Aug 02 AT 10:37 AM Nick Sarafolean 21 Comments

The Googorola mess


Many of you will remember when, early last year, Google made the decision to drop a cool $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility. At the time, it was believed that Google simply wanted access to Motorola’s expansive patent library. But a year and a half later, we’re finding that Motorola could mean much more to Google than just patents. Motorola’s newest flagship, the Moto X, was announced yesterday after months and months of hype. But what makes it special is that it was Motorola’s first phone in which Google has played a significant part.

The distinguishing feature is that the Moto X is the first phone to offer customization. Of course, the customization is mostly design-oriented. But does the rest of the phone measure up? And did Google get it right with all of its decisions about the phone?

That’s yet to be seen. Many people experienced some sticker shock when they saw the pricetag of $199 on-contract for what has been branded an essentially mid-range smartphone. There were complaints that it had only a 720p display and a (technically speaking) dual-core processor. There was also a fair amount of upset over carrier options and exclusives regarding the phone and its customization options. So what has contributed to this issue? Was it Google’s input?

The Wall Street Journal has also done some looking into the issue. The Moto X is certainly Google’s first foray into creating a phone through Motorola. But there were a lot of things that went into the process that could have allowed some of these issues to crop up. For one, other manufacturers could feel threatened by Google now that it’s getting into the hardware game. While Google has traditionally been a software company, creating hardware could make other manufacturers wary of Android. They could feel that Google might have an unfair advantage in the market by creating both the hardware and software for its phones. In fact, it could drive Samsung, the largest manufacturer of Android devices, to break away and create its own operating system. (It has been rumored that the company is in the process of doing so).

Google has done some interesting stuff to combat that notion. For one, the Moto X isn’t available with Google’s latest version of Android, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Like many other new phones that are being released, it only ships with Android 4.2.2. Motorola and Google also promised fast updates, but the updates won’t come at the same time as the Nexus devices. Both of these are most likely moves to help alleviate manufacturer’s fears about the Moto X constantly being ahead of their phones in terms of software.

But tensions have allegedly rippled inside the companies, as well. The Wall Street Journal also reports that the father of Android, Andy Rubin, opposed the move to use Motorola as a hardware manufacturer. He wanted to keep Android completely open and free for everybody. You’ll remember that earlier this year Andy Rubin was moved from his position as the head of Android to a different position within Google. Perhaps this was part of the situation that got him moved.

The WSJ mentioned that Motorola employees have said that the relationship isn’t perfect. Communication between the Android team at Google and the engineers at Motorola has apparently been poor with e-mails going without reply and delays happening due to lack of response. Whether all of this is true or not is hard to confirm, but it’s easily believable.

So now we’re left with the Moto X, a phone that doesn’t completely fit in the high-end or mid-range categories. It’s got something that no other phone on the planet has with its customization options, and Motorola and Google have even managed to figure out how they can get it manufactured in the US without an extravagant priced.

But Google and Motorola need to get closer. They need to work better together and figure out how they can make this even better. Because the Moto X is a mixed bag for just about everyone. It’s got the customization, but the specs aren’t quite as high-end as some would have preferred. Its price isn’t crazy, but it’s higher than many had expected. So will it sell? I believe that it will, but I also believe that the plan could have been executed in a much neater fashion. The customization exclusive with AT&T is sure to be a negative factor and doesn’t do anybody any good.

How do you think Google and Motorola could have made the Moto X better?

Source: WSJ

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @nsarafolean.

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  • redraider133

    With all the skins and the like most normal people wouldn’t have an idea about updates anyway. Otherwise none of these skinned phones would sell. I’m interested to see how “fast” the updates end up being and how well it sells out I the gate

  • Michael

    Maybe Motorola/Google will realize they priced this device a little too high and lower it just in time for the Christmas sales ;) Wishful thinking on my part.

    • Rodd

      it will be totally irrelevant by then..
      everyone’s attention will be on the new nexus in a few months

    • droidguyuk

      You are right! Shame it was not $100 from the get go… Or the same deal as nexus 4 urs for $350 or $99 on contract …. Google needs to shake up the mobile carriers who are taking the piss with bloatware and prices ..

  • Steven Holms

    People need to get over the core wars. While I won’t be buying one, I can tell you after reading Ars Technica’s preliminary benchmarks that this is far ahead of a “mid-range” device. The screen will be roughly equal to that of a Nexus 4, and last I heard that’s not a “mid-range” phone. CPU and GPU performance are on par with the Galaxy S IV Snapdragon edition, and in some cases, it scores even higher.

    Not only will it perform like a high-end phone, it will use less power, due to running less cores. Which is probably a good thing, since it keeps at least one of the specialized cores running even during sleep to allow for “always-on” voice activation.

