What to expect with the Motorola X Phone, and is it a real game-changer?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
What to expect with the Motorola X Phone, and is it a real game-changer?
Earlier today, there was a report that the Motorola X Phone, which is expected to be the flagship announcement at Google I/O this year, would be a "game-changer", but as expected, there really wasn't any information on exactly how the X Phone would go about changing the game. So, we strapped on our thinking caps and tried to come up with some possibilities for what Motorola/Google could unveil that would really change the game.

First, we have to make it clear that we are trying to imagine what the X Phone could offer that would be a true game-changer, and not merely just an evolution of current technology. Because of that (not to mention that the software was mentioned specifically in the earlier rumor), it seems pretty safe to say that the hardware will not be anything game-changing, so let's get that out of the way now. 

The Hardware

This is a Motorola phone, so we fully expect it to look the part. Based on educated guesses and previous rumors, it seems reasonable to assume that the X Phone will have a 5" 1080p display with an extremely small bezel, a quad-core processor, and a much better camera than we currently see on Google's Nexus line. There will likely be a pretty beefy battery and Motorola's traditional Kevlar backing. Because Google is involved, there will definitely be NFC built-in, and we think it's likely that the X Phone will have induction charging and may even be compatible with the newly released Wireless Charging Orb

There are rumors that the storage options will go as high as 128GB, which is possible, but we wouldn't put it as likely. There are also rumors that unlike Google's Nexus devices, the X Phone will offer an SD card slot, but again, we wouldn't hold our breath on that one. 

Larry Page made a point to mention flexible/unbreakable displays recently when talking about Motorola, but he also said that sort of evolution in smartphones would be happening in "5 to 10 years". Given that we're expecting devices this year with flexible/unbreakable glass, the argument could be made that the first device on the market with such a display would be a "game-changer", but we're not sold on that. 

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Ultimately, none of these rumors, or potential hardware specs for the X Phone can be considered "game-changers". All of this is just the standard evolution of hardware. The real potential for changing the game comes on the software side. 

The (usual) Software

The assumption is that the Motorola X Phone will be the flagship device launching with Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie. We already know a bit of what to expect from KLP, like the addition of support for Bluetooth 4.0 low-energy in stock Android, but otherwise, it's unclear. We would like to see the People app finally work like it is supposed to (read: like the WP People Hub, or the BlackBerry 10 Hub), or a unified messaging app, but those wouldn't be game-changers, just a useful updates. 

Similarly, there is expected to be an update to the Android UI with KLP, just like we saw with Android 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0, but it's hard to imagine how a UI change could be a bigger "game-changer" than we saw when Google released Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich back in December of 2011. The jump from Gingerbread to ICS was huge, and while Google and Matias Duarte likely have more in store (Matias famously said that the Android UI is only a third of the way along), it's hard to imagine a jump that big with KLP. That said, we could see a different UI change, like the addition of a desktop UI. Many of you would love to see it, but we're skeptical, because Google wouldn't want to kill off Chromebook support by bringing in Android to the same market. 

There have also been rumors that Google is focusing a lot of energy on making the camera app in KLP much better than what we've seen. Combine that with the rumor of a Sony lens in the X Phone and that would be quite an improvement, and certainly a "game-changer" for Google, but maybe not for the smartphone ecosystem as a whole.

The same would go for the potential that Google could add a profile changer to KLP. This is another feature that users have been asking for, and since Google has already added multiple user support on tablets in Android 4.2, there's no reason we couldn't see the addition of a profile manager allowing for separate setups for work, home, traveling, etc. 

But, again, these are expected updates, and really nothing game-changing, so let's jump into the more radical possibilities. 

The (dream) Software

The key quote from the earlier story is one that talked about the software of the X Phone, and is a somewhat troubling one, because a Motorola source supposedly said:
The concern we have here is that while this could just be talking about Key Lime Pie, it could also be referring to a Motorola UI layer, which would mean that the X Phone might not feature stock Android like Google Nexus devices. This is a big concern because we don't know if this device is intended to be a Motorola Nexus, or simply the next Motorola flagship, and Google isn't as involved in the process. The way the quote is phrased distances Motorola from Google, which is expected since the two are "separate" companies, but we're wondering if that will lead to the same troubles that other manufacturers hit. 

However, one software change with Key Lime Pie that could be a "game-changer" would help to bridge the gap between these two possibilities. It's a feature that many have been calling for Google to add to Android for years, and picked up some steam last October as one of the fake potential features of Android 4.2: the Customization Center. The idea would be that manufacturer UIs would work just like any theme that you can add to Go Launcher or ADW Launcher. Not only would it make it easier for users to customize their devices, but it should make it far faster for manufacturers to update software on devices because things like TouchWiz, Sense, or the potential Motorola UI would be separated from the base system. 

Of course, regardless of if the change is in stock Android or a Motorola addition, the quote does say that the software "pulls together Google services" like we haven't seen before. Google is already deeply integrated into Android, so we're wondering if this points to a boost in Google+ in Android. We've seen Samsung introduce features that automatically tag your friends in photos and allow for easier sharing, and this seems like a feature that Google+ could do far better (not to mention it would be a feature to encourage more people to actively participate in the network.) If there is more Google+ integration, it could mean better group messaging via Google+ Circles. The Google+ Messenger app is already pretty good, but if it were pulled out of Google+ and merged into Android more, that could make for a better experience. The same could be said of Hangouts becoming the default video chat app. 

The trouble with all of that is that Google can't integrate Google+ too much, because Google services are still just a layer on top of Android. This is the reason why there is no unified messaging app. Gmail needs to be separate from base Android, as does Google Talk, Drive, and other Google Apps. But, that doesn't mean that the Google layer can't become more unified. There's no reason why Google Talk, Hangouts, and Google+ Messenger need to be separate apps. 


You could make the case that seeing all of the improvements that we've talked about in one package would be a game-changing device, especially if it comes in at a price similar to the Nexus 4, and launches on multiple major carriers, but we think it would still need to have at least one new killer feature to really claim the title. And, that's where we have trouble, because there are a lot of great updates to existing features that we can imagine being part of the X Phone or Key Lime Pie, but given all of the amazing features already available in Android, it's hard to imagine something completely new. 

What do you guys think? What would be a real game-changing feature for the X Phone or Key Lime Pie?

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