Everyone knows why we made the central control screen a vertical screen, right? This was also prepared for mobile phones early on.
In September last year, NIO held the first NIO IN NIO Innovation and Technology Day in Baoshan, Shanghai. Li Bin on the stage held a star gray NIO Phone and tried to respond to the controversy with substantive products. "Our users need a mobile phone that is seamlessly connected to NIO," he firmly believes in this.
However, the outside world has never stopped questioning the prospects of NIO’s mobile phone business. Just three months after its release, a personnel change pushed this phone to the forefront of public opinion.
According to 36 Krypton news, an internal email from NIO on the evening of January 5th showed that Yin Shuijun, the head of NIO’s mobile phones, will resign, and the mobile phone-related business will be concurrently taken over by NIO’s head of hardware, Bai Jian. Some people believe that this is a signal that NIO is suspending its mobile phone project due to financial pressure, which will at least reduce the strategic importance of the project.
Previously, Li Bin frankly stated at the third quarter financial report meeting that NIO will make adjustments to projects that will not be profitable within three years or will not contribute to gross profit improvement. Obviously, NIO’s battery and mobile phone businesses fall into this category.
As of December 31, 2023, Weilai Automobile has delivered a total of 449,594 new cars. Even if each car owner supports two Weilai mobile phones, the shipment volume is only 900,000 units. The domestic mobile phone market will be from January to October 2023. The total monthly shipments reached 230 million units, of which NIO mobile phones accounted for only 0.3%.
Li Bin previously revealed that if Weilai mobile phones want to be sustainable, 2.5 million car owners need to buy a Weilai mobile phone every three years. If there are no users to pay for it, no matter how Li Bin wants to build mobile phones for car owners, it can only be wishful thinking.
Exquisite "little trash"
Although Li Bin is the driving force behind NIO's mobile phone, from an execution perspective, Yin Shuijun, one of the protagonists of this personnel change, is the "biological father" of NIO's mobile phone. The rumors that NIO wants to build mobile phones began with his joining. .
In early 2022, Yin Shuijun, the former president of Meitu Mobile, was revealed to have joined NIO to take charge of the mobile phone business. At that time, NIO’s mobile phone project was still in the earliest stages of research, and relevant business personnel were still being recruited.
I watched him build the team step by step while fighting. Now we have formed a combat-effective and organized team.
NIO Vice President Bai Jian said in his later response that as the person in charge of the mobile phone project, Yin Shuijun participated in the entire development and implementation of NIO mobile phones. In the second year after he joined NIO, NIO mobile phones were successfully launched. , the progress is extremely fast.
When NIO launched its mobile phone, Yin Shuijun said that NIO’s first product was “quite satisfactory” and could barely be considered to have “completed the mission.” At the same time, he also admitted that although the combination of mobile phones and new energy vehicles is a huge innovation opportunity, it is indeed difficult for Weilai mobile phones to achieve technological innovation.
Compared with common Android phones, NIO Phone has guaranteed "0 system advertisements and 0 commercial pre-installation" from the day of its birth. Li Bin joked about this at the press conference:
When the internal team was discussing it, I already asked them to cut off the advertising interface. I said, how much money can you make by making money from advertising? And honestly, how many mobile phones can we sell?
From the perspective of hardware configuration, NIO Phone can be regarded as a flagship mobile phone. It is equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen2 leading version, with up to 16GB+1T memory combination optional. Its 6.81-inch screen supports 1-120Hz variable refresh It has three rear cameras of 50 million wide-angle + ultra-wide-angle + periscope telephoto.
When an audience shouted "Far ahead", Li Bin responded with a smile: "It's not far ahead, but it's very useful."
The price of NIO Phone is also very "flagship". The starting price of 6,499 yuan is almost the same as the price of mainstream flagship models in the market such as Apple iPhone 15, Huawei Mate60 Pro and other models.
As the "most suitable mobile phone for NIO car owners", NIO Phone is also equipped with UWB ultra-bandwidth technology, which can accurately identify the distance between the mobile phone and the vehicle and manage multiple vehicles at the same time. In the absence of power shutdown, the vehicle can still be unlocked through NFC within 48 hours. There is also a "car control button" on the left side of the fuselage. Car owners can use this button to quickly realize dozens of functions such as vehicle start, remote control parking, and guard mode.
Of course, the function that best embodies "rider interconnection" is the "Sky Window" based on NIO Link, which maps the mobile phone screen to the central control screen, directly opening up the physical barrier between the two.
However, consumers are always more demanding than product managers. After a period of market testing, these features of NIO Phone did not receive much praise. Instead, they received a lot of complaints and were accused of "little improvement."
