Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Tesla Pi Phone: price, release date, and everything we know

Ever since he tweeted about it in November 2022, Elon Musk fans have been patiently waiting for more news regarding what’s been unofficially dubbed the Tesla Phone or the Tesla Pi Phone. Other than the initial tweet (which, even when it was published, didn’t provide much information to go on), there’s no official news out there about the Tesla Pi Phone. And while smartphone manufacturers often play things close to the vest until they’re ready to make their products public, there are still plenty of rumors regarding the smartphone.

Here’s everything we know so far about the Tesla Pi, but remember to take all unconfirmed information with a healthy amount of skepticism.

Tesla Phone design

Concept render of the Tesla Phone, by Antonio De Rosa.
Antonio De Rosa

There are a lot of rumored designs out there for the Tesla Phone, but the problem is that all of them are pure fan speculation. There aren’t any leaks from manufacturers, and there haven’t been any hardware teases, so there’s very little to go off of in any official capacity.

Most fan creations envision the Tesla Phone looking similar to the major flagships from Google, Apple, and Samsung: a square design, a handful of buttons on the outer edges, and three to four rear cameras.

If Tesla were to be the manufacturer of a phone funded by Elon Musk (which there’s no evidence to suggest that would even be the case), we can likely expect it to share some design principles with other Tesla products. By that logic, the smartphone would likely have a sleek, minimalist design meant to look like a luxury device.

The photo above shows a fan-made render from Antonio De Rosa, and it provides an interesting idea of what a Tesla Phone could look like: it’s equipped with a quad-camera system, metal body, and a prominent Tesla logo to tie the whole package together. Other renders throughout this article offer additional Tesla Phone concepts. They’re fun to look at, but once again, aren’t based on any legitimate leaks or rumors.

Tesla Phone specs

Fan concept of the Tesla Phone, in the style of the Cybertruck.
Jonas Daehnert

As with the rest of the details surrounding the Tesla Pi Phone, there isn’t any spec information making the internet rounds that can’t be boiled down to simple fan speculation. Rumor has it that the phone will run on one of Telsa’s octa-core processors used to run the screens inside the company’s cars, which seems to be one of the only substantial things spec-wise that could set it apart from the rest of the major smartphones on the market today.

There are a few rumors that Tesla fans keep repeating whenever the Tesla Phone pops into conversation. Many believe that a Tesla Pi Phone could connect to Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service, as well as use solar charging technology to refuel its battery. They’re fascinating concepts, but at this point, that’s all they are — concepts.

Tesla Phone software

Displays in a Tesla Model S.

In terms of the Tesla Pi’s operating system, fan rumors say that it’ll run on something called “TeslaOS,” an operating system that doesn’t currently exist. The internal computers for Telsas run on a custom version of Linux, but it’s not called TeslaOS. Linux phones certainly exist, such as the Pinephone or the Volla Phone, but they haven’t grabbed much of a hold on the market in the way that AndroidOS has. If the Tesla Pi were to run on a version of Linux, the same as Tesla cars, it could potentially be the first device using Linux to break through into the mainstream. However, there’s nothing to suggest that’s even the case.

If the Tesla Phone is in the works, it seems equally likely that it would use a version of Android. The operating system is pretty malleable and is able to be used across plenty of different devices while also feeling unique to each phone manufacturer. Musk, hwever, claims to be uninterested in engaging with the “duopoly” that he perceives Google and Apple to have on the mobile industry, so using Android would be pretty hypocritical. On the other hand, Musk tends to flip-flop back and forth on a lot of his beliefs, so there’s no telling which way things would go.

Tesla Phone price and release date

Concept of a Tesla Model P phone.
Martin Hajek

There is currently no official release date for the Tesla Phone. There is some completely unfounded speculation that it’ll be launching sometime in early 2023, but there’s not a shred of evidence to support that claim. In fact, there’s a lot more evidence pointing toward a much more distant Tesla Pi Phone release — if one is even coming at all. Smartphones take a long time to manufacture, and if Musk is looking to launch his own device and first had the idea to do it in late November 2022, we shouldn’t expect it to launch until 2024 at the very earliest.

While major companies like Google, Samsung, and Apple launch a new flagship phone every year, the companies have plenty of experience in smartphone production, something that Elon Musk and the companies he currently owns don’t have. If the Tesla Phone is also being aimed to launch alongside a custom OS made entirely from scratch, the time for production is likely going to get even longer. At the end of the day, there’s nothing suggesting that the Tesla Pi Phone would be coming anytime soon, if at all.

And what about the Tesla Phone’s price? If we had to guess, it’ll probably cost at least $1,000, like most of the best phones available today. But at this point, speculating on the Tesla Phone’s price is a pretty pointless exercise.

