Motorola X Phone, a Google unicorn: ‘real breakthrough,’ ‘a game changer’?

by: Chris SmithFebruary 13, 2013

Motorola X Phone

Remember when Google was repeatedly telling the press that it wouldn’t treat Motorola any differently than any other Android device maker now that it owns the company? That may not be entirely the case, at least not with the X Phone that’s rumored to be unveiled at Google I/O and launch later this year.

The unconfirmed report

A new report from SmartHouse says that Telstra, an Australian carrier, has reasons to be excited about the product said to hit stores later in July, as the X Phone will come with software never before seen in a smartphone:

According to Telstra sources, Hugh Bradlow, Chief Technology Officer for Telstra, has told senior mobile staff at Telstra the new device is a “real breakthrough, a game changer that will put pressure on Samsung and Apple”. […]

“Google has been working on this device for a long time. It has software features and capabilities that are not available on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone or Apple iPhone. The software is really powerful and it pulls together Google services like no other manufacturer has done in the past,” a reliable source told SmartHouse.

However, the tipsters were not ready to offer any actual details about the X Phone’s specs and features and we’ll have to wait for more leaks to learn new details about the device.

Obviously, we expect the X Phone to come packing Android 5 Key Lime Pie especially if it’s announced at Google I/O 2013, which happens to be indeed “software never before seen before in a smartphone,” because, let’s face it, it hasn’t been seen so far.

And obviously, none of it is confirmed so far.

The broken promise?

But considering all the hype in this new report, isn’t calling the handset a “real breakthrough” a bit much for today’s smartphone landscape? Can it be “a game changer” that will indeed put pressure on Samsung and Apple?

In case the answer is yes to any or both of these questions, does that mean that Google didn’t really mean it when it said it won’t treat Motorola differently than any other handset maker?


Motorola Nexus

Meant to reassure its partners, Google’s previous statements regarding Motorola hardware were probably intended to address two immediate concerns: that Google will not choose Motorola as its only go-to company for Nexus devices and that Google will not sell high-end Motorola hardware at cost to undercut Apple, but also Android OEMs in the process.

Since the Motorola purchase was finalized, Google launched three Nexus devices, all made by other-than-Motorola companies – well four if you count the Nexus Q failure as well. We’re looking at the Asus Nexus 7 models, the LG Nexus 4 handset and the Samsung Nexus 10 tablet. But no Motorola Nexus – in fact a Google exec did say that the Motorola purchase was mostly about patents, thus crushing some Motorola Nexus dreams in the process.

Selling devices at cost

While it did not launch any Moto Nexus device, when it comes to pricing, Google did sell devices at cost in 2012, although these were not made by Motorola.

The company had to come out with an aggressive offer for the Nexus 7, a device seen as a fix to Google’s Amazon Kindle Fire unofficial problem, but you can’t argue that the move didn’t hurt Android tablet makers as well.

But why did it launch a high-end Nexus 4 smartphone priced at mid-ranged levels? To snub carriers one could say, carriers who aren’t ready to accept Google’s Nexus the same way they do with Apple’s iPhone. But that low Nexus 4 price may have somehow hurt Android handset makers as well, and would have hurt them even further had Google ordered enough Nexus 4s to go around.

All the while, it launched Motorola RAZR-branded products that were not even running the latest Android version – maybe to confirm its stance on Motorola hardware – and its subsidiary kept losing money in the following two quarters since being purchased by the Search giant.

So technically, Google did not give Motorola any preferential treatment in the eight months since finalizing the purchase.

X Phone vs competition

But if this new report is to be believed, Google has been working with Motorola on this handset for a long time while talking a different talk.

And it will be interesting to see how the X Phone will compete in this year’s high-end smartphone market. We’ll have a bunch of interesting devices fighting for their share of the profits including the Sony Xperia Z, the HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the seventh-generation iPhone to name just a few of flagship devices we expect to see in stores.

galaxy s3 vs iphone5

From a different point of view, the quote in the SmartHouse report (above) is very interesting, as the X Phone seems to be portrayed as a device that will put pressure on Samsung first, and Apple after. Does Google have a Samsung problem, one that it can’t officially confirm? You know, Samsung getting most of the profits in the Android universe, with everyone else nowhere near Samsung’s performance? In such a case, does Google need to intervene with its own high-end device to show the world that not just Galaxy devices are worth buying?

After all, it was a Motorola Droid that rallied Android a few years ago in its fight against the iPhone, so it could be another Motorola Android handset that could help model the direction Android is heading to. Whatever the case is, we’ll definitely be here to cover this never-before-seen X Phone smartphone.

  • Bone

    I’d imagine Google Now! taking the lead with HW capabilities, maybe touch free controls and actually working and easy Miracast-like output. Also advanced NFC options, AR-style navigation, wireless charging… what else?

