The worlds of smartphones and cars are getting closer and closer, and the increasing mutual integration of software, functions and connectivity is set to take new steps forward in the coming years.

The most sophisticated operating systems we use on our smartphones and tablets have now arrived in production cars, and the rapid growth of the electric car brings us ever closer to software-defined vehicles (SDVs). And there is one figure, according to a very recent report by the Boston Consulting Group, that indicates the significance of this phenomenon, which has a potential value of more than $650 billion for the automotive industry by 2030 (or 15% to 20% of its total value).

This means an epoch-making change in the automobile, which is no longer just a vehicle, but becomes a dynamic and customisable platform that is updated online, is controlled mainly by software and is able to add new functions and features according to the customer's needs.

It is a paradigm shift that is prompting many smartphone manufacturers, hi-tech companies, online service providers and manufacturers of microchips and computers to jump into the production of cars, especially electric or plug-in hybrids. Let's see which electronics and information technology giants want to make cars or have already entered this sector.

From China the first examples

The first smartphone manufacturers to take an interest in car production could only be Chinese, as the Asian country is the world's largest car market and the leading producer of mobile devices ahead of India and Vietnam.

All of these Chinese consumer electronics stars, at least initially, are relying on existing and established car manufacturers to start their activities in the mobility sector with joint ventures and collaborations, but some have already created their own independent brands. Let's see who they are.

Huawei

The pioneer on this path is Huawei, the Chinese multinational company active in the design and production of smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, mobile networks, solar panels and other electronic devices that is expanding its activities to the installation of operating systems in new Made-in-China cars.

Among the various agreements and joint ventures that Huawei has signed in the country are the installation of the ArmonyOS operating system, Huawei Autonomous Driving 2.0 and the Huawei HiCar connectivity system similar to Apple CarPlay.

Aito M5

Aito M5

Aito M7

Aito M7

Aito M9

Aito M9

The most important is certainly the one that led to the birth of the Aito brand, founded in 2021 with Seres and acquired entirely by Huawei in 2023. In practice, it is the first brand to produce cars under the exclusive control of a major smartphone manufacturer.

The three models produced at the moment are three electric and plug-in hybrid range-extender SUVs called the Aito M5, Aito M7 and Aito M9.

JAC QX PHEV

JAC QX PHEV

Denza N7

Denza N7

Luxeed S7

Luxeed S7

Geometry G6

Geometry G6

Other Huawei collaborations include the one with JAC for the new SUV called QX PHEV, as well as supplying components for the Denza N7, the Luxeed brand created with Chery, Deepal and Geely's Geometry G6.

Also very recent are the presentations of the Arcfox α-S in which Huawei took care of all the electronics for BAIC and the Avatr 11 and Avatr 12 born from a joint venture between Changan, CATL and Huawei.

Avatr 12

Also not to be forgotten is Huawei's entry into the charging column sector with the powerful 600 kW Fusion Charger, as well as WeLion solid-state batteries for NIO with Xiaomi.

Foxconn

Another telephony giant entering the car sector is Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that produces smarthpones for other brands such as Apple, but has already launched its own brand.

We are talking about Foxtron, Foxconn's car brand founded with Yulon Motor, which at the moment has only presented concepts without starting production. Foxtron has, however, already been entrusted with the construction of the Luxgen n7, the electric SUV that is also the first fruit of the joint venture between Foxconn and Yulon Motor itself.

Luxgen n7

Luxgen n7

In reality, Foxconn is looking even further ahead and is already thinking of producing an inexpensive electric three-wheeler in new plants in India or Thailand. To this end, it has set up the Mobility in Harmony (MIH) consortium in 2021, which has more than 2,600 suppliers and is intended to create an open platform for the battery-powered car.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi is the world's third-largest smartphone manufacturer and wants to extend its business from this springboard into the automotive world. To achieve its aim, the Chinese phone giant has just marketed its electric Xiaomi SU7 in China.

Xiaomi SU7

Xiaomi SU7

More than 100,000 orders for the Xiaomi SU7 have already been received in China within days of its launch, an overwhelming success for a car that challenges Tesla Model 3 and BYD Seal head-on. The new battery-powered saloon is available domestically with rear-wheel drive with 299 PS and a range of up to 516 miles, while the 673 PS twin-engine all-wheel drive gives a range of 503 miles. We have all the info on the Xiaomi SU7.

SSC SC-01

Another Xiaomi project, developed through its subsidiary Gongjianpai Auto Technology, is the just unveiled SSC SC-01, an electric spider with 425 PS and capable of sprinting from 0 to 62 mph in 3.5 seconds.

