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?