Wired’s man on the ground at Google, Steven Levy, has an in-depth look at the turnaround story of the Motorola Mobility team purchased by Google for $12.5 billion two years ago and how they produced a phone which, on the eve on iPhone’s expected upgrade in September, is currently the talk of the Valley. As far as specs, it’s not running the latest and greatest but that’s just fine as the target audience is not the high end gadget freak, they are elevating the bar so that the masses can experience the fully integrated Google vision.
But the defining feature of the Moto X is it’s a virtual ear, always straining to hear its owner’s voice say three magic words that will rouse it to action: “Okay, Google Now.”
Here is a phone that is always waiting, ready to spring into action even faster than Apple’s Siri. Sure it’s always listening to you but in return you get a phone that can predict your needs with Google Now-enabled prescience. All that stuff that we technologists all dream of but ultimately fail at because of competing standards, incompatible platforms, and flaky APIs are now possible because Google owns not only stress-tested services in the cloud but also the end device.
- an instant signal when you walk in a restaurant that starts a stream menus and reviews
- warn you to end a meeting because it knows that traffic is so snarled, you might not make your next one in time
- Only fools don’t protect their phones with a password, but it’s a pain in the neck to punch it in a few hundred times a day. Motorola plans to ease that pain (though not available at launch) by selling plastic tokens that can clip onto clothing—if the tab is within a few feet if the Moto X, no password necessary. (The tokens use NFC technology, built into the phones.) The Moto X will also let you set up password-free “safe zones” like your car.
These are just a few examples quoted in Levy’s piece. A few more were discovered by my colleague who is testing out a demo unit,
- the phone uses its GPS to determine when you might be behind the wheel of a car. Assuming that you are, this function can read aloud incoming text messages automatically. It can also send an auto-reply in this situation.
- Meeting mode works off of your Calendar events. When the phone sees you’re in a meeting, it can automatically silence the handset. You can allow Meeting mode to ring the phone or auto-text replies to favorite contacts or if anyone calls twice in a five-minute period.
- You link your phone and your Chrome browser through an extension so you can get caller or text information when on your computer. No need to pick up your phone for that data and you can also choose not to pick up the phone if you don’t want to take the call. You can also reply to text messages from your computer browser.