Can a build-your-own-phone save Motorola's bacon?
Rumors suggest this could be the next-generation of Motorola handsets.(Credit:http://www.tinhte.vn)
Forget all that chatter about how desperately HTC need big things out of the HTC One. Alas, they are not the only hardware maker looking for a hit in the Android space. Motorola, for its part, has been struggling to make much noise for the better part of of two years.
Ever since Google acquired Motorola, the mobile company has slowly faded into obscurity, releasing few phones and generating less excitement than in past years.Related stories:Google and Motorola marriage: Good for consumers?Android rumor roundupMotorola advisor hints at custom-built smartphonesMore Google Motorola X Phone rumors emergeGoogle X Phone to compete with Apple, Samsung
To be fair, Verizon has had success with the Droid Razr and Droid Razr Maxx as well as the HD successor. As one of the more popular series in the carriers lineup, Motorola has set the bar for all-day battery life in a smartphone.
The problem, however, is that outside of Verizon, Motorola hasnt produced very much at all. In fact, as of today there are only three models being offered between AT&T (Atrix HD) and Sprint (Admiral, Photon Q). T-Mobile doesnt have any Motorola devices on its roster today and, hasnt for some time.
Think back just a few years when there seemed to be an endless stream of releases. Sure, many of which were knocked for the Motoblur experience but there was plenty to choose from, not matter which carrier you had. Today, it seems that you only have one choice for Motorola; Verizon.
Dont get me wrong, the Droid Razr Maxx HD is a great device; the thin design and Kevlar protection are simply wonderful. And that battery life? Unless you are buying an after-market battery, nothing else comes close.
Unfortunately, other companies are inching ever-closer to the all-day battery experience. Toss in advancements in cameras and standout software experiences and we find that the Motorola lineup is fast-becoming stale and uninspired.
X Phone, the custom phone?
If you have been closely following the Android space lately then youve likely heard about the X Phone project, a rumored buying model that could consist of multiple devices. Rather than releasing one killer device, the latest whispers suggest X Phone could be branding for a series of models, like the Samsung Galaxy or event Droid sub-brands.
Or, the X Phone project could allow for custom-built handsets that you design yourself. An AndroidAndMe source indicates that buyers may be able to configure details such as color, storage capacity, ringtones, apps, and more. Taking things further, the blog alludes to memory and processor customization as well as carrier support. Reportedly, Motorola plans to deliver your tailored Android device in about a week.
We still need limits
As much as I would like to see this level of customization in an Android device, I fear this could ultimately prove to be a slippery slope to more obscurity. Should online purchase be the only way to purchase a next-generation Motorola handset, the average buyer could opt for something else, something easier. Its be better if Motorola could work with carriers to set up build-your-own-phone ordering stations inside retail stores.A Motorola retrospective (photos) 1-2 of 17Scroll LeftScroll Right
Even better, I would like to see Motorola offer a number of base models that feature a few unique characteristics. Perhaps screen size and resolution could be the starting point. If you want something at 4-inches, youll go with Model A. Want something in a larger 5.5-inch with 1080p HD resolution? Start with Model B.
I would also suggest that Motorola not overload customers with too many features from which to pick and choose. I would leave memory and processor completely off the table and limit to items such as internal storage and color. In the grand scheme of things, I would not stray far from how the Nexus smartphones are designed today.
One rumor being tossed around is that consumers can pick the software experience on the device and allow for hand-picked apps. To that I say no. Leave that alone and let people customize Android on their own end, as they do now. I would be interested in seeing profiles, though, similar to how Sprint has created ID Packs.
Where things could get really interesting would be to let users pick the overall software experience. Im not sure how easily this could be accomplished but I would simply love to see an option to turn off the Motorola touches and go with a more stripped down, vanilla Android. Heck, leave it on by default and let the more tech-savvy users go in and turn this off. Indeed, the first handset manufacturer to make this a reality could score major points in the Android space.
Staying with the software for a moment, Motorola could do well for themselves if they were the first smartphone maker to introduce Android 5.0. Rumored to be called Key Lime Pie, its still unclear what might lies ahead for the platform. Nevertheless, it would not hurt to be the only company running the newest version of Android, at least at the beginning. Google has not leveraged Motorola this way since the acquisition.
What about the overall design?
In looking at the alleged images of an upcoming Motorola handset, I like what I see. Gone are the squarish, angular shoulders that weve seen over the last few years. In their place, we have the more familiar curves and softer approach.
This could be one of Motorola's next-generation Android smartphones(Credit:http://www.tinhte.vn)
Sure, it looks like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus or LG Nexus 4, but thats not necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully the next generation of Motorola balances this gentler design with the splash-proof and scratch-resistant build from more recent models.
Recently uncovered patents suggest that Google could possibly bring bring backside controls to future devices. The next batch of Motorola handsets may be first to offer this feature, as evidenced in leaked images. Presumably, the rear sensor or button would allow users to turn a page of an ebook, advance a music track, scroll web pages, or cycle through images. Remember the Motorola Backflip and its rear trackpad? Imagine how could the experience would be if it was re-imagined with more general Android features and app navigation.
However, I say forget about laptop docks or any extra accessories along those lines. Make the X Phone device a great experience, with or without the backside sensor, and leave it at that.
At the absolute very least, I hope that Motorola is able to release the same experience across multiple carriers. Samsung, HTC, and LG are doing this with their current models; Motorola must do this to keep pace. Should the X Phone prove to just the overall branding of the next generation, Motorola should come out swinging for the fences.
Googles annual I/O conference takes place in less than two months, so were likely to learn more about Motorolas ambitions for 2013. Assuming that the X Phone makes an appearance at the annual conference, we should anticipate more leaks and rumors in the coming weeks.
What would you say to Motorola if you were given the chance? How would you design the next series of smartphones and how would you market them? I would love to hear your opinions on Motorola and how you see things unfolding in the coming year.
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