Google’s Moto X in new challenge to iPhone

Motorola device unveiled in New York will respond to voice commands

Google unveiled the Motorola Moto X smartphone yesterday, its latest attempt to leapfrog Apple's iPhone – this time with a device packed full of sensors and processors that would allow it to anticipate its users' intentions and respond accordingly.

The Moto X, which will cost $199 when it goes on sale later this month with the five largest US mobile operators, is the first smartphone designed and built by Motorola engineers since Google acquired the company 14 months ago.

It also represents an attempt to kick-start the next wave of innovation in smartphones, at a time when sales growth in the US and Europe is slowing and incremental improvements in screen resolution, processing power and battery life alone no longer excite consumers.

Instead, Google is attempting software innovations that incorporate “context awareness” and predictive technology into the Moto X, with the promise that this would make smartphones more intuitive to use.

Among its key features, the Moto X will be able to respond to its owner’s voice commands without the person touching the device, even if the phone is in “sleep” mode.

Despite its advanced features and multiple sensors, Motorola claims the handset is very power efficient and will run for 24 hours on a single charge.

The Moto X represents "a return to Motorola's [hardware] engineering and innovation roots", said Dennis Woodside, Motorola chief executive.

He described the new handset, which has eight separate processors including one dedicated to speech recognition, as a key part of Google’s mobile strategy.

It will also be the first smartphone to be assembled entirely in the US, at a Motorola facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

Manufacturing locally will enable customers who use AT&T as their operator to customise the device, for example have a unique case – and still receive the handset within four days of ordering it.

Motorola is betting that it can win over consumers by offering a huge palette of colours to personalise their phones as well as unusual phone materials such as wood.

The Moto X, however, will face fierce competition. Apple is expected to launch a successor to its popular iPhone 5 this autumn that will run on iOS7, the biggest overhaul of its mobile operating system since the original iPhone.

Analysts also say that, while there is much potential to improve today’s smartphones, there are technical hurdles that have to be overcome, with power consumption being one of the biggest challenges.

Once the second-largest global phone maker, Motorola’s market share was down to 2 per cent in the second quarter, ranking it 12th among smartphone makers, according to Research firm Strategy Analytics.

– (The Financial Times Limited/Reuters)