Let me start off by saying that this is the most excited I’ve ever been about any Android phone. The Moto X has me even a tad more excited than when the HTC One was unveiled, which is shocking because I tend to show a bit of favoritism toward HTC’s glorious hardware design.
For the first time, I feel like an Android phone manufacturer has finally created the iPhone of Androids. I had my doubts it would ever happen and I most certainly didn’t think Motorola would be able to pull it off. Hear me out though. When I say “iPhone of Androids,” I don’t mean that the iPhone has been a more powerful device than any Android phone has up until this point. I mean that the Moto X is the first Android phone at least in my eyes that truly exemplifies what Apple’s aim has been with the iPhone for many years.
Android Up Until Now
The focus of most Android phones have always been to shove awesome specs in your face in an attempt to make the iPhone look less powerful — multi-core processors, gigantic displays, extra RAM, etc. Samsung in particular has seen tremendous success with this approach. The initial marketing ploy for the Galaxy line was that it featured way better specs, plus the hardware design was always decent enough. It also has cool, yet somewhat gimmicky software features too.
For a while, Motorola also used this approach with its Droid line. People sometimes forget that the Droids are really what took Android mainstream. Droids were these badass phones that, at least to nerds, made the iPhone look too simple and weak.
The Moto X however is almost taking that exact opposite approach. It doesn’t have flashy specs, in fact the processor for one isn’t even all that high-end. It works very well I’m sure, but on paper it’s nothing too much to brag about. There’s some useful software but nothing is particularly gimmicky. The Camera app for instance strips away most of the functionality you’re used to seeing on Android phones. Yes, you can access most of the settings in a buried menu but it’s a few more steps to get there. Even features like tap-to-focus require going into the menu. The hardware design is very clean and simple. The main spec everyone’s talking about is the excellent full-day battery life, something you’d be hard pressed to find in other Android devices.
The iPhone of the Android Phones
Does this sound familiar? iPhone is praised for its simple, clean hardware design, its battery life is generally better than the competition, and its software is simple but effective and powerful at the same time. There’s nothing particularly mind-blowing about the specs of the iPhone’s processor or RAM. It just works and it works well. That’s what Motorola is clearly aiming for with Moto X. Even the initial newspaper advertisement must have been inspired by Apple’s famous “1984″ ad or the “Here’s to the crazy ones” speech.
I think that’s why I’m so hyped up about the Moto X — because Motorola is bringing something very different to the table. Everybody always gets so anticipated over devices like the Galaxy S4. To an extent, so do I, because I know that it adds fuel to the fire between iOS and Android. In terms of the device itself, I usually find the news underwhelming because I already know what’s going to happen. Samsung’s going to increase the display by a bit, up the basic specs with a faster processor and more RAM, and add in some odd new software features that are typically more for show and less for usefulness. The Moto X was much more unpredictable. To some degree, so are iPhone announcements.
Is the Moto X the Anti-iPhone?
There’s something else worth talking about, too. Kelly Hodgkins, a writer for IntoMobile, sent me an interesting article from CNET claiming that the Moto X is actually the “anti-iPhone” in many ways.
“Rather than a tightly controlled look and feel for the device, Motorola will let customers tweak the colors and materials. Instead of the latest specifications, Moto X employs a solid — but not cutting-edge — set of hardware features. Instead of a proprietary operating system built for one device, it runs on an open platform available to hundreds of other phones,” Roger Cheng writes.
Let’s skip the first point because I’ll come back to the customization. Onto the second: since when has the iPhone really used the “latest specifications” when there are phones with quad-core processors out there and the iPhone is on a dual-core A6? On paper, the iPhone’s specs aren’t extremely high-end. It’s the optimized software combined with the hardware that makes the phone run well. As for the Moto X being “on an open platform available to hundreds of other phones,” doesn’t that sound somewhat redundant? If it runs on Android like hundreds of other phones, the Moto X isn’t special in any way and it can’t possibly give off any more of an “anti-iPhone” perception than any other device running Android.
Customization is a valid point and one that I wanted to mention. It is an added benefit that there are so many colors to choose from on the Moto X. Plus users can choose smaller details like accents. For smartphone users who truly want a phone they can call their own, this is a huge advantage. However, this doesn’t make the Moto X the anti-iPhone. It’s simply just a feature the iPhone doesn’t offer. Whether offered in black and white or in multiple colors, both phones are still targeted toward mainstream consumers who love a decent-looking phone that works well. One approach is to favor some consumer customization, the other is to do most of the decision-making for the consumer ahead of time. Both have the same goal in mind.
Being closed and proprietary means absolutely nothing to consumers who don’t care about tech in the same way we do. When is the last time you’ve ever heard an ordinary consumer say “Gosh, I love my iPhone but I hate Apple’s controlled environment! Ugh!”? Exactly.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is both the iPhone and Moto X are targeting consumers who want a phone they know will work well and look good. These people don’t care about high-end specs, they don’t care or even know about proprietary or open ecosystems, and they don’t care about weird features they’ll never use. Apple has understood that for a very long time and with the Moto X, Motorola is catching on as well.