    Not saying the Moto X is perfect, but from a pure performance and features standpoint, it is comfortably a high-end phone. Doesn’t win every spec, but I’d say it’s mid-high-end, which is roughly what I’d classify the Nexus 4.

  • Steven Holms

    Oh, and the reason the price is so high is because it’s not being built through slave labor, which usually adds a little to the price. But as I said before, it’s a high-end phone, so it’s really not that over-priced, especially after adding in the additional costs incurred from being made in the US.

  • Trevor Cameron

    Best post Moto X release article I have read yet by far. Well done!

    • Raptor

      +1 for article given the suspicion that it is not allowed to authors criticize and just say straight that this phone was the public’s loooongest fart of Goooooooo

  • troysyx

    Is this a great phone? Yes. Are the customizations really great and unique? Yes. Is it overpriced? A little. They almost have it right. I truly don’t need a 1080p screen. I don’t need a quad core processor. But when similarly priced phone’s have a lot higher specs, you have to wonder why its such a high price. I have an HTC One now and was tempted with the Moto X when the rumors were high. But with a (I’m assuming) high unlocked price, it doesn’t offer me enough to switch.

  • rank78

    ‘it only ships with Android 4.2.2′

    You do realize 4.3 was just released a week ago, to the Nexus 7 and maybe another Nexus device. The use of ‘only’ seems to be a bit of an exaggeration lol

  • GrendelJapan

    Google has always needed a hardware division to hedge against OEMs developing their own mobile OS, just as OEMs have always needed alternative OSes to hedge against issues with Android.

    I would hope that Google isn’t intentionally hindering Motorola for the sake of mollifying OEMs and/or carriers. Maybe the short-term numbers for doing that work out, but you’d really need to be careful not to mess with the Motorola brand.

  • MrMrMan

    I think a flagship phone should be at the bleeding edge of the market. This phone was surpassed by the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One before it was even released. No thanks.

    • NotRelevant

      Benchmarks say otherwise.

  • ojoavizor

    I think you miss the point. The MX best aspect is the always-on voice control and its integration with Google Now

  • david jones richrads

    Google never do anything without plan to get most out of it. They are gonna add local news to Google Now too

  • cyb3rjak

    I am very interested in this phone, the specs are great, while it is not the Ferrari of phones it does the job smoothly. If the battery life lives up to hype, I don’t see why it can’t be a top contender. Have we forgotten that the hardware is outpacing the software? Like the first hands on reviews, it runs fast, you’ll only notice the difference in performance when you’re running a benchmark. I don’t plan to buy a phone and run benchmarks all day everyday.

  • kishan

    I guess N5 idea is going to be scrapped. N series is to push hardware innvoation. But this around they do not want to jeopardize Moto X sales. So either they wouldn/t release N5 or they might just upgrade LG N4 and add LTE and other things and call it N5.


    • Fresh360

      Taylor (former owner of this site and the conductor of the Moto X hype train) stated Moto will make the new Nexus 4 and Google will introduce a Nexus 5 created by LG…The names won’t change with a new model (i.e iPhone 5, Galaxy S4, etc) but remain the same based on screen size just as its not the “Nexus 7 Two” its just a Nexus 7.

      His track record with the Moto leaks were spot on. Out of 10 leaks 9 were exact the only one he missed was the pricing, so I believe that a Moto N4 with bleeding edge specs is coming soon.

      Thank Goodness for my contract ends in December, by then all of the manufacturers cards will be on the table.

  • agenius

    while the wall Street Journal might think other manufacturers would be threatened, this is not the same as the other manufacturers actually being threatened. Samsung, for one, has NO reason to be (look at the numbers : ). The WSJ clearly has no idea how Samsung operates. They assimilate, they -never- concede defeat (& while Apple might think this unethical, I think that would be my own strategy if I were in the business, but then, I’m not competing with Samsung!)

    What Samsung WILL do (willing to put money on this) is incorporate the most interesting of the X’s innovations into the S5 & call it a day. heck, they might even do the X one better, wouldn’t surprise me in the least. makes sense, no?

  • spacefly

    Hmmm…well it will appeal to the patriotic but alienate the rest of the world, so no change there from Motorola. Google needs to get Motorola by the scruff of the neck, stop fannying around and show them whos boss, else there will be no more Motorola… but then again would that be such a bad thing?…The innovative giant that was, has long gone.
    Google/Motorola, you had your big chance with moto x…You messed up! You can still turn it around, if you can pull a rabbit out of the hat, if you really want to that is???

  • donger

    Let’s just wait and see how the Moto X will sell.