Take the most distinctive "car control button" as an example. Although this button integrates 30 driver interconnection functions, common functions such as vehicle status and turning on and off the air conditioner can all be realized through the NIO App. The experience between the two is not the same. Too big a difference. The only one that can be said to be more practical is perhaps NIO Link, which enables text and data flow between mobile phones and cars.
Overall, the NIO Phone will not bring qualitative changes to car owners' car experience. On the other hand, as a mobile phone, the NIO Phone can hardly be called a "flagship."
The lack of functions is too serious, such as cloud services, long screenshots, advanced calculators, etc., and the white balance of the camera is also very unstable.
In the eyes of user Jiang Tao, the NIO Phone is an "exquisite little piece of garbage" and has even made him make a fool of himself at work.
During that meeting, the NIO Phone was unable to display on the screen. The iPhone at the same venue was able to cast in seconds, the Mate50 was cast in seconds, and the NIO Phone was also able to cast in seconds, which was a surrender.
Jiang Tao believes that NIO Phone is more suitable as a supplement to the iPhone rather than a main machine. Coincidentally, Li Bin may also think so.
In a 13-hour live broadcast last month, Li Bin drove an ET7 equipped with a 150kWh battery pack and completed the 1,000-kilometer endurance challenge. During the live broadcast, sharp-eyed netizens discovered that the mobile phone Li Bin mainly used was not a NIO Phone, but an iPhone.
Later, Li Bin also explained this:
NIO phones are easy to use, very power-saving, smooth, and have no ads. However, since I mainly use WeChat, and changing phones requires a lot of things, which is a headache, I still use iPhone more at the moment.
However, for ordinary users, why not?
NIO mobile phones still have a future
On January 7, regarding his departure, Yin Shuijun responded:
Thank you very much for your continued support of NIO phones! NIO will continue to make mobile phones and do better under the leadership of Bai Bo.
The "Bai Bo" he refers to is Dr. Bai Jian who succeeded him. In fact, the new Bai Jian also has a background in the "machine circle". Before joining Weilai in 2020, he served as the director of the Hardware Research Center of the OPPO Research Institute and the general manager of Xiaomi's chip and forward-looking research department. After joining Weilai, he was responsible for NIO Intelligent Hardware Team.
From this point of view, NIO’s change of leadership does not mean a business shutdown.
In addition, NIO’s mobile phone-related positions are still open; judging from the positions of Yin Shuijun (Assistant Vice President) and Bai Jian (Vice President), NIO’s mobile phone business leaders also have higher ranks; there are also NIO People told the media that Weilai mobile phones will launch at least three generations of products.
My coming to pick up the mobile phone also shows my firm determination to do a good job in connecting riders and mobile phones.
Bai Jian, who chose to face the controversy head-on on Weibo, obviously has his own views on future NIO phones.
1. The integration of mobile phones and cars will be closer. I once said that the (non-safety) parts related to cockpits and entertainment media will become more and more volume, and the performance and iterations will become more and more mobile. You taste it, you taste it carefully;
2. Now the imaging foundation of NIO’s mobile phones is very good, and NIO has the ability to develop its own ISP. These are all in the areas I am responsible for. I am very confident and looking forward to what kind of "chemical reaction" there will be after further unification.
It is not difficult to see that Bai Jian has great ambitions: not only to connect drivers well, but also to make up for the shortcomings of NIO Phone as a "mobile phone".
The first is the driver connectivity part.
In fact, NIO is not the only car manufacturer that wants to cross over into the mobile phone industry. Xingji Meizu Chairman and CEO Shen Ziyu once said that the upcoming Polestar mobile phone "will further break the boundaries of the smart ecosystem and achieve truly seamless connections." .
▲Polestar Phone at the press conference
The smartphone industry is an industry that places great emphasis on scale effects. For car companies that are at a disadvantage in terms of cost and price, mobile phones are destined to be unable to become a new profit point. However, when car companies cross-border manufacturing of mobile phones, they never think about making money. Improving the ecosystem and increasing user stickiness are fundamental.
Li Bin’s starting point is very clear:
Users need a mobile phone that can be seamlessly connected with NIO cars. We want to make a mobile phone that “makes NIO’s auto products more usable.”
In 2017, the Internet of Things exploded, and the traditional home furnishing industry achieved unprecedented leap-forward development. With the help of smartphones, it broke through the shackles of cement walls and reached users’ fingertips——
This is very similar to today's driver Internet.
When software forms an ecosystem, experiences are unified, and data are integrated, the competitiveness of car companies will also rise. Today, Weilai already has a first-mover advantage, and there is really no reason to give up halfway.
More importantly, Bai Jian has not forgotten:
The foundation of rider interconnection is that users are willing to use your mobile phone.
*At the request of the interviewee, Jiang Tao’s pseudonym is used in the article.
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