The Nexus 4, Moto X and how Google is changing Android perception from "high spec" to "high experience"

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The Nexus 4, Moto X and how Google is changing Android perception from
As I've tried to remind our readership on numerous occasions in my time here at PhoneArena, we all live in a fishbowl. We all have more intimate knowledge of mobile technology than the average consumer, because we all share a passion for the subject and seek out more information. The trouble is that we are still human, and we don't reflect on our views often enough, and instead we use shortcuts to prove our opinions. So, when a company like Google/Motorola is actively trying to change the conversation around Android, it can take longer to land in our community than the average consumer, because we have so many preconceptions.

When the average consumer walks into a store to buy a device, it is extremely rare that they will care much about specs aside from general issues like battery life, storage capacity, and camera quality. Aside from those three issues, the average consumer goes on feel: how does the device feel, how does it look, how does the system feel in use - is it intuitive and familiar, or awkward? This alone is why Apple's iPhone is still such a popular device. The average consumer doesn't care about the internal specs, they only care about how the device feels in use. It's also why consumers keep going back to Samsung despite impressive offerings from other manufacturers: they know Samsung, and feel familiar with the device. 

Unfortunately, in our community, where we are supposedly more knowledgeable on these topics, we still fall back on the same argument: specs are everything. The trouble with that view is that it is a holdover opinion from the days of desktop PCs, and a holdover from the days when Android wasn't as mature a system as it is now. 

Specs vs experience

The closest analog to these kinds of arguments are the PC vs console wars. PC gamers are adamant that consoles are terrible, because after the initial release window at best, console specs can never match those of high-end gaming rigs. And, no matter how mature console platforms become, they simply can't offer the same level of functionality as a full PC. On the console side, the argument is all about the games and the ease of the console experience. 

Not everyone wants to buy or build a gaming rig. Not everyone needs to have a singular device that combines computer functionality and gaming. Some people just want a box that hooks to their living room TV, that is easy to interact with, and offers the games they want to play. Sure, Far Cry 3 may look better on a high-end PC than on a console, and some prefer the option of keyboard input, but some have no interest in keyboard input, and don't care about the slight difference in visuals. Some just want to play a good game, because the game is the experience, and the visuals are secondary. 

That had been the general argument between Android vs iPhone for a long time: specs and functionality vs experience. Really, that is still the argument that many fanboys keeps fighting on either side. But, arguing specs and functionality for Android is ignoring how mature and amazing the experience of the platform has become, and the argument doesn't even hold that well within the Android ecosystem itself. We've started to move away from the "higher megapixels FTW!" argument with camera quality to understanding the need for better sensors and lenses, but we still haven't gotten past the false idea that the CPU and RAM are all that matters with performance.

Even within the Android ecosystem, specs and benchmarks are an easy way to "prove" one device is better than another, but at the end of the day, it's the experience that matters. You can point to the specs of the Samsung Galaxy S4 all day long, but I'm still going to use my Nexus 4 because I like the experience better, and the performance boost from the better processor just doesn't make enough of a real world difference to matter. TouchWiz, in my opinion, does nothing but add unnecessary features and bloat; and, the S4 hardware just isn't as nice in the hand as my Nexus 4. You can talk specs all day, but it doesn't change the experience that I prefer, because when I use my device, I do a lot of things, but constantly running benchmarks isn't one.

Add in the cost differential, and the choice is far less about specs than some may want. I could get an S4 or HTC One Google Edition and get more of the experience I want with the slight performance boost of the newer specs, but is that boost really worth the extra $300 it would cost compared to a Nexus 4? Not in my book. Some may argue that better specs are all about future-proofing your device, but with 2-year mobile contracts, and if Nexus devices and Motorola can consistently hit that $300 off-contract price point, how much future-proofing do you really need?

Google's new aim is high experience

We don't know for sure, but we've heard repeated rumors that the Moto X will cost about $299 off-contract, and Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside has said that the company's focus is on high-quality, low-cost devices. So, it sounds like Motorola is looking to continue the standard set by the Nexus line of devices. The Nexus 4, 7, and 10 have all offered more than consumers expected at a price point far lower than the competition, and there is a fair chance that Motorola will do the same with the Moto X. 

The sneaky part of this argument is in the fact that the spec race is largely unnecessary since Android 4.1. Before Jelly Bean, Android detractors would constantly talk about how the system was laggy and buggy, and it certainly was. The counter to that old argument tended to be that you just needed better specs to make up for the lag issues, but that argument doesn't hold anymore. The bugginess was largely squashed with Android 4.0, and Project Butter came with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean to knock off any lingering lag issues. Now, arguing the spec difference between processors and even the difference between 720p and 1080p displays on a 4.7" screen doesn't yield appreciable differences in the real world. 

