Nio, a Chinese automobile manufacturer which designs electric cars, has made a sensational entry into the world of mobile telephony. In Shanghai, I had the opportunity to see the all-new Nio Phone up close and chat with the team who designed it. We might as well tell you right away, this is not a superficial initiative: we are talking here about a premium smartphone that promises to rethink the way we interact with our vehicles.
The Nio Phone is not a toy. It is the result of the hard work of a team of 500 people internally at Nio, and it will be manufactured in limited quantities: 50,000 copies available (according to local media) for the brand’s customers but also others via the Nio app.
In terms of technical characteristics, the phone runs Android and has a latest generation Qualcomm processor, a large amount of RAM and storage, not to mention several cameras. The AMOLED LTPO E6 screen, curved and with 2K definition, is manufactured by Samsung and sports a refresh rate of 120 Hz. It’s solid, indeed.
The photographic aspect of the Nio Phone is just as impressive, with a range of sensors from Sony, including a 50 megapixel ultra-wide angle, a 50 megapixel wide angle with optical image stabilization, and a 50 megapixel telephoto lens. (x3).
This robust configuration promises good versatility.
Design and interface: elegant continuity with Nio cars
From an aesthetic point of view, the Nio Phone takes up the visual and material codes of the brand’s cars.
It even offers a special edition, the “ EPedition ”, with a midnight blue back and a ceramic camera module separated by a red line from the rest of the vegetable leather shell.
The user interface, called SkyUI (Android), is the real icing on the cake. Designed to interact seamlessly with Nio vehicles, it offers a user experience that goes beyond what the market, including Tesla, currently offers.
The Nio ecosystem: much more than a phone
But why would a car manufacturer want to make a smartphone? The answer is simple: convergence. Nio’s strategy is to create a complete ecosystem around its products, and the smartphone is an essential component.
Well-thought-out shortcuts provide access to the car’s cameras, climate settings and even seat management.
Technology UWB (Ultra Wideband) personalizes the experience based on your position in the car, while in-house “Nio Link” technology provides wireless pairing.
Technology UWB is a wireless communication technology that uses a very wide frequency band to transmit data. In the case of the Nio Phone and its associated car, UWB is used to determine the precise position of the phone relative to the vehicle.
This allows specific features or settings to be automatically adjusted based on where you are, whether outside the car or at a particular seat inside. This ultra-precise localization creates a personalized and dynamic user experience that goes far beyond standard automotive connectivity features.
The car therefore knows where you are outside, but also inside. A rear passenger will therefore have access to the settings of their seat (seat settings, ventilation, air conditioning, heating and multimedia).
Particular attention was paid to Name, a very advanced voice assistant integrated both in the vehicle and in the smartphone. Nomi is able to analyze and execute multiple commands in a chain, surpassing the current capabilities of Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.
In the Nio car, Nomi materializes in the form of a small round OLED screen, which is quite surprising. It’s not just a voice interface, but a real avatar that “looks” at you and interacts with you in a more personal way. This physical representation of the assistant gives a whole new dimension to the interaction between human and machine.
At first I considered it just a gimmick. However, after observing how it worked during a drive through the streets of Shanghai, my opinion changed dramatically. It’s such a unique and potentially disruptive element. that I intend to dedicate an article to it to explore this user experience.
And that’s not all. Imagine being able to use your Nio Phone as a game controller when playing games on the vehicle’s central display, or send videos from your car to your smartphone in an instant. This is the promise of an integrated and personalized user experience. There are over 30 dedicated functions, and certainly many more in the future.
As a Tesla owner, I’m already used to some integration between my smartphone and my car. Features such as car geolocation, remote air conditioning control, and even keyless starting have become standards for me.
So I approached the Nio Phone with a certain skepticism, wondering what more it could bring to a user experience that already seemed quite complete to me. The challenge with the Nio Phone is precisely to go beyond this first layer of integration.
By fully controlling the software layer, Nio promises smoother, more direct and more customizable interaction between the smartphone and the car. This mastery also allows access to functions and technical components generally inaccessible via the ecosystems of Apple, Google, or other Chinese smartphone manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Huawei.
For example, technology UWB of the Nio Phone or wireless pairing using “Nio Link” offer new possibilities, such as personalizing the interface according to your position in the car, which are simply not possible with a “classic” smartphone.
It is precisely in this context that the creation of Supercharged within CssTricks takes on its full meaning. The smartphone and the electric car undoubtedly constitute the two major technological revolutions of the 21st century, and it is becoming more and more obvious that they are converging towards one another. Whether it’s energy management, connectivity or user interaction, these two areas intersect and complement each other to create a more integrated and enriching experience.
This also reinforces the idea that it would make perfect sense for Tesla to also venture into creating a smartphone. Imagine a “ Tesla Phone » is no longer in the realm of science fiction, especially in light of Nio’s advances in this area. Such a device could capitalize on Tesla’s already well-developed ecosystem to offer an even more cohesive and innovative user experience. This would be perfectly in line with the growing trend of convergence between electric mobility and information and communication technologies.
And when is it in France?
For now, the Nio Phone remains exclusive to the Chinese market, although Nio has already established a notable presence in Europe, including Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. However, in my opinion and according to the information that I have been able to collect, it is very likely that this smartphone will subsequently be distributed internationally. This fits perfectly with Nio’s strategy to provide a holistic experience to its customers without being dependent on tech giants like Apple and Google for advanced features.
As a reminder, Nio plans to establish itself in France. The exact date remains uncertain, but the brand had announced an expansion into 25 countries by 2025, and France is one of them. And for the little anecdote, we had the opportunity to speak with the head of the French market, Nicolas Vincelot, during our visit to Shanghai.