Get ready for the 4th: here's what Motorola is about to announce
Editor's note: this article was updated where noted on the evening of September 3rd to reflect a few bits of new information, but the majority has been left as it was for the original publication on August 28th.
As you've all noticed, there has been a ton of Motorola news recently. We were expecting the leaks to start coming through as we got closer to Motorola's scheduled September 4th event, and we haven't been disappointed. While much of the most recent news has been about the Motorola-built Nexus X, we want to take some time to run through everything Motorola is going to announce in one short week.
There are three things that we know for sure will be announced at the even in Chicago, because Motorola basically laid out the plans for the major announcements in the event announcement. The teaser image blatantly lists the Moto X+1, the next generation Moto G, the Moto 360 smartwatch, and apparently some sort of Bluetooth headset which we have not gotten any info about.
We do know that Motorola has about 8 smartphones in its plans for the end of this year, and we know that not all of those devices will be announced on the 4th. The Nexus won't be announced next week, both because this is a Motorola event not Googla, and we've been told that the Nexus will have a quiet release around Halloween again. The two Moto S handsets likely won't be announced either, because we have heard that the Moto S launch depends on how people take to the Moto X+1. How people react to the size of the X+1 will determine if Motorola releases the Moto S as a 5.9-inch device or as the 5.2-inch Moto X Play. And beyond that, if the Moto S ends up as a 5.9-inch device, Google could take the 5.2-inch units and repurpose them as a second Nexus device alongside the 5.9-inch Nexus X.
To recap: we will see the Moto X+1 and Moto G on the 4th, but probably won't see the Moto S or Moto X Play, and almost definitely won't see the Nexus X. That just leaves the three new DROID handsets - the DROID, DROID Maxx, and DROID Turbo. There have been very few leaks about the new DROID devices, but we know the Turbo has top-of-the-line specs, and we can assume the Maxx has a giant battery. It is unclear though if these devices will be announced next week. According to our source, it is "possible, but not confirmed" that the DROIDs will be announced.
That brings us to the main items that we know will be on the docket, and what we know about each, starting with:
Last year's Moto X was critically acclaimed by tech reviewers and most users who bought it, but the device never caught on with the public, likely due to a severe lack of marketing (despite a reportedly huge marketing budget from Google), and the AT&T exclusivity of Moto Maker. Motorola is scheduled to shut down its assembly plant in Texas by the end of the year, but Moto Maker should still be in full swing given it is now offered in Mexico, and Germany. We also just heard about changes to Moto Maker; there are rumors that in addition to the usual wood and plastic, there will also be leather and maybe even a denim backing materials.
**Update** In terms of the Moto Maker, we have been hearing that because of the Texas plant shutdown, it will take quite a bit longer for custom orders to come through. Moto Maker orders will have to come from an assembly plant in Mexico, and could take upwards of 14 days to be delivered, because of that. There has also been speculation about AT&T possibly getting another exclusive on Moto Maker, but that could be as little as a 3-day exclusive and be tied to a possible promotion that has been considered to take place September 6th.
Before diving into the specs expected in the X+1, we wanted to quickly note something about the naming. Our source indicated that the names will actually be the same as last year. This means they won't be the X+1 and G2, but will remain the Moto X, and the Moto G. However, to reduce confusion in this piece, we'll continue to refer to the device as the X+1.
Physically, as you can see in the leaked renders above, there will be a some changes to the X+1 compared to last year's Moto X. The X+1 will feature a 5.2-inch 1080p AMOLED display, rather than the 4.7-inch 720p display of last year. The X+1 also has front stereo speakers, a new logo on the back, and dual mini flashes for the camera rather than one large flash. The last thing to note are the grey dots you can see on the front of the white device above. Those are related to the 3D effects that Motorola experimented with for the X+1, but it is unclear if that will actually make it into the final product. Also, in that same report about the 3D, it was rumored that the X+1 would feature optical zoom, but our source is saying that optical zoom has been tested for the Moto S and Nexus X, but not the X+1.
**Update** The latest we've learned is that the extra cameras/sensors which have been rumored to be related to 3D effects are most likely related to Moto Aware. It is still unclear what Moto Aware will actually do, because it has been seen on the Motorola Luge, a device that doesn't include these extra sensors. Speculation has been that Aware will dynamically change settings and items on your device based on your location/context, so it could be that these extra sensors will simply enable additional features.
Internally, there are the standard set of upgrades that you might expect. As rumored, the X+1 will be powered by a customized Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.2GHz, and once again featuring co-processors for voice and motion. It will also have 2GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization, and options for 16 and 32GB of storage with an unconfirmed possibility of a 64GB variant.
