On the Moto X and Android domination

Summary: The new flagship phone for Motorola, Google’s mobile hardware subsidiary, the Moto X has grabbed the tech industry’s attention. It is made in the US and comes with a lot of flashy customization features. I think the phone is a bit disappointing. But it won’t matter because the Android ecosystem is so large now that its momentum cannot be stopped.

My schedule hasn’t permitted me to write about the much-hyped Moto X that Google released last week. I am glad I waited however because the news flow gives a lot more overview so I have also posted the most relevant links below.

I haven’t used a Moto X. So I have to go on reviews alone. From the reviews, it sounds like it will be a good seller. But the phone has problems that may keep it from iPhone or Samsung-like cult status. What I had anticipated was high-end phone that would sell at a reasonable price to as many consumers as possible. Instead, what the Moto X is, is an iPhone for Android users. With the Moto X, Google is trying to end the ‘specs war’, where the phone with the best and fastest and biggest wins irrespective of usability. They are positioning the phone as the most customizable and usable Android phone ever. And in this sense, they are taking a page out of Apple’s book. Apple sells its products as lifestyle gadgets that are easy to use an look great and that simplify life, making the iPhone and the Mac status symbols that command premium prices despite not having top-end hardware. This is where the Moto X is headed.

I won’t go into all of the features here since this isn’t a product review but the cool factor is in the voice control and customization. Everyone is talking about Motomaker, the site that let’s you design the exterior of your made in the USA Moto X exactly to your specifications. This is what is going to make this phone sell. And from the reviews, the phone is a smooth operator that will make its owners sing its praises and increase sales by word of mouth.

Here’s the problem. The phone is going to be sold on contract at $199. This phone’s customization comes first via an AT&T-exclusive. And this phone’s bootloader is locked on both Verizon and AT&T, allowing those telecoms to install bloatware you can’t remove. What that means is that the US is still a handset-subsidized telecom-controlled mobile market in which the mobile operators try to increase switching costs by locking their device down onto their network – and Google/Motorola is keeping this game going.

In fact, the only mobile operator in the US which is moving against the tide here has been shut out of the Moto X stakes. It will not be able to sell the device even though the device is compatible with it’s network. AllThingsD gets it right saying:

Motorola has said the device will sell for $199 with a two-year contract on all four major carriers plus US Cellular. It’s not quite clear what that means at T-Mobile, which recently stopped subsidizing phones, but does allow customers to finance them over 24 months.

AT&T appears to have the broadest Moto X lineup, as it has a temporary corner on the market when it comes to the much-touted customization options for the Moto X.

I see this as a missed opportunity.

Moreover, the Moto X continues the move toward iPhone-like battery and memory lockdown. Everyone in the Android world knows that the easiest way to extend the daily life of a phone is to swap the battery out if it runs low on power. The sale of replacement batteries is legend in Android world. But the Moto X doesn’t have a removable battery. Just like the iPhone, it is locked into place. Swapping in a big memory card is another trick Android users use to extend the working life of a phone that is running short on internal memory as it ages. Like the iPhone, this phone doesn’t permit external memory cards.

I think I’m being  bit nitpicky here though. Overall, the reviews are positive and Motorola says they intend to come out with a cheapie version of the phone. So I do expect big sales that put Motorola back in the game.

Android as a platform, however, is going from strength to strength. I n Q2 a full 80% of handset sales worldwide were Android. That’s 8-0 as in eighty, not 1-8. Yes Apple is making a lot of money now, but how can one seriously think this will continue when the other big platform dominates 80% of the market. That’s up from 75% in Q1. Windows computer maker Acer is even moving into the Android market because it sees the writing on the wall. The future looks very bright for Android.

I will leave it there for now. Here are the Moto X links. Enjoy.

P.S. – Let me know if you buy one.

Motorola CEO: Don’t worry, cheaper Moto X in the works | Mobile – CNET News

“Price-sensitive consumers may be turned off by the $199 price tag of a Moto X with a two-year contract. But a cheaper version of the product is likely on the horizon.

In an interview with CNET Thursday, Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside said that the flagship Moto X is just one of many new devices coming out under the Moto X brand in the coming months.”

How to Get Some of the Best Moto X Features on Your Android Phone Now

“Last week, Motorola announced its new flagship handset, the Moto X, that included some sweet new features. The phone isn’t out yet, but you can duplicate some of the functionality right now.

