It’s been widely reported that US-based EV maker Tesla will “officially” launch the Model Pi phone later this year. It’s not clear exactly when, but the tech rumour mill is awash with Pi talk.
In September, devdiscourse.com reported: “2021 did not pass by Elon Musk. Every day in search engines, people ask the same question – Is Tesla releasing a phone? Yes, we will see Elon Musk’s smartphone soon.”
In addition to a Starlink satellite connectivity, the Tesla Model Pi is also rumoured to have four cameras, solar charging and a skin that changes colour in a futuristic design.
HOW MUCH? While speculations abound, there are numerous unanswered questions, such as: how much would it retail for? Does it have a sim-card? What’s the monthly charge for using Starlink? Can I buy one, without first buying a Tesla EV?
ANYWHERE PHONE? Rumours that Tesla is indeed making a smartphone were bolstered after the world-famous design studio ADR released concept images (in a video). This made people wonder: Is Tesla going to go after the iPhone — or simply create an entirely new market segment, such as a true-to-form satellite phone that works where traditional WiFi or 5G services are absent, and able to mine cryptocurrencies anywhere, including on the planet Mars?
NEURALINK PHONE: The Model Pi is also rumoured to have a brain-phone interface from Neuralink. The company, controlled by Musk, is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect humans and computers.
CLOSELY GUARDED. Its release date is a closely-guarded secret. A Starlink antenna being taken out of the box. A smartphone with high-speed connectivity anywhere would be compelling gear to have as it skips the need for terrestrial connection. Tech publications have leaked images of the new device supposedly out of the EV maker, including some details of what it can do.
PHONE FOR MARS? The most persistent rumour is that the phone will have a Starlink connection. By definition, that would enable the phone to work on Mars, too, and be able to connect to Earthlings.
FROM BELL TO 5G: The phone has come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell patented his gear in 1876. This 2021, the total global 5G smartphone output is expected to hit about 500 million. In addition, the 5G penetration rate will swiftly climb to 37%. Market intelligence firm TrendForce states the Top 7 global phone makers in 2021 are: Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo, Huawei, and Transsion. Together, they will account for about 80% of the global phone market. This market, however, could be disrupted by an affordable satfone.
PET PROJECT: Starlink is one of the most important pet projects of Elon Musk and perfectly fits into the next-generation smartphone. Tesla is closely linked to SpaceX, a private satellite launcher with ambitions to land humans on Mars. Starlink, of course, seeks to build a network of low-orbit satellites to provide easy internet access anywhere, eventually sending more than 40,000 satellites to low-earth orbit; it has reached more than 500,000 signups. Native Starlink support for the Tesla Pi phone, if it does come out, is a widely expected feature. Trackers of the space industry have reported there are currently (November 4, 2021) over 1,600 Starlink satellites in orbit, making it the biggest artificial constellation of its kind. The number will continue to grow as reusable rockets make launches even cheaper.
ROCKET SCIENCE? Even if making smartphones does prove to be as tough as rocket science, Tesla is a tech innovator that’s also closely related to Space X, today one of the most advanced space companies, and the first to use reusable rockets that land vertically on the ground and on sea drones.
TECH MEDIA REPORTS: Rumours surrounding the new gadget are rife in Chinese tech media, too. The Chinese edition of MyDrivers reported Tesla’s new smartphone “will be a real gadget revolution” when it hits the market, commanding a very high desirability factor. None of the leading phone makers has a satellite connectivity feature.
NOT THE FIRST SATELLITE PHONE: If indeed it does come out, the Tesla Model Pi smartphone won’t be the first satellite phone (i.e. Thuraya and Iridium). But it would be the first satellite phone compatible with StarLink, an under-construction globe-spanning communications satellite constellation being developed by Space X designed to deliver high-speed internet even in the remotest part of the world. Latency with low-earth orbit satellite is much lower, expected to deliver 200 Mbps upload/download speeds.
$1 TRILLION GIANT: Tesla isn’t an outlier anymore in the auto business, being the first carmaker to hit $1 trillion in market capitalisation, and also the fastest to have reached that milestone. Many analysts, however, say its journey is just beginning as robotaxis driven by AI, could change the how people move, thereby creating a new, multi-trillion-dollar market.