The real "high performance" metrics are in battery life, and the feel of the system. Many say they are disappointed in the idea that the Moto X will likely have a Snapdragon S4 Pro and a 720p display. But, most forget that the workload that a 720p display puts on a processor's GPU is much lower than that of a 1080p display. Additionally, very few apps are optimized to really show the difference between HD displays, so you'll likely only notice the difference if you happen to be comparing two devices side by side. Otherwise, humans adapt to what they have and use consistently. 

The Android system updates have been all about performance recently, and the rumor has it that the focus of the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean update will be on tweaking battery performance. Motorola has said that the Moto X has specific power saving options built-in to the device that it has added, along with a number of contextually aware options to have the phone give you what you need when you need it. We don't know the specifics, but it sounds like we might expect something that power-users have asked for with Android for a while with custom contextual homescreen layouts: different apps that are displayed based on being at home, at work, traveling, or being out to dinner or a movie. 


The more a mobile device can offer you what you want, when you want it, specs fall into the background. Specs become the sole arguing point of fanboys and trolls, because the belief is that specs remove the need for subjective opinion, which couldn't be farther from the truth. There is nothing more important in the relationship between a user and their device than the subjective opinion of how that device feels to that specific user. Specs can play a part in explaining why you prefer one device to another, but they can't prove that one device is objectively better than another. 

This is the power of Android. With the iPhone, Apple tries to generalize the subjective opinion of the masses and create one device that pleases as many people as it can. Android creates many different devices, and puts the onus on the user to find the device that fits them best. But, the average user doesn't like to search too much, so the majority of the focus lands on flagship devices. Samsung offers a huge range of device options, but the main choices are the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note. HTC has the One. Google has the Nexus. And, as far as cross-carrier devices, Motorola is going with the Moto X, since it seems the RAZR Ultras will be Verizon only. 

Samsung offers the "offer every feature anyone could conceivably want" approach to software design. HTC has gone with the social/news gathering Blinkfeed as its focus. Google, unsurprisingly, offers the Google experience with pure Android. From what we've heard, Motorola is aiming to give users whatever experience they want, by offering design and customization options up front. The unifying thread on all of these approaches is that specs don't come into the question. The focus is always on the experience provided to the user, and the specs of each device are in the background to simply show that this is a new device (because with some, like the Galaxy S III/S4 you might not notice otherwise). Maybe we should all keep that in mind. 



1. papss unregistered

Hence the reason I love WP. it just feels better for me

4. Potato.

Posts: 607; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

Me too. Although I am a Android fanboy.


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Lier your a Nokia Fanboy™

60. Potato.

Posts: 607; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

Loyal to Nokia but I love Android. And yes I am a NOKIA + HTC Fanboy.

114. Alex123

Posts: 241; Member since: Oct 17, 2012

I am also Nokia + HTC fanboy. but do you want Nokia to make some android phone, for me i really want. Samsung use both OS, HTC also and the rumor that Sony will also produce WP but why Nokia seem not clever like the others. If Nokia wants to keep business running, it should make some android phone along with Windows Phone so its customer will have choice to choose

74. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

don't lie troll, u r a nokia fan too. lol


Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Yes but oldskool Nokia. Not nokiawp8®

130. AstronautJones

Posts: 305; Member since: Aug 01, 2012

I had a N97 and it was the best build of a phone I have ever had.... even as some described it as plasticky at the time. Sliding keyboard was solid and never loosened up.

135. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

MH, my man, what u have written here is cent per cent true! To each his own. Buy what you need and dont be blinded by the specs. I am happy with the lag free experience the S4 powered One S gives me. And where HTC has made me happy is the great hardware + a very pleasant software. I have no need of the power of quad cores and hence saved up on some precious money! My One S is a keeper for another year and a half!

59. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

WP is a really nice platform. I'm a bit too deep into the Google world to make the switch, but I definitely want to pick up a Nokia as a secondary device.

71. papss unregistered

As a fellow N4 owner do you have a problem with the rate at which yours charges wireless? Mine seems to charge really slow on the Nokia pad. Maybe its my bumper?

80. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I have the official Nexus 4 orb charger, and ive had no problems with charging speed. My only issue is that the rubber gets dusty and causes my phone to slip off the charger. That can be annoying.

