The Moto X hype train has finally pulled into the station and all passengers must disembark. As is so often the case following many months aboard the train, everyone is finding that the destination isn’t quite the panacea they had in mind. For those of you frustrated by some of the details of today’s launch I’m right there with you, and the comments will be a safe space for some venting. I do want to be clear about one thing: half the reason I’m so angry is that I think this is an important device and I hate to see Motorola and Google squander it. So lets start off with the good before we dive into the rest.
Put it in context
Context is king with the Moto X. All roads for Google lead to Google Now and the identification of what a user wants or needs without having to express it. As Google promised, Motorola is its conduit with the Moto X, the purest execution on the idea behind Google Now that we have seen to date save perhaps for Glass. The Moto X uses the vast troves of information Google has about you along with its on-board sensors to intuit what it is you are trying to do or may need to know at any given moment. Now whether it achieves these goals in practice may be another matter, but this is the vision that Google and Motorola have laid before you. It’s an ambitious and admirable goal.
Freedom isn’t free
Remember this ad for the Moto X from early July? It’s a nice idea isn’t it? Free to customize your device however you want. In fact I would say it’s fair to characterize this idea as the central theme of the Moto X marketing to date.
Well it turns out that only AT&T customers are free, something I’m sure many of them would find ironic. Nonetheless, at launch they will be solely blessed with the ability to create a customized Moto X. To paraphrase Henry Ford, the rest of us can have whatever color we want as long as that’s black or white. Yes, the customization option will come to the rest of us eventually, but hamstringing one of the most celebrated features from your marketing campaign at launch is a huge misstep.
The price is wrong
We’ve known for some time now that the Moto X would feature fairly midrange components. While this was a disappointment to some, the consolation was that Motorola and Google could deliver the Moto X at Nexus 4 pricing. We were half right. The middle of the road specs were spot on, but at $575 off-contract for 16GB and $625 for 32 GB, it is in a dead heat with the absolute top-of-the-line on price. No doubt some of this is attributable to the more expensive US assembly, but the pricing here seems nearly 50% higher than what one would expect for this hardware.
Motorola’s CEO, Dennis Woodside, has stated that a cheaper version will be available for the prepaid and international markets in the future. But if you are hoping that will be just a slightly reduced version of this Moto X, you can stop holding your breath. Woodside implied it would be a sub-$200 version, which you can bet will be severely diminished. Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope that the Google Edition coming to the Play Store will be discounted, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.
Google promised that Motorola would be a test bed for new things once the backlog of devices created under the old regime were out the door. And again I think the Moto X hardware does reflect that promise. It’s not the hulking spec monster that people envision as a flagship device, but it is using unique hardware and software to deliver what may prove to be a superior experience. That, it seems, is where Google stopped and the Motorola of old took over. The distribution and pricing model for this phone are completely run of the mill. The one unique feature is the customization, which has been gutted with exclusivity.
The Moto X launched yesterday is just the first of what Dennis Woodside has said is the brand they are most focused on. I hope that is the case; there is real promise in what Google and Motorola have built. I confess it was too much to ask that Google would use its clout to turn the industry on its head with the first real offering from Motorola, but it won’t stop me from hoping for it all over again next time around.
Alright we wanted to do a quick poll to gauge your feelings about the Moto X, but I also highly recommend the aforementioned venting in the comments as it can be really cathartic.