google-x-phone

AH Primetime: Motorola X Phone Roundup

April 28, 2013 - Written By Norman Yan

The Motorola X Phone or Google X is the phone that promises to revolutionize the smartphone industry and needless to say every tech enthusiast and their dog are excited about it. Despite having no official confirmation of the device with only little snippets from executives at Google with Eric Schmidt proclaiming future Motorola phones to be ‘phenomenal’ and how they will feature cutting edge technology. With all this anticipation the internet is ripe with rumors of the device and how it may herald in a new age. Obviously some of these rumors should be taken with a metric tonne of salt, so now we will be taking a look at all the rumors that have sprung up on the internet in an attempt to uncover the plausible rumors from the moonshots.

Display

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The screen is the most important part of the phone because it is the part you spend most of your time interacting with when using the device. The current trend amongst flagship smartphones are 1080p displays with the releases of the Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z amongst others, so the display on the X Phone will most likely have a 1920×1080 resolution in order to go head to head with the competition.

The size of the display is subject to debate with sizes ranging from 4.7 inches to 5 inches depending on the source. Jim Wicks, Motorola’s design chief has stated that “there is a sweet spot for consumers that we are currently exceeding in the market” and that the next Motorola device will have a screen that is “just right”. Obviously the right size for a phone varies from person to person, due to how people like to hold their device and the size of their hands. Research has shown that the best size of a phone’s display is anywhere from 4.3 to 4.8 inches. With technological constraints in mind, if the Motorola X Phone was to have a 1080p display the size of the screen will most likely be between 4.6 to 4.8 inches with 5 inches probably exceeding the sweet spot Wicks was referring to, however there were rumors that the phone would be customizable, so they might be multiple screen sizes available.

In regards to display technology of the device there has been almost a complete lack of rumors or reports on this area. Previous Motorola Droid RAZR phones have been utilizing a Super AMOLED Advanced (PenTile) display, while the latest generation of Google Nexus devices all utilize LCD panels. Samsung is the current leader in AMOLED technology yet in the Galaxy S4 they were only just able to fit in a 1080p PenTile display within a 5 inch footprint, because of the rumored size of the X Phone, that makes an AMOLED display less likely, even though technology may have advanced to the point where it is possible to fit in a 4.6 to 4.8 inch form factor, the display on the X Phone will most likely be a LCD panel.

A trend amongst current smartphone manufacturers is to utilize Cornings Gorilla Glass to protect the display. While the latest generation, Gorilla Glass 3 is extremely strong and resilient, it is still far from unbreakable as drop tests have proved. An alternative material would be sapphire, sapphire glass has been used in luxury watches for years now and is three times stronger and harder than Gorilla Glass. While the use of sapphire would increase the price of the device, it would also make the weakest part of the phone more durable and help accomplish Larry Page’s vision of an unbreakable phone.

Camera

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Google Nexus phones have never been famed for the quality of their cameras, the Galaxy Nexus receiving heavy criticism from reviewers for a sub par snapper. While the LG Nexus 4 has improved in this area it still isn’t brilliant. Motorola has also failed to shine in this aspect with last year’s RAZR HD’s weak cameras being a sticking point of many reviews. Vic Gundotra, Google’s Vice President of Engineering has promised to make future Nexus devices to have ‘insanely good cameras’. No doubt the X Phone will most likely feature an excellent camera, as for megapixel count it is hard to determine, while it could be easy to join in the megapixel arms race with a 13 megapixel camera, the same resolution used by the Galaxy S4 and Xperia Z, however the Nokia Lumia 920 is the current king of the hill when it comes to cameras and it only has a 8.7 megapixel snapper. The X Phone will most likely have a camera in the range of 8 to 13 megapixels.

Externals

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Motorola has been innovating when it comes to building materials for their devices. The Droid RAZR series have utilized Kevlar in their designs, which has proved itself to be both an extremely light and durable material. While there is no reason for Motorola to deviate from this design, there have been rumors of a carbon-fibre  While carbon-fibre is a more durable and lighter material than Kevlar, it is also more expensive and Google/Motorola are rumored to price this device quite aggressively  so it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing a carbon-fibre based design. The benefits of carbon-fibre are also negligible, because Kevlar has proved itself to be more than enough to protect the phone, so opting for something even stronger will be overkill.

