A Tesla Smartphone Is Not an Idle Threat

In what I suspect is a spate of misinformed zealotry, Apple has threatened to remove the Twitter app from its App Store. At least, according to Twitter CEO Elon Musk.

This is all part of the effort by left-wing zealots to “punish” Twitter for proposing to end censorship based on political leanings. Mr. Musk said that, if pressed, he would launch his own line of phones in response. Should Apple CEO Tim Cook take such a threat seriously, or can he laugh it off?

I think he’d best take it very seriously.

In Tesla, Elon Musk has the only ‘tech’ brand name that comes close to Apple in terms of panache. A Tesla Phone actually has a chance of becoming The Next Big Thing. More worrisome for Apple, Tesla could realistically blossom into a complete lifestyle brand with phones, tablets, home security… all the toys. And Musk already has the car, something Apple has been tinkering with in a “skunk works” for years.

Also in Tesla, Musk has what everyone agrees is the best battery technology in the world, bar none, in terms of cost, capacity, and lifespan. This is an important consideration when buying a phone. Many people who are perfectly happy with their smartphones otherwise would switch brands tomorrow if they could get one that would go all day without a charge. A smartphone with noticeably superior battery technology would immediately become a formidable competitor in the segment.

Musk also has Something Interesting that only he has, in the form of a nearly-completed worldwide network of communications satellites in low Earth orbit. This may or may not be applicable to smartphones; I am not privy to the “feeds and speeds” of Starlink. At a minimum, he has a way to offer “no dead zones… anywhere” that would be unique in the industry.

At this point, smartphones — especially Android smartphones — are a commodity. The infrastructure and supply chain to build them are everywhere and cheap. There are no technological challenges. It’s just a matter of having the resources to get started and tolerate the bleeding during the start-up losses. This Musk has.

Android is Open Source technology. Anyone can take it and make anything they want out of it. Amazon designed a unique user interface for its phones. Several Chinese companies have also done that. Turn Tesla’s interior designers loose on a smartphone interface, and they might come up with something just stunning.

Tim Cook should pause before thinking he has the upper hand here. He might not.

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