Friday, 02 August 2013 10:07

The Moto X Looks Like An Overpriced Disappointment... Until You Look A Little Harder... Featured

Google has launched its first, conceived from scatch, phone - the Moto X. It was rumored to be priced between $200 to $250. This would have been a game changer for it meant that its competitors (who are also its business partners) would have had to slice thier margins to compete. As it turned out, the Moto X branded phones are priced at $199 on contract, ie. the same price as all of the other high end phones. The big problem with this is that the Moto X has middling specs as well as middling benchmark scores. That's a tad bit disappointing for us techie/nerds.

But then, I actually looked at the device and the business model around it. To beign with, Google/Motorola has focused on software rather than hardware. This is, in part, what Samsung has tried to do but Samsung is several generations behind Google Android, despite being able to piggyback off of Android functionality. By bringing the fight to the software cloud, Google can make drastic usability changes, some profound and some actually rather ubiquitous - simply not properly marketed.

A good example is reliance on Google Now, what Siri would look like if it actually worked. Ironically, this is probably the Moto X's killer app/feature. Google Now is by far my favorite mobile assistant. The catch is you can use it on any phone that runs Android 4.04 or higher - which is most phones. The difference with the Moto X is that it's always listening, and now you can use it without touching your phone. Even if your phone screen is off, once the command is given (video examples show "Ok Google Now") the Moto X will activate and offer the info you're looking for - which can be quite wide and varied. Android algorithms apparently learn your voice, so (theoretically) only a really good impersonator could activate your phone with voice.

Google has kept the device and the battery small, as well as the processor. This keeps costs down (ie. margins up), but more importantly left room for software innovations to shine without hardware overhead. Examples? The wake from sleep feature allows users to glance at the phone to get pertinent information without the phone fully powering up. If you look at most people commuting, walking, or just standing still, they glance at their phones very often. It's not as if this glance conveys tomes of information and besteller novels. By leaving the AMOLED screen dark and illuminating a small section to convey pertinent timely info such as the time, notifications, etc., significant power is saved (the screen is the signle biggest battery hog) while convenience and user experience is simultaneously increased. 

The choice of screens show that Google is aiming for the mainstream and not the bleeding edge. Although I prefer a 1080p screen for resolution, it drains the battery much faster than a 720p screen. I notice the difference clearly, but most people wouldn't, although they would notice the 40% difference in battery life.

Camera performance is increased, while costs are maintained, reference Moto X camera specs leak, 10MP stills and 1080p@ 60 fps video 

According to Taylor Wimberly, former editor for Android and Me, the Moto X will feature a 10MP Clear Pixel camera with a pixel size of 1.4 microns. This means the pixels will be larger than those on the Galaxy S4 sensor (1.1µm), but smaller than HTC One's (2µm). The bigger pixels, combined with the Clear Pixel technology should go a long way towards improving the low-light performance.

The Motorola Moto X camera is said to be capable of recording 1080p videos at 60 frames per second - a first for a smartphone. The camcorder will use pixel binning, combining information from 4 pixels to reduce noise and provide clearer videos.

Finally, the Moto X will pack three microphones and will be capable of recording 3D audio.

60 fps 1080p video is piercing professional video quality. This is coupled with an intuitive interface that uses the phones sensors to trigger and fire the app versus actual tactile manipulation, resulting in faster picture taking and more contextual use - all with the leading camera specs.

Here's more on this topic Here's a hint Ultra HD 4000 x 2000 pixels is the highest video specification available for consumer media products. Sony, Pioneer and Samsung have just released TVs that can display this stuff, starting at over $60k when first released.

The Moto X’s camera actually supports Ultra HD (you just can’t use it)

Motorola is counting on three things to make the Moto X a success: Google Now, multiple colors, and its Clear Pixel camera, and now some extra details about the latter have emerged thanks to manufacturer OmniVision. The new OV10820 [pdf link] sensor may not have a snappy name, but it’s a mighty capable chip, in fact able to capture 4k2k Ultra HD video.


That’s assuming the rest of the device is up to the challenge, of course, which right now the Moto X is not. The new Motorola is in fact limited to 1080p HD video capture – which it can do with both its front and rear cameras, no less.