While the Moto X hasn’t been turning many heads for its specs, it does offer some unique software features that catch the eye of users and developers. Some have already been recreated for other devices, while some have existed before. Not everything is available, but here are some of the things the Moto X promises that you can do right now.”

Moto X Review: The Android Phone for Everybody

“When we first got our hands on the Moto X last week, we were way more impressed than we thought we’d be. We’ve been using and abusing it since then, and we’re happy to say that the good first impression has held up. Forget specs. This is a phone that punches above its weight.”

Why the Moto X is My New Phone…Until the Next Nexus Arrives [Opinion] – Droid Life

“When the Moto X finally goes on sale at the end of this month, I’ve pretty much made up my mind that it’s going to be my next phone. After spending the last week or so with a review unit (be sure to read our review), I like everything about it, even with its higher-than-expected price tag and mid-range-type specs (though they are still painful at times in the back of my mind). The overall package, which includes 99.1% stock Android, solid camera, good display, set of new features I actually use, and a body that feels better in hand than almost any other phone on the market, is something I can get down with. So yeah, I’m ready for my MotoMaker-made Moto X to take me through a couple of months of use before the next Nexus arrives. That’s right, as much as I’m a fan of Motorola’s new flagship, the next Nexus is also on the horizon. What a world we live in. “

Moto X Review (2013) – Droid Life

“To me, MotoMaker is going to be the #1 reason that average consumers will choose to buy this phone. The price sure isn’t going to be it. The software features like Active Display are awesome, but those don’t sell a phone like giving someone the power to select a personalized set of colors and engraving will. “

Motorola Moto X (Verizon Wireless) Review & Rating | PCMag.com

“Even though the Galaxy S 4 retains our Editors’ Choice, if I was to personally pick an Android phone right now, the Moto X would be my phone. It’s the right size, and Motorola’s exclusive features like Motorola Connect, Motorola Care, and the twisty camera speak to things I do every day. It’s just a pity that Verizon customers won’t get Motorola’s customization options, which are, for now, exclusive to AT&T.”

Why You Should Consider the Moto X [Opinion] – Droid Life

“The Moto X is not the best Android phone if your expectations include the best processor, the best display, stock Android, and no carrier interference for updates. If that’s what you want, then keep dreaming. If, however, you want a phone lets you customize its hardware and software, has pleanty of power, and is going to be available on every major carrier, then I think you ought to consider the Moto X. There will always be another phone with a higher resolution screen or a processor with more power than you need or more megapixels. If you want power and top of the line specs, go get an S4 or a One; you’ll be happy with either phone. The Moto X isn’t about overwhelming you with specs; it’s about meeting your needs as a device while tailoring itself to your aesthetic tastes. The Moto X really is the first phone that can be designed by you in a meaningful way.”

Moto X review: The Android phone that does surprisingly more with less — Tech News and Analysis

“Motorola calls this phone a “flaghip” phone. On paper, that’s questionable since it doesn’t use the latest processor, has a 720p display and has a camera sensor that’s unproven in practice. But in my experience, it offers a “flagship” experience and that’s really what counts.

It also may be the best small Android handset on the market. Unlike the mini versions of other leading phones which cut both corners and size, Moto X offers an outstanding overall experience while not being a huge handset. And while some of its advanced features can be replicated through third-party apps, Motorola is smartly making them native to the phone. That makes for a solid blend of hardware, software and usability; something that the iPhone has done for years but few Androids have been able to accomplish.”

With Moto X, Google Android is about to have its iPhone moment — Tech News and Analysis

“With so many different Android phone models comes a wide variance in hardware, software and design, so a single Android phone can’t compete against the iPhone. Or can it? We may find out with Moto X: Google’s Android phone for the masses.”

The Moto X proves Google still needs the Nexus program | The Verge

“The Moto X has finally been revealed and although it’s the first phone that truly reflects the new company’s post-Google philosophies, it’s thoroughly a Motorola phone, not a Google phone. It’s not running the latest version of Android, it’s being sold in partnership with the carriers, and it’s priced like a traditional smartphone instead of as a low-cost Nexus. It could be disruptive, but it’s more likely to stake out a middle road. Motorola insists that it’s just another phone maker to Google.

