34 Comments

Summary:

Google hasn’t yet made clear how Motorola’s product line fits into its overall strategy. Another alleged pic and specs of the Moto X smartphone aren’t helping clarify it either.

googlerola_motorola_google

Another leaked photo of the alleged Moto X phone is making the rounds, today showing up on Phone Arena. The pictured device lines up nicely with earlier rumors and FCC reports of the handset, and although the image hasn’t been confirmed as official, Motorola has publicly stated that a Moto X phone is coming this summer.

Moto X phone

I’m actually hoping that the phone pictured, along with some of the reported specifications, isn’t the actual Moto X. If it is, I can’t say that I understand what Google is doing with Motorola, which it purchased in 2011 for $12.5 billion.

Let me preface my thoughts by saying I’m basing them on what I’m hearing about the phone. It’s entirely possible that the specs and images are for a different Motorola phone coming soon. Even so, Google really hasn’t made it clear yet on what its strategy is with Motorola, which led me to think about it.

What the reported Moto X looks to me is very non-inspiring for starters — again, assuming that it’s the real deal. Phone Arena expects this 4.7-inch phone to have a 720p display, 2 GB of memory, 16 GB of storage capacity and a dual-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon chip. Support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi is also expected. And, thankfully, there’s no sign of Motorola’s old skin; this looks to be a pure and plain Android 4.2.2 device.

But don’t those already exist?

Google already has its own Nexus brand of phones; the $349 Nexus 4 offers much the same as what’s expected in the Moto X and it’s eight months old. Newer flagship phones are more expensive but are more capable and have moved into the 1080p screen territory. “Ah, but those have TouchWiz, Sense or other skins,” you might say. True, but Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 and the HTC One are expected to be on sale today in Google Experience versions; no skins.

Stock Galaxy S 4

So what’s the point of a Moto X if it has the specs we’re hearing?

The phone is likely to be filled with sensors, much like most other smartphones these days. But Motorola is working on taking advantage of the sensors more than other Android hardware partners are. Speaking at D11, Motorola’s CEO Dennis Woodside noted the phone — a “hero” device, he says — will have more contextual smarts:

We know when it’s in your pocket, we know when it’s in your hand, it’s going to know when you want to take a picture and fire up the cameras… The device will know when you’re in the car and it’s moving at 60mph and you’ll interact with it differently, more safely.

That sounds innovative, but again, some of this type of functionality already exists. Various smartphones know when they’re in your pocket — ambient light sensors determine this — or when you’re moving, and can take appropriate actions. Motorola’s SmartAction software, available in some current handsets, support this as well. So is this just going to be an incremental improvement of that software?

Again, I hope not. Instead of using some of last year’s hardware and improving existing software, I’d really like to see Motorola hit one out of the park on its first real swing after the Google acquisition. Sure, other Motorola handsets launched after the Google purchase, but hardware design cycles can be lengthy; this is likely the first real Motorola phone with any Google input.

Where does Motorola fit in?

Although this is a Motorola branded phone, Google still has to fit it into its product portfolio. If it’s not a Nexus device, nor a “Google Experience” phone, then what exactly will the Moto X bring to the table? And regardless of what it does, will that mean other Android devices won’t get the same types of features and sensor support in software?

We’ll likely see soon, since we’re in the summer season and the Moto X will debut in the near term. For now, I’m still trying to understand how Motorola fits into Google’s grand plans and how Moto X will be a “flagship phone” as Motorola has proclaimed. As it stands now, I suspect it will be a flagship in the low- to mid-budget price range, if such a description makes sense.

And I’m still hoping Google takes advantage of Motorola’s MotoACTV smartwatch and turns it into a Google Now experience for the wrist. To me, that would be a better fit than another bland Android phone. We have enough of those already, thank you!

  1. Everybody wants to rip on the dual-core and the 720p display.
    I see them as possibility that this phone might get two-day battery life without needing a 5000mAh aftermarket battery. Also, the difference between 1080p and 720p on a sub-5″ screen, held two feet from your face is similar to the difference between those resolutions on a 32″ TV at 12 feet. The quality of the panel is gonna count for more than the resolution at that distance.

