Elon Musk took a couple of potshots at Apple during Tesla’s Monday earnings call. The Tesla and SpaceX boss started by claiming that Apple uses more cobalt in its batteries than Tesla. He later on talked about “walled gardens” in tech, and fake-coughed while saying Apple’s name.
This isn’t the first time that Musk, who currently has a net worth of $160 billion, has dissed Apple.
As reported by CNBC, Musk said that:
“Apple uses I think almost 100% cobalt in their batteries and cell phones and laptops, but Tesla uses no cobalt in the iron-phosphate packs, and almost none in the nickel-based chemistries. On on a weighted-average basis we might use 2% cobalt compared to say, Apple’s 100% cobalt. Anyway, so it’s just really not a factor.”
The significance of cobalt is that it is mined in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, linked with human rights abuses like child labor. Apple has taken steps to lessen the potential use of conflict minerals with the use of audits of its suppliers. Nonetheless, accusations periodically crop up suggesting it’s not doing as much as it could.
Musk also chimed in — kind of! — on the current controversy about the amount of control Apple exerts on the App Store. He was asked a question about whether Tesla would allow rivals to use its charger network.
“I think we do want to emphasize that our goal is to support the advent of sustainable energy,” Musk answered. “It is not to create a walled garden and use that to bludgeon our competitors which is used by some companies.” He then fake-coughed and said “Apple.”
Apple and Tesla: Frenemies?
In some ways, Apple and Tesla seem like they belong together. Purely anecdotally, the Venn diagram of friends of mine who own Teslas and those who are also big Apple fans is almost a perfect circle. Both companies are viewed as visionary and have perfected blended luxury and great design with cutting edge technology. Pundits have semi-regularly suggested that Tesla would be a good acquisition for Apple, particularly with Apple looking to enter the automotive market with Apple Car. Heck, Elon Musk has even borrowed Steve Jobs’ “One more thing” flourish at a previous Tesla event.
In reality, Musk has taken plenty of shots at Apple over the years. As part of an interview in 2015, Musk said that he met former Apple CEO and late co-founder Steve Jobs and found him, “kind of a jerk.” He has also suggested that an Apple Car will come too late to make a major difference. In another interview he damningly said that: “We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”
In 2018, Musk said that he still uses an iPhone, but finds that Apple does less and less that impresses him. “There’s not many products you can buy that really make you happier,” he said. “Apple did that for a long time, I still think, obviously, that Apple makes great phones … I still use an iPhone and everything, but Apple used to really bring out products that would blow people’s minds, you know? [Apple] still [makes] great products, but there’s less of that.”