Sunday, August 4, 2013

Motorola Moto X: Overhyped and Under-delivered

So it's finally arrived, the much vaunted X phone that has been rumored since shortly after Google purchased Motorola. For the last two months or so, a constant flood of rumors and leaks have taken a lot of the thunder out of the reveal. Much of the hype came from the customization rumored for the phone. However, ultimately, there just isn't much to be interested in.

Let's just start off with the phone itself. The Moto X borrows a lot of design cues from its main rival, the LG Nexus 4. Overall, the basic shape is the same. The X is slightly shorter and not as wide which makes the screen dominate the phone and eliminates a notification light. The back, however, has a rounded shape which according to most people who've played with it, is very comfortable to hold. 

Internally, the Moto X comes with the X8 processor system on a chip designed by Motorola. It claims to have two CPU cores, a natural language processor, contextual processor, and a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU. The reality is it's just a modified Snapdragon MSM8960T. It does have more similarities to the Nexus 4's S4 Pro APQ8064 and the newer Snapdragon 600, but let's not kid ourselves here: there's nothing revolutionary about the phone's specs. Everything else is merely passable in the smartphone wars: 720p screen, full compliment of modern versions of things like Bluetooth and GPS, 2200 mah battery, etc.

So what's the big deal? Well, the customization, camera, and software modifications. 

The customization early on was rumored to be like what we have with laptops and PCs: the ability to adjust nearly everything internally such as processor, RAM, storage, etc. What we got was the ability to choose a backplate, accents, frontplate, engraving, and a few minor things like wallpapers. That's it. Is it awful? No. It's a step in the right direction towards moving other manufacturers to make more customizations, but it's not the same level of customization that the computer market has.

The camera is supposed to have Clear Pixel technology which is a sensor that allows more light for better pictures. On paper, it looks like it will, but I'll need to see comparisons in the future to determine if this is true. The software mods are somewhat interesting, but nothing revolutionary. The big things were "always-on" microphone that allows you to talk the phone like you would Google Glass without even touching it, capitalizing on the AMOLED screen technology to deliver notifications, and the quick gesture to open the camera. That's it. Everything else is pretty much stock Android 4.2.2. Not even 4.3.

So overall, the phone does break a little new ground, but it's really more against other manufacturers than something the consumer should jump for joy over. I'll admit, it is a good step in diversifying yourself in a market flooded with Samsung and Apple. 

The biggest problem isn't the phone itself, it's the usual politics that follow it. Motorola isn't going the Nexus route initially and selling on the cheap. It's going through the carriers which under normal circumstances is fine, but we're seeing exclusivity again. AT&T will get not only the phone first, but the option for Moto Maker first to customize your phone (the phone without customization is 16GB and black or white only). The Galaxy S4 was such a huge hit not just on specs or recognition, but due to the fact that it was available on every carrier at almost the exact same time with no exclusivity to it. 

Even worse, Motorola expects consumers to pay $199 for an on contract price. This leads most to believe that off contract prices are going to be near $600. Aside from the exclusivity and the fact that it may take time for Moto Maker to trickle out to the general public, this is largely the issue that's going to make or break the Moto X. The general consensus on the web is that the Moto X just isn't a high end phone. It has no specs that meet or beat the current high end market. This combined with the fact that it is competing directly with the extremely cost friendly Nexus 4 is going to lead to disaster. Motorola says an unlocked Google Play Edition and a "cheaper" variant will be coming soon. The big question is: what are they going to reduce from an already mid-range spec device to make it cheaper and why should the public bother?

If there's one more nail in the coffin, it's this: the Moto X is only going to be available in the USA. Yep, Motorola's big comeback is only going to be available to a market of 300 million people as opposed to the 7 billion that are on the planet. 

In short, Motorola is marketing the experience as opposed to the hardware. That's right, they're trying to take a page from Apple on this one. The problem is they don't have the rabid, backbone following nor the charisma. This is only going to spell disaster for the company. Although jingoistic notions of "assembled in the USA" are heartwarming to say the least, Motorola is marketing to a virtually non-existent following who live in America, will buy anything American, and have way too much disposable cash. Good luck finding all those customers, even with the $500 million advertising Google is going to funnel you. Hopefully, they'll learn from their mistakes on this one and do better next time...if they're still around. We all know how Google likes to give the ax to projects. 

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