In an astute column regarding Tesla Inc.'s (TSLA) July 28th unveiling of its much-hyped Model 3 sedan, The Verge's Vlad Savov pointed out several similarities between the Model 3 and Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) first iPhone. Among them: A minimalist interface that contains few buttons, the use of over-the-air software downloads to add powerful new features and an ability to bring advanced technologies to relatively affordable price points.
There's one other important similarity, however: The Model 3, like the first iPhones, is a product for which the whole feels like much more than the sum of its parts. In other words, for which the pairing of well-engineered and well-designed hardware with innovative software and services provides both an air of no-frills luxury that comparably-priced rival products can't match, and also delivers unique features with practical value.
It took years for Apple's high-end smartphone rivals to -- with the help of Alphabet Inc./Google's (GOOGL) software and cloud services -- deliver hardware that was competitive with the iPhone. And in the eyes of many iPhone loyalists, they still haven't fully eliminated the gap. Judging by where the competition stands today, the Model 3, whose base model costs $35,000, is opening up a similar lead.
To start, the Model 3 looks and feels like a luxury car. Whereas its primary electric-car rival, General Motors Co.'s (GM) Chevy Bolt ($37,500 starting price), has a design that brings to mind low-cost subcompact cars such as the Honda Fit or Kia Rio, the Model 3's styling is closer to that of a BMW 3-series sedan. And on the inside, initial reviewers note that features such as premium upholstery materials and a lack of traditional air conditioning vents -- air is pumped through a long vent built into the dashboard, with users able to control the angle at which air flows via the Model 3's touchscreen -- add to its sense of luxury.
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