Waterproofing phones also appears to be a growing trend amongst manufacturers. With the industry now favoring built-in batteries over removable ones, the need to waterproof devices has become even more important. The Sony Xperia Z and HTC Butterfly have proved that waterproofing a flagship device is possible and the previous Motorola Droid RAZR HD phones were splash proof, so taking the leap from splash-proof to waterproof should be a realistic option and I’ll be surprised if the X Phone isn’t.

The color of the device is also one of the issues that have been raising some eyebrows. The current trend amongst manufacturers is to release a black and white option, since those tend to be the most popular colors that always seem to sell, however Nokia and HTC have differentiated themselves from everyone else with their Windows phones that are offered in a range of color options to suit every taste. There has been a rumor that the X Phone will be offered in a dizzying 20 color options. Personally I would struggle to name 20 different colors, but having multiple color options is a lot more viable option than having customizable hardware that was rumored beforehand if Google wants to keep manufacturing costs down.

Internals

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Qualcomm Snapdragon or Nvidia Tegra? That is the big question mark over the processor that would be used in the X Phone. While there are other processors that would be available for purchase, such as the LG Odin and Samsung Exynos that use ARM’s big.LITTLE core technology, those system on chips (SoCs) would most likely find their homes in their respective manufacturer’s products. As for Intel, their chips are still lagging behind that of the competition, so they won’t be in contention for at least another generation. The Nvidia Tegra 4 processor has proven itself to be a mighty chip in benchmarks done during MWC, however the use of four A15 cores does raises concerns about power consumption as does the lack of integrated 4G LTE, while the Tegra 4i could be a possible alternative, this processor won’t be as powerful as the Tegra 4 and I don’t see Google opting for the second best, as a result the X Phone will probably have a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. This raises another question Snapdragon 600 or 800? The Snapdragon 600 is currently available and has proven itself to be fast chipset, however the Snapdragon 800s are slated to enter mass production in late May, which means they should be ready for release at around Q3 of 2013, which is also in a similar range as the X Phone, as a result the X Phone might not only contain the Snapdragon 800, but it will also be the first phone in the world to do so.

The battery of the phone is also an important area that is normally overlooked by the manufacturers, but Larry Page has promised it to be a key area of innovation. Motorola is already an industry leader in this area with the Droid RAZR MAXX and RAZR HD MAXX both contained a whooping 3300 mAh battery, the only phone that comes close to that is the Galaxy Note 2 and that only has a 3100 mAh battery fitted into a 5.5 inch frame. There has been rumours that the X Phone will in fact have a 4000 mAh battery, given Motorola’s past for fitting large batteries into smartphones, this will most likely be the case. Battery life should no longer be an issue for users with a battery of that size. This battery will probably be non-removable in order to accomplish a more flush and thinner design.

Regarding internal storage, the X Phone will probably have anywhere between 32 to 128 GB of internal storage built-in. The fact is flash storage is actually extremely cheap from the manufacturers point of view, with the different between a 32 GB and a 64 GB flash storage being only $8 on their end, yet they are able to charge consumers an extra $50 for it, meaning it’s a commercially viable option offering multiple a range of storage options. Because the X Phone isn’t strictly a Nexus device, that means we may also see a microSD slot on the device which will be a welcome addition to some, however with the range of storage options available it may prove to be redundant.

Software

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Jim Wicks, Motorola’s design chief has also noted how next generation Motorola phones will have a bloat-free unadulterated version of Android, which is great news for all fans of stock Android. The X Phones is also rumoured to be running Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, while the latest reports on Google I/O show the next version of Android being 4.3 Jelly Bean, the release date of the X Phone is slated a couple of months after Google I/O, a newer version of Android could well be available and ready to ship by then with the X Phone being the launch device with the new version of Android.

Release Date and Pricing

All reports regarding the release date point to August or later announcement. This date also seems a reasonable regarding potential hardware that would be found inside the device. The Snapdragon 800 SoC is slated to be released within the same window if the X Phone was to be released in August. On the software front Android 4.3 is the version of Android slated for Google I/O, giving Google another 3 months or more to work on the next version of Android, Key Lime Pie adding weight to this release date.

Pricing of the device is also unknown, but there have been reports it will be priced in the same ballpark as the LG Nexus 4. Because Motorola is now part of Google, they are able to internalize costs. Google will also be able to make the money back as a long-term investment through advertisements they earn through Android. Therefore a device being priced at around $350-450 off contract is reasonable, even with some of the hardware that is rumored to be going into the device.

What is your opinion of the X Phone, are you going to hold out until this device is released? What do you want to see in this phone, especially in regards to screen size, we would love to hear your thoughts.