    Share
    1. very well said ‘blue..’
      i totally agree with you..
      most of the consumers think that a quad-core processor and 1080p display is what makes a good smartphone.. but thats not true!!
      people have become so lazy that they are now differentiating between 1080p and 720p as if their lives depend on it..
      the X Phone could actually be the first device that gives ‘what users need’ not ‘what users can buy with their money’

      Share
  2. “Internal sensors” is so broad that it includes a lot of possibilities. Something like a low powered always-on voice command option could be huge. Price, battery, and LTE could still be very distinguishing characteristics too (compared to the N4/etc), especially for a global audience.

    Share
  3. Kevin. I agree with you. There will be a time and a place for “this” phone…if this “is” the Moto X, just not this time and this place. Every smart phone manufacturer is staking out its piece of the turf. And that starts with a hero phone. The ultimate phone for you brand. Look at the attention HTC has found with it’s One. Once you get peoples attention, you can back down specs to grow your product line. Again look at the One Mini. If the phone pictured is the next Motorola “meh” phone….call it Nexus 5.

    Share
  4. It’s basically an AMOLED Nexus 4. That’s fine with me (though I wish it were 4.3″), as long as it’s still $300. Maybe that’s the point—to deliver a phone that’s 80% as good as what Samsung and HTC offer, but that costs half as much.

    Share
    1. That could be Mike. Then I wonder about the Nexus line though: at this point, it doesn’t look like what it used to, i.e.: cutting edge hardware with pure Android. Now it looks like “good enough” hardware with pure Android. ;)

      Share
      1. The Nexus line was never cutting edge hardware. It was always about pushing boundaries in hardware (NFC support), software (well, every version of Android) and developer support.

        Share
      2. The Nexus hasn’t been cutting-edge since, maybe, the Nexus One. The Nexus S was a single-core, 512MB, WVGA, and 5-megapixel at a time when phones were becoming dual-core, 1GB, qHD, and 8-megapixel. It was basically a Galaxy S, but launched 6 months after the Galaxy S did—almost a generation behind the cutting-edge. The Galaxy Nexus, too, had a 5MP camera, which was anything but high-end (though it was otherwise reasonably high-end for its day).

        I don’t know what Google’s plan for the Nexus line is either, or why they bought Motorola at all, if they were just going to let Moto wither on the vine. The Razr M/i was my favorite phone of the last year, and I want a proper follow-up! Now, it seems unlikely.

        Share
      3. The Nexus hasn’t been cutting-edge since, maybe, the Nexus One. The Nexus S was a single-core, 512MB, WVGA, and 5-megapixel at a time when phones were becoming dual-core, 1GB, qHD, and 8-megapixel. It was basically a Galaxy S, but launched 6 months after the Galaxy S did—almost a generation behind the cutting-edge. The Galaxy Nexus, too, had a 5MP camera, which was anything but high-end (though it was otherwise reasonably high-end for its day).

        I don’t know what Google’s plan for the Nexus line is either, or why they bought Motorola at all, if they were just going to let Moto wither on the vine. The Razr M/i was my favorite phone of the last year, and I want a proper follow-up! Now, it seems unlikely.

        Share
      4. crazy4comixstudios Saturday, July 6, 2013

        Are you kidding? The Nexus 4 had high-end specs at the best price on the market, by far! A quad-core the clocked in at what? 1.6GHz? And 2-3 Gigs of RAM. It’s only down fall was the glass back (Seriously who puts glass on the BACK of a phone?!) And its lack of memory. I think the Nexus line is still following it’s path. At worst Google and it’s partners are designing the external too much.

        Share
  5. Google’s vision for Motorola is not to enter the rat race of building the fastest and greatest smartphone, but a very good smartphone, which is really affordable (unlocked and without carrier subsidies). It wants to put more smartphones out there, so it gets more people to use it’s services. Expect the MotoX to be priced similar to what high-end phones cost with a subsidy ($100-$300), but without a carrier subsidy or contract. This may not entice you or most in the US, but Google is thinking global and vying the markets where carrier subsidies are unheard of.

    Share
    1. DG, you could be right, but when Motorola describes it as a “flagship phone”, your description isn’t what comes to mind. Hence, the question of strategy and message.

      Share
  6. Didn’t one of the Google executives who was moved to lead Motorola after the acquisition say that they are working with a company that already had planned products in the pipeline for 1.5 years? Essentially what he was saying was that we shouldn’t expect any revolutionary new devices from Motorola with a dominant Google influence until the second half of next year.

    Share
    1. The 1.5 years sound about right for a product cycle, but Google bought Moto in August of 2011; nearly 2 years ago.

