RE: Specs on the Motorola Moto X
As a Motorola fanboy who has been waiting a long time for my favorite smartphone manufacturer to come out with a shiny new device for anyone other than Verizon, the Moto X has me more excited than a kid waiting for Christmas. Brand loyalty has been hard to maintain, what with the mediocre to bad phones Motorola has tossed to other carriers while they've remained chained to Verizon Wireless since the release of the original Droid, combined with ever more powerful and shiny devices released by HTC, Samsung, Sony and LG.
However, I can't shake the memories of the dogged loyalty shown to me by my V195s, Cliq, Droid X, and Atrix, and so I've waited with ever increasing eagerness for the Moto X through all of the half whispered rumors and sort of announcements which began last December. I've held onto my Atrix 4G for months past my upgrade eligibility, hoping against hope that the Moto X (previously known as the X Phone, X FON, and my favorite nickname ever, Ghost) would be worth the wait.
Now, in early July, the wait is nearly over. Motorola has released tantalizing teasers about the nature of the phone, hinting at never before seen levels of customization (in addition to different color choices, which other electronics have definitely done, a personalized engraving may be offered) and a situational awareness approaching the levels of HAL 9000.
However, as details have leaked about the Moto X's specs, there has been backlash among the throngs of geeks waiting for the coming launch of the phone, mainly dismissing the device before it's released because of its "underwhelming" rumored processor, which is supposedly a Snapdragon S4 Pro (we're fuzzy on whether it's dual or quad core). People also complained about the rumored resolution of the screen, which is likely to be 720p. Tech enthusiasts have dismissed the phone as merely midgrade in its technological aspirations.
The news that the processor on this phone wouldn't be an eyebrow singing Snapdragon 800 was disappointing to me too at first, as was the lack of 1080p sharpness. However, as I thought about it more, I realized a couple of things:
1. Aren't we a bunch of spoiled little brats?
2. Google and Motorola are playing it smart on this one.
Let me explain.
When Android first came out in 2008, it had the groundwork for an awesome operating system, and that potential has been more than realized. However, almost 5 years ago the reality of the system and the hardware it ran on was far from glamorous. Processors ran between 500 and 600 MHz, internal storage was laughably low, RAM was nearly nonexistent, and screen resolutions were pretty fuzzy. The fact was, Android's support for true multitasking (and many other revolutionary aspects which brought it closer to a desktop experience than even Windows Mobile could offer) made it extremely resource hungry and pushed the limited hardware of the time to its absolute limits.
Now, people loved the concepts involved with Android, but the sytem was buggy and slooooowwww, and paled in comparison to the smoothness of the iPhone. If the status quo remained for long, Android would be doomed to fail for much the same reasons Blackberry, Palm OS and Windows Mobile were getting crushed by iPhone sales.
Thus a twofold solution was born. Google immediately set out to work on the software, adding many, many, many features to make Android more efficient and run more smoothly. At the same time, an arms race began among Android manufacturers which nearly dwarfed the efforts of the Cold War powers. Within less than year of Android's explosion in popularity (courtesy of Verizon's advertizing blitz with the original Motorola Droid) processors jumped past the GHz barrier. A year and a quarter later saw the release of dual core GHz phones, and a doubling of RAM to 1 GB. Now, not even 5 years after Android's release and less than 4 years after its growth spurt began, we have clock speeds on QUAD CORE processors which hover at the 2 GHz mark. That would be a 12 times increase from the power on the original Droid, and that's not even counting graphics improvements and efficiency of the processors.
In the meantime Google has done wonders ironing out the wrinkles in Android. My Atrix 4G still lagged considerably with a Tegra 2 dual core processor and a gig of RAM (the first phone made with both at once) when it ran Android 2.2. Now, rooted and running 4.2.2, it's as smooth as any modern Android phone.
The point is, we've blown past the power levels necessary for Android to run smoothly and efficiently, which is what we cared about to begin with. Starting with the generation that saw the release of the Galaxy S3 and HTC One X/Evo LTE, I rarely have seen peoples' phones hang up or stutter significantly-and even the stuttering happens mainly when 20 apps have been left open at once.
Sure, there are going to be bigger and better games and such that will run better on the fastest hardware available, but for the most part, apps will run perfectly even on low to mid range Android devices being sold today.
However, in the 5 years it's taken us to reach this point, the growing legions of tech fans who use Android and make up the majority of commenters on news stories regarding the same have forgotten why we wanted bleeding edge specs to begin with. It's gotten bad enough that I've seriously seen people get conflicted between two phones because one's quad core processor has a clock speed 0.2 MHz above the other, even if they like everything else about the "slower" phone better than the "faster" phone.
At that level, it's like deciding between two supercars because one will drive 5 miles an hour faster than the other, when in reality you only need to go 70 miles an hour to begin with.
Segueing in and out of that metaphor, and onto my next point, the reason why Motorola and Google are playing it smart is because to the average consumer, specs mean squat. If clock speed and core count of processors meant everything, no one would buy iPhones because in both categories they get spanked even by free Android phones. The only spec I've seen an average customer get hung up about is megapixel count in a camera, and even that doesn't mean everything. Beyond that, they really, truly don't care. Anyone who did care has long since gotten smartphones already and has likely spent their upgrade (begged a family member to let them use theirs) to get an S4.
What customers care about are features, ease of use, reliability and convenience. Features is one category Android has nailed from the start compared to the competition, and Google and Motorola know this. Ease of use is a bit touchier, especially on stock Android. However, the only people who ever truly seem to have an issue figuring Android out are the people who go into it trying to find an excuse to declare the iPhone the better phone anyway. Motorola has proven time and again that when it gives a damn about the phone it's making, the phone will run through the circles of Hell itself before it'll die. As for convenience, the situational awareness of Google Now and Smart Actions is hinted at being expanded on with the Moto X.
Google and Motorola are also offering customization options with the phone, which will pique the interest of average consumers who are frustrated by the sameness of the iPhone and Galaxy series. The rumors also point to the price point being lower than the high end phones put out by the mainline Android manufacturers. Combine all of this and you have a very compelling choice for those shopping for a smartphone.
Google already proved with the Nexus 4 that if you give a phone good hardware and software and price it right, people will come running for it. Even if the Moto X is only ever sold as an unlocked phone and never on contract, if it's priced around the 300 bucks that the Nexus 4 is it'll do well. If it's offered at 100 bucks or less on contract with the major carriers it'll be a steal as well. Mid range specs only matter if Google and Motorola try to position it as a bleeding edge high end phone.
To go back to the car metaphor, Ford makes the Fusion, which is a pretty sporty looking mid sized sedan. If Ford were to push the Fusion as a direct competitor to the Corvette or Lamborghini, it would be laughed out of the market, and rightly so. However, the Fusion is not meant to fill a supercar role, and Ford isn't trying to sell it as such.
The Moto X, from all appearances, is supposed to be a phone that the average consumer can pick up and "drive" with minimal barriers in price or inconvenience, and like a car, there's even an array of personalized options to choose from, instead of the "Any color as long as it's black or white" attitude that everyone else in the industry has. It is not a Ferrari. It is not an Alienware computer. It's a sporty phone that may still offer software innovation as well as very respectable hardware at a good price.
And, despite the whining of the tech geeky fans in the market, that's all the Moto X should need to sell, and sell well.