It will ship with Android 4.4.4 and likely get the update to Android L pretty soon after the software is available, given Motorola's track record with speedy updates. Otherwise, we don't know much about the software on the X+1. We did learn that there will be some carrier modifications (you can see the Verizon Messages app in the renders above), but we have been told that those apps will be removable. There was also supposed to be a new service called Moto Aware, but those plans have been scrapped in the wake of filings from Apple to block the app. Motorola has squashed Apple's filings, so Aware should be back in play.
We also don't know how much the X+1 will cost, but we do know that the device will be released on all four major carriers in the U.S., and the planned launch date for Verizon is September 17th, but that date could be moved up. **Update** It looks like bamboo devices may be available in stores as well, though that has only been connected to Verizon at this point.
The other smartphone guaranteed to be part of the festivities on September 4th is the new Moto G. This is Motorola's device aimed at the upper low-end market (whereas the Moto E is for the low-end), and as such, the device doesn't pack the most impressive specs, but they are pretty solid considering the phone is expected to sell for somewhere in the $175-200 range. Although, the internals aren't expected to get much of an upgrade with the Moto G.
The new Moto G has been rumored to include the same Snapdragon 400 clocked at 1.2GHz as in last year's model, 1GB of RAM, 8/16GB of storage, dual-SIM support, a microSD card slot, and the same swappable Motorola Shell back plates. The phone isn't totally the same though. Its screen is bigger at 5-inches, rather than 4.5-inches, but is still 720p. The rear camera has been upgraded from 5-megapixels to 8. And physically, the bezels have been made smaller, and the device will have the same front stereo speakers as all of the new Motorola devices.
We don't know specifics on the release date or price for the Moto G, but as mentioned before, it will likely be under the $200 mark.
Until yesterday, the Moto 360 was undisputedly most demanded Android Wear smartwatch that we knew about. Then, LG announced the G Watch R with its perfectly round display (the 360 has a piece cut out of the bottom), and steel design. The Moto 360 is still a great-looking watch, but it is no longer the sole entrant with a metal design and round face, and according to our recent poll, the Moto 360 is no longer on top of your wish lists (though it is close). We knew the competition was coming, but we at least thought the 360 would be the first device to get an official announcement. Of course, we have had hands-on time with the Moto 360, and we don't yet know the LG G Watch R release date, so the 360 could still be the first round watch on store shelves.
From what we know, the Moto 360 is made of steel and will launch with customization options in Moto Maker. This will let you choose between the black or silver watch face, and have a choice of watch bands. At launch, there will almost certainly be a leather watch band, and a rubber option, but the last we heard (which was two months ago) it was unclear if the metal band option would be ready for the release. From the leaks we've seen, the leather bands will come in a few different colors, like gray, tan, blue, and black. We would assume different color choices for the sporty rubber watch band, but can't confirm that.
The Moto 360 also has some impressive hardware packed into its small frame. It will be the first Android Wear device to feature an ambient light sensor, which will allow it to dynamically change the screen brightness and save your battery. And, speaking about the battery, the rumor is that the Moto 360 will feature over two days of battery life, which is well more than other Android Wear offerings. When you do need to charge the device, it has a very cool looking wireless charging dock to take care of your power needs. In those same pics of the wireless charger, it was revealed that the Moto 360 features a pedometer (expected), and an optical heart rate monitor, which we didn't expect. To top it off, the device is rated at IP67 waterproof certification, meaning that you can dunk it in three feet of water for half an hour without any troubles.
The display of the 360 is 1.5-inches with a reported resolution of 320 x 290, with the vertical a bit shorter because of the black bar at the bottom that hides the ambient light sensor and display drivers. The entire watch is 1.8-inches in diameter and is said to be 0.4-inches (10mm) thick and weigh 2.1oz (59.5g), which makes it similar in thickness and weight to the LG G Watch. There is a microphone, and a plunger on the side which is expected to be the screen on/off switch.
The internal specs of the device are still a bit of a mystery. There was a Best Buy posting that appeared to leak the specs, but there were a few parts of that listing that made us wary of the information, not the least of which was that it claimed the 360 had a Texas Instruments processor, even though TI got out of the mobile device market two years ago. Most rumors say the 360 has a Snapdragon 400, like all of the other Android Wear devices that exist right now. The Best Buy listing claims 512MB of storage, but doesn't mention RAM, and we would have expected that to be the other way around. Lastly, it lists Wireless N support, which would be a very big deal if it happens, because it would give the device a modicum of independence from a tethered smartphone by connecting to Wi-Fi instead. But, we'll believe that when we see it.
The release date is unknown for the 360, but it will likely be around the same time as the X+1, which would mean around the third week of September. The price is expected to be $249 as mentioned in a number of leaks.
That's everything we know about what is on the way from Motorola exactly one week from today on September 4th at the event in Chicago. We'll keep monitoring the situation and try to get you the most up-to-date information as it comes, but overall we have a pretty solid idea of what to expect from next week's announcement. What do you guys think of Motorola's plans?