      Share
      1. Concerned Citizen Thursday, June 27, 2013

        Why don’t you take over Google and make better decisions since you seem to be the intelligent judge here? Problem in the world now is people arguing on false information and in the process confusing the public……

        Share
  7. perhaps moto/google’s motivation here is to keep cost down and release this phone with a rock bottom price

    Share
    1. I think you’re spot on here.

      Moto is going to come in at $199-249 with this thing, which will drive margin out of the smart phone business.

      For users it will help reach the 50% still working with dumb phones (though service costs are still the big problem here).

      For OEMs it will squeeze their margins until they can put fewer resources into building competing mobile operating systems (looking at you, Samsung).

      Share
  8. Felt like there was a need to post a comment here. So, let’s think about what Google’s business model is. Google gets more money as they have more people using their services. Dennis Woodside said something stating Motorola is planning to dominate the low to mid range market to get even more users on Google services. Let’s put another piece into the equation. Samsung, Google’s biggest hardware partner is preparing an operating system to compete with android, which makes them a likely enemy in the near future. Google seems like it’s trying to get consistent android market share by taking it from them and many other Asian manufacturers before Samsung publicly offers their OS and they lose many activations. Looking at another angle, Google didn’t have a consumer manufacturing company that they could have complete control over. Now, Google can create anything they want in complete secrecy in their own backyard factory. I’m thinking Motorola will be the company where all of their consumer products will come from in the near future. This Moto X is likely to be a product that pushes new smartphone technology (that Google wants) instead of continuing the spec war and actually profiting from it for the first time. Prior to now, other companies like LG, and Samsung took almost all the profit from Google’s technology pushes. This new strategy they have will allow them to profit more on consumer products than they ever have. It will be an ultimate top down approach to producing consumer products.

    Share
    1. I like that train of thought. It could be a strategy to combat Tizen and any other offshoots from current Android partners. I noticed that Woodside mentioned the low- to mid-range for phones but I keep getting stuck on the specific “flagship” reference the company made to the Moto X.

      Maybe it’s the expected flagship of low-cost phones? ;) Thanks!

      Share
      1. This will still be a flagship of some kind. I doubt that Moto/Google would call the device a “hero” device without it having something special about it. I think we need to redefine our conception of a flagship device from being a “spec monster” to being an “industry changing” device.

        Share
    2. Sounds right.

      It may hurt Google in the long run, though. The margin compression that hurts Tizen will also hurt innovation in Android hardware, re-creating the PC industry, with Apple making most of the good stuff, and almost everyone else selling plastic by the pound.

      Share
      1. That could happen, but I doubt Google would become old and stale. They pride themselves with having an extremely creative culture vs. having a massive profit. They just know that they’re a company, therefore they need profits to have money from investors to do cool projects like those from Google[x]. I have a feeling that they won’t be like Microsoft. Unlike the current Microsoft, Google’s leadership is good. They’ll keep their techno-creative dominance if they make good leadership for the next generation.

        Share
      2. That could happen, but I doubt Google would become old and stale. They pride themselves with having an extremely creative culture vs. having a massive profit. They just know that they’re a company, therefore they need profits to have money from investors to do cool projects like those from Google[x]. I have a feeling that they won’t be like Microsoft. Unlike the current Microsoft, Google’s leadership is good. They’ll keep their techno-creative dominance if they make good leadership for the next generation.

        Share
        1. Are you trolling?

          Google’s profits come from the fat, fat margins on search advertising, which have relatively little cost. If their margins began to shrink, they’d have to start culling projects, because investors would demand it (and not doing so would make them legally liable to their investors).

          Share
          1. Well yeah, I know that. My point is I don’t think they’ll loose their creative edge, because they’re a creative company. Ignore the profit part, because that’s necessary for them to do creative things without massive problems from investors. Also, don’t mind the double post, that was a glitch.

            Share
  9. Glad someone beat me to it; Kevin, it’s not about having the best hardware out there. Apple’s stuff is rarely the fastest hardware, for example. In Motorola’s case, they’ve started making phones with long battery life (RAZR HD and MAXX).

    If they drop the price on this phone to compete with the Nexus 4, then it’s clear that the Nexus line, as it was from the beginning, is intended to be the next in the line of “good enough” hardware at a price that attempts to transform the market by cutting out carriers.

    If carriers lose power, who gains?

    Share
    1. The guys with the cheaper phones! (:-D

      Share

Comments have been disabled for this post