How the Motorola X Phone could change things

July 8, 2013
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Motorola X Phone

The X Phone is coming, and we know what it will be: mid-range, with some interesting nuances. The hardware won’t blow us away, but some of the new features might. We’re all reading about an “always on” feature for voice search, and of course the customization is a hot topic. Assembled in the US is nice for jobs, but does it matter to consumers?

Google is making a concentrated effort to improve their contextual awareness of us, which could be helpful. The more that is known about our wants and needs, the more our devices can help us. If I’m having a conversation about the New York Yankees, my Motorola X Phone with an “always on” listening function may then suggest news for the Yanks in my Google Now stream next time I open it. If I mention in conversation that I need to pick up coffee, my device may hear that and give me a pop-up reminder once I get to the store or am near a Starbucks.

You design the X Phone, but the X Phone doesn’t define you. Interesting concept.

The hardware, though, makes us wonder. Why would Motorola make a middle-of-the-road device like the X Phone, and pack such interesting features into it? We assume any new device has to play leap-frog with the last, in terms of hardware, but it doesn’t. The price point is what matters, and Motorola’s aim is for a sub-$300 X Phone. Even with the blessing and backing of Google, that’s a tough price to hit with a spec-heavy phone.

A price like that will put the device into more hands, and could have some ripple effects. If the device were a big hit, and it seems like it will be, the industry could see a bit of a shift. Great hardware doesn’t always translate into a great experience, which can be demonstrated by the Google Play Edition devices. Skinned Android devices have their fans, as well as their detractors. The introduction of GPE devices in the Play Store is already showing that a shift in how the consumer is considered by manufacturers may be taking shape.

Sprint Moto X

Do mediocre hardware specs with great software mean much? On paper, no, but a list of specs don’t tell the tale of how we live with tech. The experience is what matters, and that’s what Motorola is hoping to deliver on. The new device may not deliver across the broad spectrum of “wish list” wants, but it’s not meant to. It’s meant to do a few things, and do them well. If the X Phone can nail contextual data and the “awareness” factor ends up being useful, it will be a huge success.

Rather than try to shove a ton of hardware into a slim phone, they’ve gone and made a really good phone anyone would be happy to own.

The argument can be made about middle of the road devices becoming chic, but that’s only half the story. Samsung and company have been pumping out mid-range stuff for years, and there is clearly a market for that. As an Android site, we have an obligation to you in reporting about them. We see the specs, and nobody gets excited. We know the new Samsung — whatever — will still have TouchWiz, and those specs can’t support its bulk as well as the Galaxy S4 or Note 2. So, we immediately dismiss it as “junk” for the mass of people who can’t (or don’t want to) afford a premium device, and go on about our day. All that judgement, based on hardware, when software is really the culprit.

While this is not a “skinned Android” conversation, it could be. As the basis for software on a device, the skin an OEM puts on will affect our enjoyment of it. Samsung’s TouchWiz is troublesome in part because of their desire to adapt for all iterations of Android. They have to straddle a lot of fences, and that more than anything leads us to hope Android 4.3 delivers on that rumor to transcend hardware. Unlike Sense 5, which HTC rebuilt entirely, TouchWiz is saddled by poor Android support as much as Android is failed by it.

Moto X ad

The argument should really be framed as your experience with a device, not the hardware supporting it. A Motorola X Phone won’t hold up to an HTC One in regard to hardware specs, but it doesn’t need to. It’s not trying to be a catch-all like that kind of device. The X Phone wants to push its envelope forward, and that’s to be an everyman device that the everyman can be proud to own.

The argument should really be framed as your experience with a device, not the hardware supporting it.

Customization means it’s as much yours as you can make it, and a feature list designed to assist you means The X Phone may be geared as an accompaniment device, one that helps more than it asks you to accomplish tasks. You design the X Phone, but the X Phone doesn’t define you. Interesting concept.

Motorola is taking a chance here, and it’s actually exciting for once. Rather than try to shove a ton of hardware into a slim phone, they’ve gone and made a really good phone anyone would be happy to own. One that will accomplish the best of what Android has to offer, but leave all the nonsense out. The shift in thinking is toward contextual data and web-based knowledge, and this device is perfect for that. We may want amazing hardware, but more often than not, we don’t need it. What we need is a better experience, and a device that caters to us. Turns out that customization we keep talking about may have nothing to do with hardware at all.

Interesting concept.

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