Friday, August 2, 2013

Google's New Phone: The Moto X

The Moto X

By Sam Grobart

Since Google (GOOG) bought Motorola Mobility back in 2011, the latter has been making smartphones—but those phones didn’t really matter (sorry, Droid Razr Maxx HD). Today, however, Motorola unveiled the Moto X. This one matters.
Why? Because it’s the first phone built entirely on Google’s watch. Google knows it has to move into making devices—its strategy of seeding Android into hardware for free has led to great mobile market share but not great mobile profits. Hardware equals hard currency, and no doubt Google is tired of seeing companies like Samsung (005930:KS) make a killing off work done in Mountain View.
Motorola introduced the Moto X at an event in New York on Thursday morning. The presentation departed from the standard playbook right from the beginning, as Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president in charge of Moto X, jumped in by talking about Touchless Control, the phone’s hands-free, voice-activated interface. You can say to the phone, “OK, Google Now. Call so-and-so,” or “Find a sushi restaurant nearby,” or “Did the Mets win last night?” Since Google structures more and more of its search data, questions like the last one can be processed and answered via a synthetic voice. (“No. They lost 3-2 to the Marlins,” the phone replies.)
Unlike most new-product launches, the proceedings here did not start with the product, but with the services. There was no video showing off the beautiful curves or chamfered edges of the Moto X, which will come out at the end of August with a base price of $199 for the 16GB model ($249 for 32GB). We learned about the camera (it comes on when you twist the phone twice) and the Active Display (relevant info pops up on the lock screen when you move the phone), and then only at the end did we get into the hardware side of hardware.
Funny thing is, there’s actually something interesting happening with the Moto X as a device, not just a collection of services. The phone’s design is certainly attractive—its slim bezel and curved back fit right in with modern phone design—but it’s what buyers can do with the design that may help distinguish it from the rest of the smartphone pack.
Motorola will launch Motomaker, an online service that allows users to custom-order their phone in a combination of colors and materials, alongside the Moto X. The presentation referred to Nike’s (NKEID program, in which customers can personalize a pair of sneakers, and Mini’s endless combinations of accessories and finishes that prospective owners can sort through before buying a car.

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