Review: Caviar's luxury $4,600 iPhone has more gold than purpose

Posted:
in iPhone edited December 2018
If you've ever wondered what it is like to use a custom modified $4,600 gold and carbon iPhone with a built-in solar charger, AppleInsider has you covered.

Caviar Tesla iPhone X
Caviar Tesla iPhone X


We reported backed in May about the solar-powered iPhone X Tesla' model that went for a pricey $4,600. AppleInsider now has one that we've been carrying around for the past week or so.




Modifications galore

Caviar by craft is a phone modification shop. They take Apple's off-the-shelf iPhone X, then apply their own elements to theoretically craft an even more luxury version of the iPhone.

Caviar Tesla iPhone X box
Caviar Tesla iPhone X box


The entire back panel of the iPhone has been replaced by a carbon fiber housing with gold accents and a solar panel. The top of the back panel has a gilded metal panel with an LED in the center and Tesla engraved on the top. Important to note, even with all the Tesla references, this phone isn't related to the automaker in any way.

A small power button also sits within this top portion, used to turn on the battery contained within the solar charger. The Tesla iPhone isn't just powering your iPhone via the sun but also powering up an additional battery pack as well. The LED light lets you know when the solar battery is charging, as well as when it is turned on and off. It isn't super intuitive as to what it means, alternating between flashing, solid blue, or solid green.

Covering that solar panel is a shock resistant layer, designed to provide impact resistance should it ever fall. With the added weight here, that is a distinct possibility.

Caviar Tesla iPhone X engraving
Caviar Tesla iPhone X engraving


Caviar also engraved several points on the iPhone's original frame. On the right side, it has the Caviar logo near the top and Made on Earth by humans -- a phrase synonymous with Tesla -- towards the bottom. The left side of the iPhone has a few more demarcations highlighting the brand, as well as an X -- for iPhone X -- and a signifier of the 24K gold used.

Located right below the camera cutout, is a magnetic charging port akin to Apple's legacy MagSafe. Instead of relying on the solar charger, you can juice up this way instead.

While the back panel was replaced, everything else on the phone remains stock. Including iOS, Face ID, the Lightning port, and all the buttons.

Daily use

Using the Caviar Tesla iPhone X each day has been an experience. There are many pros and cons that make it hard to weigh how much these modifications are really worth it.

We wholeheartedly appreciated the additional battery life in the device, getting significantly more use out of our phone than we would otherwise. The solar charger is beneficial too but takes 30 hours to juice up from a low charge and is less than useful in cloud-covered Ohio in the winter.

In reality, wireless chargers are probably still more convenient, something you give up by using the Tesla model. We set our phone down so many times throughout the day, like in the car or while at our desk when a wireless charger would come in handy, but a solar charger doesn't. For day-to-day use, wireless chargers are a better option.

Caviar Tesla iPhone X magnetic charger
Caviar Tesla iPhone X magnetic charger


If you use the magnetic charger rather than wait for the solar panels, you also end up with a very hot phone. Almost too hot to touch. We were a bit worried about leaving the phone to charge this way without us being around. This is an aftermarket modification after all.

Lastly, we also didn't love the added weight of the modified handset. It doesn't look it in the press images, but it is rather thick. The carbon fiber housing may be lightweight, but the battery and metal certainly aren't. It weighed down our pockets significantly and isn't easy to carry around.

No case will fit such a custom phone either. You likely wouldn't want to cover up the back anyway, so you better be careful with it. Apple won't touch these devices, so your only hope is aftermarket dealers or Caviar itself to get it repaired. But, if you're spending $4600 on it, you may not be that concerned about replacement cost.

Missing the attention to detail

There are countless elements of this phone that are finely crafted, but there are also many that aren't.

Around the camera cutout is a ring of metal, which has a surprisingly sharp edge. We stacked the Tesla iPhone on our XS Max to get an idea of the size difference, and it actually scratched our iPhone XS Max display. If grabbed the wrong way, we wouldn't be shocked if it cut our finger -- apologies for not testing this directly.

The magnetic charging port also doesn't seem to be quite secure. It moves around, making us question the water resistance of this handset, which originally was promised to be IP67 rated.

Interesting to see, less exciting to use

Caviar has put out a luxury device, but it misses the mark. Solar chargers are a unique alternative, but for most people who spend most time indoors, it isn't all that useful compared to Qi wireless chargers.

Caviar Tesla iPhone X
Caviar Tesla iPhone X


The extra battery power is great, but there are other battery cases out there that let you still have your phone serviced through Apple and protect your phone at the same time.

Those seriously considering such a device are looking for the luxury factor, or something no one else has. Caviar is only producing a set number of these devices, and at nearly $4,400, it's unlikely you will see others walking down the street.

We just can't recommend it.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Where to buy

If you'd like to grab a handset for yourself, you can order directly from Caviar where a personal consultant will assist with your order. Right now, they are even running a holiday sale for a bonus 5 percent off, if this is your thing.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,361member
    So next time someone complains that iPhones have gotten too expensive you can point them too this case!
    jbdragon
  • Reply 2 of 15
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,808member
    I can't imagine how anyone would want this at any price point.
    jbdragonStrangeDaysretrogustopscooter63
  • Reply 3 of 15
    Why? God Why?

    So, they took something as useless as wireless charging and replaced it with something even more useless in solar charging.