Now that we know what the Moto X is — and more importantly what it isn’t — we can say pretty definitively that for the time being, the job of pushing Android forward falls to the same people it always has: Google’s Android team and the Nexus program.”

Hell No Moto X | TechCrunch

“Google had a chance to reinvent a brand and an entire market with Motorola, but instead we got a phone that looks to be on par with some of the better Android phones available, but not better than the best out there, like the Galaxy S4 and HTC One. It definitely doesn’t seem to have what it takes to turn around the flagging fortunes of a once-great mobile phone brand, and at $199 on contract I wonder if it’ll even be able to trade its “Made in USA” cachet for decent domestic success.

I was looking for a phoenix from Motorola after Google’s acquisition and clearing of its existing, decidedly lackluster device pipeline; what it looks like we got instead were some ashes artfully arranged in a bird-like pattern, but still subject to being blown away by the slightest gust of wind.”

Google Leans on Motorola With Moto X, Hardware Push – WSJ.com

“There were culture clashes as well. Andy Rubin, who led Android operations for eight years at Google until this March, supported keeping Android as an open platform and opposed embracing Motorola more closely, people familiar with the matter said.

Some Motorola workers who had developed close relationships with Google employees while working on products before the acquisition found their emails went unreturned after the takeover, the people said.

Those tensions were felt during the development of the Moto X, which Motorola’s new bosses from Google singled out to develop as its flagship device.”

A Look at Verizon Bloatware on the Moto X – Droid Life

“pre-installed Verizon apps that cannot be removed.

In the set of screenshots above, we’re counting nine (9) in total – Caller Name ID, Mobile Hotspot, NFL Mobile, QuickOffice, Verizon Tones, Voicemail, Setup, My Verizon, and VZ Navigator. Now, you could argue that a couple of those aren’t actually bloatware and that they are useful, but by our standards, they make the cut.

You could probably toss in Assist, Migrate, and Moto Care if you were getting really picky, but since those are a part of the Moto X experience, we are leaving them out.”

Motorola Clarifies The Moto X Bootloader Situation: Unlockable On Most Carriers, Developer Editions For AT&T And Verizon

“it sucks being a Verizon or AT&T customer who wants to customize his or her phone. These companies have shown downright contempt for modders and custom ROMs, and developer editions are barely a solution (at least not on Verizon, where they are frequently late and available in extremely limited quantities). This is particularly frustrating for the Moto X, because these developer editions are unlikely to be available from the Moto Maker website, and may not come in a 32GB version either.

But the percentage of consumers who insist on relatively open hardware is small enough that it just doesn’t matter to them. Those of us who fit into this small segment are going to have to suck up and deal with it, or move to a less restrictive cellular provider.”

AT&T says it will not support unlocked bootloaders once and for all | Android and Me

“Verizon has long been on an anti-modding streak, locking down every Android phone that comes through their doors. This includes offerings from HTC, Samsung, and Motorola. In fact, Verizon’s Motorola devices used to be the king of locked bootloaders, with a system that took quite a while to crack. But they aren’t alone anymore. It seems that, with the Galaxy S 4 onward, AT&T is joining the movement to keep you out of your own device. “

AnandTech | A Quick Look at the Moto X – Motorola’s New Flagship

“The Moto X is a hugely aspirational product for Motorola, nee Google. Before its acquisition, Motorola had worked itself into an odd place in the US market. The handset maker primarily worked for Verizon as an ODM for the Droid lineup, and sold phones internationally in China and Europe. With the Moto X, Google is attempting to re-launch Motorola, a product which it views as the canonical first device under Google guidance.”

Moto X vs. the world: spec sheet smackdown | The Verge

“Motorola’s long-rumored Moto X smartphone has finally appeared. It’s a slick looking device with hundreds of color options that can constantly listen for voice commands and subtly wake up portions of its display to reveal notifications. The Moto X is supposed to be Motorola’s first big step toward making a smartphone under Google’s influence. It looks great, but with mid-range specs, the question remains as to whether it’ll be able to stand up to Apple’s iPhone and the great Android devices already on the market.”

Moto X by the numbers | Android and Me

“Looking for a complete Moto X specs cheat-sheet? You’ve come to the right place. Below, you’ll find an in-depth listing of everything inside, and outside, the brand spankin’ new Motorola Moto X – 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Pro, 4.7-inch 720p AMOLED display, 2GB of RAM and all.”

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