technology becomes increasingly blurred, carmakers and smartphone producers are striving to enhance the ownership experience through cutting-edge tech integrations. This includes advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and communication. Retailing between 6,499 yuan (US$890) and 7,499 yuan, this Android smartphone is compatible across Nio’s vehicle range and is produced by Lens Technology, renowned for its association with tech titan Apple.
Industry insiders, like Cao Hua from Unity Asset Management, believe that Nio’s smartphone will revolutionize EV-smartphone connectivity, rendering EVs safer and more interactive. He predicts that this could mark the beginning of a wave of car-specific smartphones, indicating the profound digital transformation the auto sector is undergoing.
Polestar, an EV brand associated with Volvo Cars, has announced plans to introduce its own specialized smartphone in mainland China later this year. Parallelly, Xiaomi, a significant player in the smartphone realm, is venturing into the EV sector, with their first smart EV launch expected soon.
The paradigm in China’s EV sector is shifting. Instead of focusing primarily on range and affordability, the market’s emphasis is now leaning heavily towards smart features. This reflects a broader trend in consumer preference, where younger generations seek vehicles that resonate with their digitally native lifestyles. Features like voice commands, facial recognition, real-time software updates, and now phone-linked functionalities are becoming the standard.
This move by Nio also comes at a time when the company aims to consolidate its financial stance. Recently, Nio declared its intent to garner US$1 billion via convertible senior notes, primarily to pare down debt and bolster its financial health, especially given the intensifying competition in China’s EV landscape.
Since its inception in 2014, profitability has eluded Nio. However, the company, alongside Xpeng and Li Auto, is often hailed as China’s counter to Tesla. Last year, Nio introduced its luxury electric sedan, the ET5, featuring advanced augmented and virtual reality technologies. Furthermore, Nio has teased the EV community with its forthcoming solid-state battery, purporting to deliver unmatched driving ranges. The company claims that a Nio ET7 sedan, when equipped with this battery, can achieve distances up to 1,100 kilometers on a single charge.