NIO launches its own Android-based phone for $890 with a new version to follow each year

After a year and a half of ambiguous updates and a swirling rumor mill, EV automaker NIO has officially launched its first-ever phone. The company shared extensive details of the new Android-based smartphone in China today, during its 2023 Innovation Day presentation that also included its own in-house developed chip to control LiDAR, and its own App Store.

As the rise in EV sales continues to hockey stick around the globe, legacy automakers have been adapting their lineups to electrification. Meanwhile, young and innovative EV automakers are challenging the status quo (as long as they have enough funding, of course).

Additionally, large tech manufacturers have taken note of the shift from from moving mechanical parts to chips and software dominant in EVs and have decided to take their own crack at building vehicles. These days its more common to see cell phone manufacturers like Xiaomi decide to build cars. Here’s also that whole Apple Car that’s been in development for about twelve years now…

What is more rare, however, is to see an automaker decide it’s going to begin manufacturing smartphones – but NIO ($NIO) has done it. The young automaker’s journey to today’s launch started in the March of 2022, when chairman and CEO William Li confirmed a NIO Phone was in the works and would arrive as a direct competitor to Apple… at least at some point in the future.

By last summer, we got a slew of new details surrounding the NIO Phone, including design cues, plans for a Qualcomm SnapDragon chip and deliveries sometime in 2023. Today, NIO has confirmed many of the specs originally promised, and at a starting price lower than originally anticipated. Check it out.

  • NIO Phone
  • NIO Phone
  • NIO Phone

NIO Phone is here, built to support its EV owners

The debut of this new Android-based smartphone was the key presentation during NIO’s 2023 Innovation Day held in China earlier today. William Li and the NIO team spoke on stage for nearly five hours, showcasing several new technologies in the works in addition to its first-ever phone. Per the company’s Weibo page:

The full stack of NIO’s 12 technologies is presented in a panoramic manner for the first time, including NIO’s first lidar main control chip-Yang Jian, vehicle-wide operating system-Tianshu SkyOS, NIO Link NIO panoramic interconnection, global enhanced navigation assistance NOP+ service, and the first mobile phone NIO Phone is released to continuously innovate to improve user experience.

We’re here to talk about the phone, though, so here are the juicy details. As originally promised, the NIO Phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC processor and utilizes a 6.81-inch curved screen with 2K resolution from Samsung that supports a refresh rate of 1-120 Hz. The phone is equipped with a 5200 mAh battery that supports 66-watt wired charging, 50-watt wireless charging, and 10-watt reverse charging. NIO shared that even one of its new smartphones is completed depleted of battery, it can still unlock the EV its paired to for another 48-hours.

Since this is a phone from an automaker, the NIO Phone was built with its EV owners in mind and caters to those specific consumers. For instance, the smartphone features an action button that allows drivers to launch over 30 different functions pertaining to their EV controls including features like HVAC, seat massages, and vehicle locks.

Thanks to its ultra-wide band (UWB) technology, the NIO Phone can wireless display itself as a virtual phone on the center screen of the NIO EV it is paired too, similar to Apple Airplay. Another similarity to Apple is NIO’s approach to continue innovating in phones.

From early on, the Chinese EV automaker has shared its intentions to release a new NIO Phone each year going forward, so expect to see additional smartphones in the future. Apple’s iPhone 15 debuted last week and NIO appears to have strategically launched hereafter the undisputed global leader in smartphones, but at a slightly higher price. Here are the three versions:

  • 12 GB ROM and 512 GB storage – RMB 6,499 ($889)
  • 12 GB, 1 TB storage – RMB 6,899 ($944)
  • 16 GB, 1 TB storage – RMB 7,499 ($1,026)

Additionally, NIO says it will offer protection plans for its phones, similar to Apple Car for RMB 699 ($96) and 1TB of cloud storage service for RMB 38 ($5) a month. As of today, the NIO Phone is officially available for sale in China with first deliveries expected to begin shipping on September, 28 2023.

You can check out the full presentation from NIO’s Innovation and Technology Day here, but it hasn’t been translated to english yet. Still lots of cool stuff to see including the launch video of the NIO Phone.

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