Mar 15 AT 12:35 PM Taylor Wimberly 115 Comments

This is the Motorola “X Phone”, and it’s going to level the playing field this summer

x-phone-prototype-630

Imagine a world where you buy your smartphone first and then pick your wireless carrier. Picture a fantasy land where you can customize your phone’s hardware to your liking, similar to how Dell or Lenovo lets you build a PC. You can laugh and say I’m full of it, but I’m here to tell you this could be reality sooner than you think.

According to several anonymous sources within Motorola, the “X Phone” project is real, and the first retail device will go on sale this summer. Our original source said the first “X Phone” product might ship in June, but another fact checker tells us the target date is the end of July.

We have also learned that one of the “X Phone” devices has already leaked out. Remember that unannounced Motorola phone (pictured above and below) that appeared last week and was quickly dismissed as not the being the X Phone? Our source tells us the device is real, but it was an earlier prototype and the design has undergone some slight changes.

x-phone-prototype-back

The first “X Phone” will feature a touch sensitive area on the back.

The back of the first “X Phone” is said to look mostly the same as the leaked prototype, but we have learned some additional details. The Motorola logo will act as touch sensitive button that allows you to launch commands. Motorola has included a similar feature on past phones (remember the Backflip?), but it sounds like Google has something special in store for this device.

Patent Bolt just spotted a patent application from Google that covers backside device touch controls. We don’t know what the mysterious back button on the “X Phone” will do, but I speculate it could be used enable a listening mode that allows you to issue voice commands. We already reported on the rumor that Motorola is working on a new human language system, and I have a feeling it will be integrated with this button.

Most people initially dismissed this unannounced Motorola device because it didn’t feature top-of-the-line internals, but you have to connect the dots to understand Google’s strategy for these new “X Phone” devices.

Google is not focused on specs or software gimmicks for their upcoming products. Instead they want to produce an ultra-affordable mobile device that connects to a bunch of wearable accessories they plan to release later this year. Google Glass and Google Watch are two examples of these accessories, and we are told more are in the works.

And when I say “ultra-affordable” mobile device, I’m talking a starting retail price of $199 or less. Google and Motorola will sell smartphones for the same prices that people are willing to pay for today’s flagships, but these devices won’t be tied to a two year contract.

To the average consumer I’m sure this whole rumor sounds a little far-fetched, but that is what Google and Motorola are banking on. As I said yesterday, people will flip out when they realize they can purchase a customized device, with the latest software, without carrier crapware or contracts, and it’s sold at an affordable price.

Dell revolutionized the PC industry with its direct-sales model and its “build-to-order” approach to manufacturing, and now Google will attempt to do the same with smartphones.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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