As someone who had been anticipating the Moto X since I first heard about it, I’ve been extremely disappointed by the details released at launch. It went from a great value with unique differentiators, to an expensive Motorola catastrophe. I’d like to create a timeline from my perspective of the development of rumors to the release of the Moto X phone.
Initial reports referred to the Moto X as the “X Phone”. Motorola Mobility had been purchased by Google in 2012, and had yet to produce any significant products under Google’s wing. This “X Phone” was to be the first Google + Motorola phone, and was rumored to be a superphone that would blow us all away.
Initial rumors were sketchy: I read various reputable news sources reporting rumored specs of a water resistant phone with a 4.8” nearly unbreakable sapphire screen, carbon fiber back with rubberized corners, and an impressive quad core Snapdragon 800 processor running at 2 GHz paired with a jaw-dropping 4000 mAh battery. We also knew that Motorola had a new facility near Fort Worth, TX where they planned on assembling these phones.
Soon after, we were disappointed to hear the rumored specifications had changed to a 1.7 GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 processor, and that the phone would have a 720p screen (rather than the 1080p that was becoming standard on high end phones). I saw this as a tradeoff, figuring Google was doing what it has done in the past with Nexus devices. That is, make a device with respectable mid-range specifications to sell at a reasonable off-contract price so that consumers could purchase one whenever they feel like. I was content with this tactic, though personally I would have preferred something with the best possible specs.
We then started seeing leaked images of the phone, and heard about a variety of different sensors that would be packed into it to give it unique abilities and features. At this point we already knew what the phone would be called: the Moto X.
I thought these sensors were cool - that the features would be interesting, but I was more interested in the specifications and pricing. What I was hoping to see was a Nexus device that was not simply created by a partner of Google, but rather made by Google (which owns Motorola Mobility). This would allow them to be uncompromising in their design, giving them the ability to really strive for excellence.
Soon, more rumors began to fly. I heard that this Moto X would be customizable, and that was part of the reason it was being assembled in the US. It sounded like Google would let customers choose various specifications of their phone when purchasing a Moto X, much like a laptop. This was exciting, as it was something never before done. Even if we wouldn’t be able to choose the processor or battery, we might be able to choose how much RAM it came with, or how much storage space it had, or what screen resolution you wanted. Even if it would be more expensive, being able to customize your phone would certainly be worth the extra expense.
Unfortunately that rumor was short lived. It quickly became apparent that while Google and Motorola intended to let users customize their phones, they meant only aesthetically. Customers would be able to choose the color and possibly the material of the phone’s chassis, and get it engraved as well. This was certainly a unique approach, but one that ultimately provides no value. A large percentage of people end up covering their phones with a protective case anyways, making the customizations completely pointless. I was nervous at this point, because I was concerned that these customizations would add cost without adding value to the phone, though I was fairly confident that Google wouldn’t be silly enough to heavily impact the price of their upcoming flagship phone with something as ridiculous as superficial customization. I believed that they would provide the color customization options without increasing the price of the phone. It should be mentioned that at this point, analysts were fairly confident that the Moto X would be priced between $200 and $300. In my opinion, if Google and Motorola could offer those customizations while keeping the phone in that price range, it would be a nice (if useless) differentiator.
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