With the launch of the Moto X, Google's Motorola unit not only gets a flagship phone but an avenue to retool its image to one that's more fashionable. Perhaps Android can appeal to a mass market sans the spec-happy, industrial and ridiculously large screens favored Google's phone partners.
Let's face it: Android historically has been for people that like specs, like to tinker and don't mind 5-inch screens. Why is there a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini? Because the Galaxy S4 is basically a phablet. Motorola's previous Android devices also appeal to a certain niche.
The Moto X won't wow anyone with its specs and that's fine (see CNET review and roundup). It's a midrange phone that speaks to the masses at $199 with a two-year contract. There is a decent amount of fashion sense to it and a few features that may differentiate the device from the pack. But more importantly, the Moto X doesn't really alienate anyone. The phone will appeal to women as well as men. The geek and the non-geek. Is Moto X the reason Google bought Motorola? We'll see.
It's unclear whether Moto X, really a Google Phone, can develop that emotional attachment that Apple's iPhone has, but it certainly has a shot. Here's why:
- Customization: Via Moto Maker, an application that will land first at AT&T and Best Buy, colors and other features can be customized and delivered in days. That customization enables a bevy of colors for a device that can be held in one hand. There are two front colors, 18 back colors and 7 accents. That level of options is could be a supply chain nightmare. If Motorola can deliver, it'll be able to leverage its U.S.-based manufacturing hub more effectively than rivals building devices in China or Korea.
- Touchless control. After playing with Google Glass for a while, it's clear that there's something interesting about talking to a device to activate it. Moto X will listen for you to say "OK Google" and ask for something. From there, it's up to Google to deliver your answers.
- The phone isn't about the specs. Moto X doesn't have the best screen on the market and doesn't even run the latest Android. That latter point is absolutely crazy. However, running the latest Android may not matter much to the average bear.
Moto X is an interesting experiment in the Motorola-Google era. Two years since Google acquired Motorola, it's about time there's a mashup worth monitoring.