Wait! What? How can you have a shootout comparison between two obviously different products? Actually, the original iPhone and the Tesla Model S are more similar than you might think. True, one is a smartphone from a famous technology company.
The other is a stylish electric car from a brash, young, hubris filled new company (relatively). Yet, there are many similarities in both companies, Apple and Tesla, and their flagship products, iPhone and Model S, respectively. But what can you do in a shootout?
Apple To apples
Regardless of what you think about Apple’s iconic iPhone, what it did to the smartphone industry is nothing short of miraculous. Yes, a PC company walked in with a better smartphone and turned the entire industry inside out.
Former Palm CEO, Ed Coligan:
We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone. PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.
Yet, that’s exactly what Apple did. They figured it out. They walked into to smartphone industry and changed the direction. That’s called disruption, and Apple has a history of doing that from time to time (Apple II, Mac, iPod, iTunes Music Store, iPhone, iPad, Watch, just to name a few).
That comparisons can be made between Apple and Tesla shouldn’t be a surprise. Both companies were founded by self-assured, talented, visionary, even arrogant young men with foreign roots (Steve Jobs of Syrian descent, Elon Musk is from South Africa, though the latter had success and a launchpad with previous startups, including PayPal). Both fostered a worldview different than their contemporaries.
Alright, we know what the iPhone means to the smartphone industry. Despite a relatively small marketshare, and intense competition from Samsung, the iPhone drives the industry’s design directions. What about Tesla? It’s not much different. It’s almost as if Steve Jobs’ ghost was assisting Musk and Tesla. How else do you explain all the former Apple employees who now work at Tesla.
Almost single handedly, and not without a few hiccups along the way, Tesla has molded and defined the electric car, and spearheaded the semi-autonomous vehicle industry.
Automobile industry legend, Bob Lutz, who praised the Tesla Model S design, also blasted the company’s customers as being much like a religious cult.
Tesla supporters are like members of a religious cult. Just like Steve Jobs was worshiped at Apple, it’s the same way with Elon Musk… seen as a new visionary god who promises this phantasmagorical future, a utopia of profitability and volume… I just don’t see anything about Tesla that gives me any confidence that that business can survive.
Sound familiar? The Apple is doomed meme still resounds five years after Jobs death, and more than 40 years after its birth, despite a massive stock valuation and more cash on hand than most developed nations.
Just like Apple’s iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Watch customers, Tesla Model S owners are a die hard breed, fully invested in the company’s product, ecosystem, and usability. Tesla, like Apple, isn’t as much about clever marketing as it is in the user experience, and it’s safe to say that few automobile owners love their vehicles the way Tesla owners love the Model S.
Apple was once criticized for being the Mac company, and, indeed, the names were much synonymous for many years. Critics wondered how Apple would diversify itself under Jobs’ second coming. It did. Now Apple is the iPhone company and critics howl that no new Apple product can compete with the iPhone. Maybe so. Maybe the iPhone is a once-in-a-lifetime technology gadget, but Apple and the iPhone are more similar to Tesla and the Model S than critics would agree.