Why the Tesla phone isn’t going to happen

After purchasing Twitter and appointing himself CEO, Elon Musk made some (what can generously be called) controversial changes to the site and its rules. He’s aiming to make Twitter a place where his ideas of free speech can be allowed, which has ultimately resulted in providing “amnesty” to previously banned accounts from white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and other people who were in violation of Twitter’s old terms of service.

Musk claimed in a tweet that Apple has “threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store” but didn’t tell him why. The Twitter CEO also claimed that Apple has “mostly stopped advertising” on the social media site, but also can’t seem to figure out why. Apparently, the world’s richest man is unable to understand why a company like Apple would want to take some cautionary steps away from the gasoline he’s pouring on Twitter.

Elon Musk stands looking to his right.
Patrick Pleul/POOL/AFP

Responding to a tweet from podcaster Liz Wheeler, Musk said that if Apple and Google were to remove Twitter from their app stores, he’d … make an “alternative phone.” There is no shortage of comments under his tweet egging him on, saying how that would be a great idea.

I certainly hope it does not come to that, but, yes, if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 25, 2022

That would be true if, by “great idea,” the commenters mean a complete disaster on just about every front. According to Wheeler, “the man builds rockets to Mars” [he actually does not], so “a silly little smartphone should be easy, right?” Wrong.

Elon Musk seems to think that Apple and Google have a “duopoly” over the smartphone market. While the two companies do control a lot of the industry, they’re far from the only major companies making successful smartphones. Samsung, Tecno, Huawei, Motorola, Oppo, OnePlus, and plenty of others are making some of the world’s most popular devices. However, they simply haven’t broken through in the U.S. and Europe (with Samsung as an exception) in the same way that Apple and Google have. In Asia and Africa, however, it’s a completely different story.

The iPhone 14 Pro's camera module.
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As a basic principle, Musk is coming from a place of misunderstanding as a result of being only partially informed about the smartphone industry, a place he seems pretty comfortable coming from. Simply put, Elon Musk’s potential future smartphone wouldn’t just need to compete with Apple and Google. Instead, it would need to compete with a full, global market of excellent devices made by already established companies that are constantly innovating in the space.

Based on his underwhelming success in a good portion of the companies that he owns — like the internal reports of Twitter’s potential impending bankruptcy, the Boring Company’s overall lack of results, and Neuralink’s ridiculous proposed $10 million implant surgery — there’s no real precedent that a phone made by a company Musk owns would be successful. Obviously, Tesla’s success is the exception to that, but Tesla seems to operate the best outside of Musk’s influence. Musk frequently overpromises with all of his businesses, Tesla included, which generally makes the company look bad and like it’s at the whim of a child who’s spitballing ideas at all times.

Musk’s one legitimate point is that Apple and Google have something of a chokehold on the app store market on iOS and Android. If they were to take Twitter off their platforms, the app would likely die a quick death as most users would jump ship to the plethora of other social media apps on the stores.

If that were to happen, Musk would allegedly make some company start working on an “alternative smartphone” that would boast having Twitter on it as a major feature. At that point, however, Twitter would be completely dead in the water — save for its browser users made up of stubborn Elon Musk fans — so it would hardly be a selling point to a general audience that would have already moved on to new apps.

Nothing Phone 1 Glyph Interface lights.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

On top of all that, the Musk/Tesla phone would still need to compete with the rest of the smartphone market to be successful — and to commit to the years-long and multimillion-dollar process of making a new phone (complete with a brand new operating system and app store). There have been plenty of smartphone companies led by a single figurehead that have marketed themselves as alternative options to Apple and Google — like Carl Pei with Nothing — but they’re all still niche products that don’t seriously compete in the way they set out to.

Microsoft tried charting its own course with Windows Phone years ago, but that project ultimately failed after less than 10 years. If Microsoft couldn’t do it, what reason is there to think Musk could?

It would be a major financial ask for Musk to request that his fans to ditch their iPhones, Pixels, and Galaxy phones to buy his new smartphone.

While Musk has an extraordinarily dedicated core group of fans, they almost certainly aren’t enough to support a newcomer to the mobile industry — and especially not one that rivals Apple and Google. Given how prominently established both companies are in the U.S. market, it would be a major financial ask for Musk to request his fans to ditch their iPhones, Pixels, and Galaxy phones to buy his new smartphone.

An iPhone 14 Pro with a Tesla logo Photoshopped on the back of it.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Musk is constantly making promises that sound good on paper to his fans. But these promises often never materialize. He promised more than 10 years ago that we’d have humans walking on Mars at this point, which, last I checked, still hasn’t happened. Similarly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this fabled Tesla Phone is more smoke and mirrors.

Currently, Musk seems a little tied up losing money with Twitter, so it feels unlikely that he’d jump headfirst into the smartphone industry, even if Apple and Google were to take it off their app stores. It seems like a much easier and cheaper solution would be to simply follow the companies’ app store rules regarding hate speech and adult content. But what do I know? I didn’t get forced to buy Twitter, Elon Musk did.

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