84. papss unregistered

Hmm maybe the charge pad and N4 just dont play great together. Maybe I should pick up an orb then

75. WHoyton1

Posts: 1635; Member since: Feb 21, 2013

Sure go for a second device Michael but I made the switch full time and I'm regretting it deeply, no where near as many features as I like on my android

78. ITEngineer

Posts: 54; Member since: Mar 26, 2013

dont, i have the Lumia 920 from my job as a work phone, it's awfull, the nokia maps lags like a piece of code that renders from the 1990's, i had to install google maps, the market is not that great either, there is no way to close tasks in a multitasking view. I tell you the fluidity is nice, but the rest is awful, IE is the worst mobile browser out there.

83. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Even if the experience isn't the best, I want one just for work purposes. I don't like writing about things I haven't tried. Between my wife and i , we have android and iOS covered, but I want to be able to test stuff on WP before writing about it

87. papss unregistered

I disagree with most of which you said actually. 1. I've never had any lag on nokia maps and truth be told they are actually one of if not the best maps out there. I've yet to experience any lag. 2. Closing windows, hold the back button, select the window you want to close and then hit back again. 3. Boy I'm not sure what to say here... What you feel about mobil IE is what I feel about chrome. I actually like IE (Mobil only) and think its pretty fast. What I do hate is no flash though.

109. hms2407

Posts: 94; Member since: Apr 25, 2013

a couple of weeks back i bought a lumna 520 and it was full of issues.sometimes the camera app would'nt open or bluetooth didnt turned on..sometimes the camera app would crash and this mostly happened before taking a snapshot,the browser for the most part was great but desktop pages like PA were laggy and same is said for the nokia maps,Wp8 store wasnt great experience with wp8 wasnt good :(

2. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Android was & is a VERY ambitious OS. When Android first came out the OS was limited by the specs of its time. A single core device couldn't handle what Android was giving. Android was that intuitive that people kept sticking with them because of what you can actually do with the Android OS. Now the specs have caught up with the OS to the point that the experience is EXCELLENT & just purely awesome. Yes there was a time when Android had some lag but people who knew about the inner workings of the OS knew Android was offering something others can't match & that is why Android has moved to the number 1 mobile OS in the world & soon to be the number one OS around. Today’s specs make Android a dream to use & to multi-task with. Apple knows Android is the future, you want to know why?!?!? Ask iOS 7.

23. biophone

Posts: 1994; Member since: Jun 15, 2011

For most people ios and android deliver a good experience. I don't see either one of them going away anytime soon. The future isn't going to be just android thats for sure. More then 1 os will exist.

27. Igneel unregistered

Maybe all those hardware that can eliminate bugs has been available after the early years of Android but was kept secret to gain more profit *sudden clarity clarence*

61. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I think your view is just slightly off. The more realistic description is to say that Google is a more forward thinking company and is more willing to take risks, and because of that they try a lot more things, even if they end up failing (as it looks like NFC will). Apple doesn't take as many risks. Apple tries to perfect the features it deems worthwhile, and never ship anything that's half-baked. Even though its products (Maps/Siri) can't always live up to the hype, the products launch with a level of polish that Google doesn't work towards. Google releases early and iterates often. Apple releases late but more polished. But, they're both going to the same place.

98. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

I'm not ready to give up on NFC just yet. True, it's taking a lot longer than it should to take off because Apple is choosing not to support it, and we all know the iPhone fans will not question Apple's judgement. Not to mention all the carriers limiting its uses, ie: locking out Google Wallet so that a yet to be released ISIS can pad thier pockets. NFC is not getting the help it deserves, but I think if we "the techies" can show the benefits to the general consumer, it can do well. All that said, once again... great article!

124. pkiran1996

Posts: 166; Member since: Oct 22, 2011

I'm an Android fanboy. But I'd rather have Apples AirDrop feature than Android Beam

125. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

AirDrop looks cool so far, but really how much different is AirDrop from ShareShot. I'm thinking more about mobile payment and things like that. And we all know AirDrop will be iOS only, Apple never shares.

117. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Half baked=maps. They've actually release it just to take a shot to google even if it's not a perfect one. They've took the risk one time (maps) and ended up with their ceo apologizing.

120. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

But, now no one even talks about Maps, which means it has gotten improved enough so people keep using it. It started out as a big joke, but now it's a really taking usage from Google Maps.

123. pkiran1996

Posts: 166; Member since: Oct 22, 2011

What if no one talks about it anymore simply because they switched to Google Maps?

126. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Possible but unlikely. If everyone were switching to Google Maps, it wouldn't have dropped to #9 on the top free apps list in iTunes. A lot of people are using Google, but there are also a ton using Apple and having no issues.

3. Potato.

Posts: 607; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

Too much lengthy article. Ain't nobody got time to read that. xD

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