    For the record, wireless charging will be useful some day on phones... but not today.  For example, if cars were made with an integrated charging pad to set your phone.
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 4 of 15
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,113member
    Soli said:
    I can't imagine how anyone would want this at any price point.
    If you're rich to dump money on this, why would you want to? It's so ugly. The Solar panel is worthless. 30 hours to charge the battery pack. So in real world as the sun is not up 24 hours, at least 3 days sitting out in the best sunlight. Really, only the brightest hours of the day is going to charge this thing.

    I don't get the light on the top? It looks so bulky and really strange with the carbon fiber on the back half. Everything about this is just so wrong. It doesn't scream LUXURY to me.

    The Solar needs to go. The battery pack is fine so long as it was surround by gold and blended in with the side of the iPhone! It should still have Wireless charging. That means another coil on the top of the battery pack instead of that worthless solar charger. Where's the diamonds? The Tesla theme makes no sense.

    You have to have some really bad taste to want this thing.

    To me, what a Luxury iPhone would be, is nothing changed other than say make the sides real gold. No stainless band, but Gold Band. That minor tweak. It doesn't need anything else. Well expect maybe you can include a Gold Wireless charger Stand. It couldn't be all gold as it wouldn't work, but enough gold.
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 5 of 15
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,248member
    The charging time rules out this case for anybody but those wanting bragging rights. Even for someone for whom that price is pocket lint, this just seems too much of a niche 'solution'.

    Otherwise, wireless charging is useful for a lot of people today.
  • Reply 6 of 15
    Why? God Why?

    So, they took something as useless as wireless charging and replaced it with something even more useless in solar charging.

    For the record, wireless charging will be useful some day on phones... but not today.  For example, if cars were made with an integrated charging pad to set your phone.
    There have been cars with wireless Qi charging pads since 2013. There are now lots of cars that come with wireless charging pads. 
    gatorguyDeelron
  • Reply 7 of 15
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 425member
    Why? God Why?

    I’ll play the contrarian.  Why you ask?  Anyone who can figure out how to part rich fools from their money deserves a pat on the back IMO.  Rich fools aren’t going to use their money very efficiently so it’s entirely appropriate to give it to working people who can use it productively.

  • Reply 8 of 15
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,808member
    Why? God Why?

    So, they took something as useless as wireless charging and replaced it with something even more useless in solar charging.

    For the record, wireless charging will be useful some day on phones... but not today.  For example, if cars were made with an integrated charging pad to set your phone.
    There have been cars with wireless Qi charging pads since 2013. There are now lots of cars that come with wireless charging pads. 
    And countless after-market options for Qi charing that make it convenient and cheap for pretty much anyone. The harder get is still be wireless CarPlay.

    Even Tesla offers a Qi charging pad and they don't even offer wired CarPlay… which is literally the sole reason I won't got that route.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    Made for people with more money than style or sense. The ugliest thing I have ever seen. No feedback on the effectiveness of the solar charging. Try leaving that in the sun in the street, see if a) you forget b) it gets stolen...

    Simply not practical on so many levels.
  • Reply 10 of 15
    And as an added bonus, your high-tech, cutting-edge device will look like a 1970's portable transitor radio!
    And if you act now you can get a SECOND Tesla iPhone X!! (just pay a separate fee)


    edited December 2018 JWSCroakeStrangeDayslaytechEric_in_CTpscooter63
  • Reply 11 of 15
    Fugly.
  • Reply 12 of 15

    ...

    Caviar Tesla iPhone X magnetic charger
    Around the camera cutout is a ring of metal, which has a surprisingly sharp edge. We stacked the Tesla iPhone on our XS Max to get an idea of the size difference, and it actually scratched our iPhone XS Max display. If grabbed the wrong way, we wouldn't be shocked if it cut our finger -- apologies for not testing this directly.

    ...
    Looks like you did test it -- very directly!
    retrogustopscooter63
  • Reply 13 of 15
    larz2112 said:
    And as an added bonus, your high-tech, cutting-edge device will look like a 1970's portable transitor radio!
    And if you act now you can get a SECOND Tesla iPhone X!! (just pay a separate fee)


    Larz says it perfectly.  A radio-dial is EXACTLY what I thought of when I saw the fancy case.

    $ to spend $.  Sheesh.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,063member
    Actually this might be worth it. Thieves would never believe this thing is an iPhone.  B)
    edited December 2018
  • Reply 15 of 15
    Remember the "I am Rich" app that was $1000 and only contained a sparkly icon?
    I think that guy sold eight copies before either it was shutdown or pulled.

    This reminds me of that.

    I don't begrudge the highest levels of luxury in Rolls-Royce's and Yachts and Rolex's and whatnots, but aren't items at that level are usually amazingly well made and well integrated. 

    This just seems like a poorly executed excuse to be expensive. 
      "Dangerously Hot" while using the charger?  Dumb. 
      Solar vs Wireless.  Smart observation by the reviewer.  Wireless is way more useful.  Dumb.

    Porsche partners with some other items like wrist-watches or decor items, but I can't see a "real" luxury brand partnering with anything like this, because it's kludgey

    A better luxury bet would be a 24K gold back cover or frame.  Then at least it's preserving the good design, and swapping in one of the most premium materials on Earth.  

    The cost is nearly an iMac Pro.  Oops.  Got practical for a second.
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