In today’s “will he or won’t he” news, Elon Musk has threatened to make an iPhone rival if Twitter happens to get pulled from the app store. This comes from speculation that Apple and Google could pull the app from their respective app stores after Elon started reinstating suspended accounts en masse. With more than 50 of Twitter’s top advertisers leaving the platform and massive employee layoffs, things have been tense for Twitter since Musk took over.
I certainly hope it does not come to that, but, yes, if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 25, 2022
Of course, anything Elon Musk decides to do will be met with both criticism and praise, but this runs a bit deeper than any of the other projects he’s undertaken so far. Phones are a complicated thing. Software and hardware can be extremely complicated, and relationships with carriers can muddy the waters even further. If he wants proof of this, he can look at the failed attempts Meta made back in the day with the HTC Status or Amazon with their Fire Phone. Even a phone that was the brainchild of one of Google’s founders (the Essential PH-1) gloriously crashed and burned.
Make no mistake about it, Elon has the people around him, and most importantly the money, to make something like this happen. Would he want to though? All signs point to yes, as most smartphones have almost reached a point of stagnation, and if he could somehow create a third major OS (behind iOS and Google) he could reinvent the smartphone game in much of the same way he changed the automobile industry. It would, of course, require equal parts planning, resources, and dumb luck. It’s one thing to take over a social media company, and an entirely different beast building out a competitor for Android and iOS.
The ultimate question is, what would it take for him to actually pursue this option? Would a full-fledged ban from each OS’ app store be the primary catalyst? I don’t think so. Even without app capability, Twitter is still accessible through web browsers, and in the case of Android, users could simply choose to sideload the app onto their devices. Curiously, it’d also be interesting to see if Apple or Google pulling Twitter from their app stores would somehow adversely affect them as well.
One thing is for sure, Elon Musk has generated a significant buzz around almost everything he says and does, so if he were to consider creating a mobile device, now would be the time. Ironically enough, Twitter may be an even bigger opportunity for Elon than he previously expected.