On paper, though, the OmniVision sensor is capable of a whole lot more. It can record up to 3840 x 2160 resolution video at 30fps, or up to 1920 x 1080 at up to 60fps, both at a native 16:9 widescreen aspect-ratio.

The sensor itself – described as RGB Clear (RGBC) – includes a fourth color filter for better low-light performance, which Motorola claims improves things by up to 75-percent on the Moto X.

... There are indications that the 10.5-megapixel sensor is only the start of things, too; the OV660 is in fact capable of handling up to 20-megapixel RGBC sensors, in addition to a secondary, front-facing RGBC sensor.

That could mean the same sort of low-light performance for your selfies in future iterations of the Moto X, though we’d be more interested in the potential of recording Ultra HD footage from a smartphone. Late last month, hints of Ultra HD support were spotted in Android 4.3 code, while long-standing rumors have suggested that the upcoming Sony “Honami” will support video recording at that resolution.

That is very serious for a small smartphone, and even more seriosu considering Motorola is keeping component costs down, thus working on increasing margins. I believe Google will do what Apple should have done, and that is it will create fatter margins and then commences to compress them themselves, in lieu of waiting for a competitor or new comer to do it for them. If so, expect these prices to either drop very, very quickly or expect this relatively new and apparently demanded technology to increase dramatically over a very short period of time - or worse for Samsung/Apple/Nokia/HTC,  both will occur simultanesouly. Expect the smartphone race to heat up substantially in just a few weeks. Samsung and Apple are going to have to pull some pretty big rabbits out of their asses! 

The customs order features are a unique edge. It remains to be seen how well this will work in the smartphone field, but then it again its awhat made Dell what it was!

What should we expect next? Well, for one it appears as if Google is taking the Moto X very, very seriously. How seriously? Let's count the ways...

2013 google io rumor roundup motorola nexus x

 Google is launching the Moto X on ALL major carriers simultanesouly, with no major skinning to the OS. That's right, damn near stock Android on every major outlet in the most lucrative cell phone markets - with direct access through Google Play Store. Sans the playstore, the only other OEM to do this was Samsung with the Galaxy S4, and you see how that turned out. In addition, Google is about to spend half of Apple’s annual marketing budget promoting a single phone...

Google's Moto X advertising budget will be up to half a billion dollars, or half as much as the $1 billion Apple spent advertising ALL of its products in 2012. Of course, the current Android handset leader Samsung's marketing budget topped out at $4 billion in 2012There's no big mystery as to why Samsung came out on top, eh?

Samsung’s advertising budget makes other tech companies look stingy.Asymco

Quoted from the article linked above:

There is some industry precedent for getting ahead by spending heavily on advertising. Some have argued that Samsung’s dominance of Android smartphones and its market share victories against Apple are due almost entirely to Samsung’s massive advertising budget. While Apple failed to maintain its advertising spend as a percentage of revenue on its mobile devices—essentially coasting on existing brand recognition—Samsung ramped up its ad budget to more than 15% of sales.

Samsung’s spending on advertising goes up every quarter to keep pace with revenue.Asymco

Similarly, Google’s half-billion dollar advertising campaign could threaten Apple, but it’s more likely to threaten Samsung, which until now has been the market share leader in Android smartphones. Consumers will benefit as Google begins to compete directly with the companies that made Android so popular—so long as they can see through the massive fog of marketing that’s about to roll their way.

BoomBustBloggers knew this was coming as early as last year, reference Thoughts on Glass, Fashion, Fads, Moto X and Samsung's Phenomenal Yet Brief Trip To The Top

as well as:

Subscribers, click the following links for my updated price targets on Google (click here to subscribe) and read  Google Q2 2013 Update: Valuing Possibly The Most Powerful Co. In The World?:

The biggest risks to these price points are:

  1. A market that's being levitated by central bank magicians running short on magic spells...
  2. Regulatory pressure, which I feel is quite material and inevitable, but will not be a major factor in the near term.

Related links...

Was The Google Purchase of Motorola A Hardware Disaster With Overpriced Patents?

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