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Moto X: Innovation or US$500,000,000 of hype?


The Moto-X?
The Moto X?

Image Credit: gaurav2328

A lot of buzz is building around the Moto X. Things started to hit the high gear back at the AllThingsD’s annual D11 conference. Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside disclosed that the newly announced Motorola X phone will have two separate processors. The pair is designed to improve battery life, with a high-powered processor to tackle more intensive task like gaming and streaming video, and a lower power processor to handle simpler tasks like calls and messaging.

More recently another “leak” from Motorola was that the camera of the Moto X will have a very fast shutter speed. Just two days ago, the company disclosed a feature it calls Open Mic. Just say “Ok moto magic”, or some other phrase you program yourself, and you will activate the Moto X’s virtual assistant app. Another piece of info released at the same time, was that one can activate the phone’s camera by simply twisting the wrist twice.

The way the new features of the Moto X are being discussed, you would think it is packed with a lot of innovative technology and ideas. From where I sit, nothing sounds all that new.

The combination of a higher powered and lower powered processor into one chipset is something we actually we saw late in 2011. The Nvidia Tegra 3 packed a 1.5 GHz quad core processor and a fifth 500 MHz single core processor. The 500 MHz processor, called a companion core, was designed to handle low powered tasks.

The very fast shutter speed is actually something that different technologies have been focusing on for the past two years. You just heard about it on the other end of the spectrum: better low light photography. When camera sensors are able to gather more light, they are able to take pictures with a higher shutter speed. I am curious though about how Motorola’s implementation, which it calls ClearPixel, will differ from Back Lit Sensor or HTC’s similarly sounding Ultrapixel technology. What would be interesting is if Motorola programmed the camera to detect motion and compute the appropriate shutter speed based on that.

Going over to Open Mic, this is really nothing new. Have any of you used Vlingo for Android? Vlingo was a virtual assistant which could be activated with the phrase “Hey, Vlingo”. I tried that app way back in 2011. You won’t find Vlingo on the Google Play store as it was purchased by Nuance in 2012, but Vlingo’s “always on” technology is rolled into Nuance’s own Dragon Mobile Assistant. S-Voice on the Samsung Galaxy S III also activates the virtual assistant with the words “Hi, Galaxy”. Open Mic, is not very novel.

Now, I have not seen an app that activates the camera by twisting it twice, a lot of apps have features activated by motion. Shake the phone and scramble the pictures. It is really the same principle. I really think I would rather have a dedicated camera button.

If you are an Android user watching an iPhone launch, the buzz around the Moto X should feel familiar. The Moto X launch appears to have taken a page out of the iPhone marketing playbook. Pre-existing technology and features are being touted as new and magical. Now I am not a Moto X hater. Apple’s iPhone marketing strategy does work and there is nothing like US$500,000,000 million in advertising dollars to make the average consumer take note of a feature they have overlooked for years.

The Moto X could really be an amazing phone. Execution is really the key. The novelty of the Moto X will not be on how many completely new features and technology it packs, but how well it implements them. Still, with all the buzz being generated, Motorola is setting the expectation bar really high, and this will make even a temporary setback rather damaging. Just remember Siri.

The company’s first ad for the Moto X, was one such setback.

“The first smartphone that you can design yourself. Because today you should have the freedom to design the things in your life to be as unique as you are…Designed by you.”

– Motorola.

Reading this, many were expecting more than personalized wallpaper, materials, colors and engraving. So Motorola has gotten our attention. If drops the ball, all the buzz will be labled a lot of hype. But there really is no other way to play this. In the game of phones, the meek does not inherit the earth.

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