Earlier today, Motorola unveiled the new waterproof Moto G, the Moto X Style and the Moto X Play. These devices are very much as expected: they represent an evolution of the former model, although the splitting of the Moto X range into two is an interesting twist on the device. However, as far as raw specifications go, Motorola’s Moto range has not been about delivering bleeding edge specification devices into the hands of customers. Instead, Motorola is more interested in the experience. This relies on a blend of the software and hardware working closely together: witness the first generation Motorola Moto X and the Moto X8 chip, which included low power cores designed for “always on” functionality without breaking the battery. And now Motorola’s relatively new Senior Vice President of Software, Seang Chau, discusses Motorola’s special software sauce applied to the devices.
Seang Chau joined Motorola back in January from Microsoft and this gives him a very definite opinion of how Microsoft, Google and of course Motorola are designing and improving their products. One of the key points that he raises is that Motorola advertise and aim for a “pure Android experience,” highlighting that Motorola make a number of improvements to the stock Android experience but are not trying to compete with Google. A number of Motorola’s enhancements were incorporated into Android as it evolved, such as the movement wake up and Trusted Bluetooth devices, which were both absorbed into Android 5.0 Lollipop. On this matter, Seang explains that Google kept Motorola at arm’s length during their ownership of the brand so that the other manufacturers did not accuse Google of favoritism. Their relationship with Google under Lenovo’s ownership is stronger now.
As Google implemented these new features, so Motorola had to remove them from the device. Seang is happy with this progress as it improves the whole Android ecosystem. He makes the point is that great software relies on fantastic hardware: Motorola places much emphasis on always-on functionality, which is something that cannot be duplicated with just software as this uses a lot of power. Motorola’s tight integration of the hardware and software pushes the business one step closer towards how Apple and BlackBerry work their devices.
The always on function is most obvious when it comes to using voice control for our devices. Motorola’s vision is that natural language processing and a device being aware of the surroundings means that it will listen to what’s happening around it and if it knows it is being spoken to, and if the instructions make sense, it will do it. As with Google’s Now software, Motorola is concentrating on context: aiming to understand when the customer does not to be interrupted. It means the device understanding that the user is in a meeting and should not be disturbed unless it is an important notification – but when it hears the meeting as finished and has checked this with the diary, it will let the user know of waiting notifications.
Motorola are also following the Google Nexus lineup by the direct to consumer sales approach: offering customers unlocked devices and they are able to use with whatever carrier that suits their circumstances. The Motorola Moto X Style will not be available through carriers. Seang makes a nod towards the T-Mobile US / Uncarrier business model and cites a number of advantages to Motorola. Firstly, it brings them closer to the customer. It also means that software updates may be rolled out to customers that much quicker without relying on the carrier to test and approve, which keeps customers close to Motorola. There are potential issues with this approach and chief amongst them is customers thinking that an alternative ‘phone is “free” with a carrier rather than a few hundred dollars.