The other Chinese brands

Still at an embryonic stage, but started with commercial agreements and the first recruitment of engineers and designers, are the electric car programmes set up by other Chinese manufacturers of smartphones and other devices. These include the examples of Oppo, which for the past couple of years has been recruiting talent to build its battery-powered car, and also Meizu, which after being acquired by Geely is supplying on-board electronics and the Meizu Flyme Auto operating system to the Chinese manufacturer and registering the Wujie Auto brand.

Not to be forgotten is the case of Haier, another Chinese consumer electronics player that, according to rumours, is thinking of its own car brand, as has already been done by Skyworth and already hypothesised for Midea and Hisense.

Il NIO Phone

The NIO Phone

The only company to have taken the reverse route, i.e. to add smartphone production to car production, is NIO with its NIO Phone, while the unveiling of Polestar's phone is imminent.

Jiyue 01

Jiyue 01

A case in point is Baidu, often referred to as the 'Chinese Google', which through a joint venture with Geely has created the brand Jiyue and presented the electric SUV Jiyue 01. Baidu is also the world's largest operator of driverless taxis.

America responds with autonomous driving

The most eagerly awaited of the cars produced by a mobile phone giant, however, is the now famous Apple Car, an electric car that has been talked about since 2014 but still seems far from materialising.

Apple

After a troubled period of several strategy changes, hiring of new talent and quick resignations, focus on autonomous driving and rumours of a possible takeover of Lucid Motors, Apple seems to have abandoned its 'Project Titan'.

Apple Car, il render

Apple Car, one of the latest renders

After rumours of a postponement to 2028 and a focus on a revolutionary automated driving system with unknown characteristics, came Apple's announcement in February 2024 that the ambitious, decade-long Apple Car Project Titan has been abandoned in favour of an investment in generative artificial intelligence. 

Google

Google, too, is more interested in the topic of autonomous driving than in the more general topic of a car under its own brand. In fourteen years of experimentation, the cars of Waymo (a subsidiary of Alphabet and thus of Google) have covered more than 20 million kilometres on California roads with robotaxi services and goods delivery vans.

Un robotaxi di Waymo

A Waymo robotaxi

We are unlikely to see Google or Waymo branded cars any time soon, but the experience accumulated by the Mountain View company in driverless driving will make all the difference when the market demands these technologies. Despite some self-driving car incidents that have caused controversy in America, Waymo has just announced that it will extend its robotaxi services to Los Angeles, Phoenix and Austin.

Zeekr M-Vision per Waymo

Zeekr M-Vision for Waymo

One of the Californian giant's most recent projects is the Zeekr M-Vision concept, the Geely Group's electric robotaxi that will be part of Waymo's new self-driving fleets.

Batteries from South Korea

The South Korean electronics giants are part of huge industrial conglomerates called Chaebol that operate in several sectors, including the automotive industry.

Samsung

One such conglomerate is Samsung, which has all but abandoned car production, maintaining only a minority stake in Renault Korea Motors, which until a few years ago was Samsung Motors.

Fiat 500 elettrica

Electric Fiat 500 with Samsung SDI battery

The empire founded eighty-five years ago in Daegu does, however, maintain an important presence in the car sector with Samsung SDI, a battery manufacturer that is also in the world's Top 10 for the supply of batteries for electric cars. To give just one example, the electric Fiat 500 is equipped with a Samsung SDI battery.

LG

Similarly, Korea's LG is expanding its production horizons with its subsidiary LG Energy Solution, which became the world's second largest producer of traction batteries for electric cars in the first half of 2023.

Hyundai Ioniq 6 2023

Hyundai Ioniq 6, with LG Energy Solution battery

Important strategic cooperation agreements were then signed by LG Energy Solution with Stellantis, Hyundai, Honda and General Motors to start battery production in North America.

Even Sony makes its own car

Speaking of multinational conglomerates that have become famous with the consumer electronics boom, we certainly cannot forget Sony, the Japanese company that decided to enter the world of car production with Honda by forming Sony Honda Mobility last year.

Afeela, il prototipo della berlina elettrica di Sony

Afeela, Sony's electric saloon prototype

Its cars, which will be produced and sold in the United States starting in 2026, will be branded Afeela. The first model is anticipated to be the 2023 Afeela prototype, an electric four-door saloon that promises to set new standards for on-board connectivity, gaming, driving aids, sensors and technologies developed with Qualcomm.