    • What else side touch sensitive control, and fingerprint recognition and biometrics, smart home integration such as zwave and insteon built in, and ir blaster, and better vpn and ssh security, full html5 compatibility, location based wifi/cell control, inbuilt phone recovery system, solar power cell on back for emergency charge built in.. 12 hr battery,

      • Filip Justin

        Dream, baby, dream!

      • Jerry li

        second the 12hr battery
        getting that 8 core processor in it would nice

  • can’t wait.

  • Bone

    Eye-unlock or eye-notification pop-up would be interesting, you just look at the thing and the Now! screen turns on predicted and relevant information from all around the device & world. Wouldn’t mind a notification/Now! dedicated button so one tap to get those updates, one tap back. Wouldn’t mind easier multi-tasking either like 3-finger swype left/right to switch or swype up from multi-task button and select the preferred app with the same move.

    I guess security and advances cross-platform synch, Chrome OS included, could work, maybe NFC based synch for team with super fast wireless sharing and all-device connectivity to keep the thing out of your pocket.

    • MasterMuffin

      Those first features are just battery killers

  • Are there any rumors of this phone coming to stores this year, or will it be just teased and announced ?
    I had this ancient Nokia E71 till the last week and now got a surprisingly well performing (but already old) Lumia 800 from my little brother, so I just might pull it off waiting for the “X Phone” rather than buy Galaxy SIV this summer.
    It’d better be worth it ! :o

  • Filip Justin

    It might be just as good as Samsung, but it won’t have the same popularity as the Galaxy line-up..

    • dude you forgot most important thing samsung runs android and android is googles bitch ;)

  • Im not really sure how adding in new software features never seen before, is an example of Google giving preferential treatment to Motorola. Every new device, at least the ones worth mentioning, add new software features.
    This is the non-story aspect of the above quote.

    What is interesting is the idea of tying together Google Services. What does this mean, and what are some examples that we have yet to see in an Android that would be a game changer?

    Well what bit of hardware tech does motorola have under its belt, albeit one that never gained any traction? The laptop dock of course.
    I always found it strange that this concept that had so much potential, ESPECIALLY in the Enterprise world, was pulled before it could ever mature. I had my speculations and this is I hope a confirmation of them.

    Im going to go ahead and state that I think the Google X phone will have a laptop dock feature that will boot directly into a version of Google Chrome that plays extremely well with Android Services and its apps. This would be a “game changer” and is something that both Apple and Samsung do not have in their arsenal.

    • George Kougianos

      That would catch my eye and wallet if true. Hopefully the Nexus title adorns it, even though they’ve stated that it wouldn’t in the past.

    • Or a desktop dock like the Galaxy Note “smart dock” accessory, which has 3 USB ports and HDMI out.

      I’ve used my Galaxy Nexus in “desktop mode” a few times with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse and an external monitor, and it’s surprisingly usable. It wouldn’t take much to make it a great experience.

      • The desktop dock would go without saying, if there was a laptop dock.

    • If there was a software feature that should have been added to stock Android, but instead they made the decision to add that feature exclusively to Motorola phones — that would certainly be preferential treatment. If Motorola phones run anything more than stock Android I’m sure we will see complaints about why those features are not present in the main operating system

      • Ummm… IM not sure how you get from “new feature” that just so happens to be launching on a Motorola device, to Motorola is the only one thats going to have access to it.

        If you own an OEM, it would make sense for a company to work with that OEM on a project that could radically change how we perceive mobile technology.

        None of this means that the other OEMs will not have access to it, after its release. Doing it all in-house, just allows the process to happen with fewer cooks in the kitchen.

    • Technically, Apple could do it now with the iPhone 5 using the Lightening connector. Apple could launch a low cost dumb 13″ and/or 15″ touch screen with various Wireless features too (WiFi, Bluetooth 4, NFC etc) and of course Airplay, allowing the iPhone 5 to turn into a CPU when a Bluetooth keyboard is added to the modules. I actually used my Samsung Galaxy Note as a ‘computer’ once, by resting it in my iPad’s Incase Origami dock and pearing it with my Apple Bluetooth keyboard. I could have even used an HDMI cable to connect the Note to a monitor or TV. Of course, even the iPhone 5 is not powerful enough to pull this off smoothly, but next gen phones may be able too.

  • I wonder if this “software never seen before on a smartphone” will be some kind of expansion of Google Now.

  • jualmahal

    I hope it is a ruggedized phone with KEVLAR body and nano-coating like Motorola Razr MAXX series:)

  • Roberto Tomás

    things that would make it a “game changer” to me are: eMMC/SATA-type storage, the mythical “console level graphics” which would only be from a GPU about 3+ times the power of the current apple king-of-the-hill gpu, 64 bit cpu, and/or unpowered usb3.