To many geeks the new Moto X phone, announced yesterday, is, well, lame.
To me it’s a game-changer, but it is way over the freaky line. More on what the freaky line is in a second.
The critics are missing just how deeply Google and Motorola are changing the game with sensors and new contextual features — the new voice feature isn’t just a small thing, it’s a whole new sensor package and represents a new approach to hardware and software.
This is a big competitive advantage for Google and reshapes the game. Just last week, the new Nokia phone was looking pretty cool with its 41 megapixel sensor. Today? Not so much. This refocuses the mobile competition, once again, on Apple and Google.
Only Motorola’s devices let you talk to them at any time without turning on an app, or touching something and it does that in a way that doesn’t use much battery life (even more remarkable because the screen on the Moto X is kept on full time too). It’s contextual too, because it remembers what you were just asking it. Ask “OK Google Now, what is Michael Jordan’s shooting percentage?” and then “OK Google Now, how tall is he?” and Moto X will remember to answer the with Michael Jordan’s height. Look for more contextual stuff to be built in over time.
The joy of context
These new sensors bring a cost, though, that counteracts the promise of contextual features (and I’m hearing from inside Google that Google is working on a contextual OS that might see the light of day in 2015). That cost? I call it the “freaky line.” It means giving up a little more privacy. Whether or not we’re really giving up privacy doesn’t matter. Many people have the perception that their privacy is being given up by these “always on” and “always listening” devices and that is a cost that Google will need to deal with.
Moto X is just one in a string of products and services that will bring radical new functionality to users. Examples? Google Now, Google Glass, and the new Moto X phone that keeps the microphone open full-time. The Xbox One, coming this winter, will have a 3D sensor on it so sensitive it can see how fast your heart is beating just by watching your skin.
These new contextual, sensor-based features are game changers and I’m hearing Google has a raft of other product announcements lined up that will turn on even more freaky features. Why? Because the more Google can get you to communicate with your phone, the more context it can slurp up.
The more sensors it can turn on, or put on you, the more it can learn about your intent and your context. Today your phone doesn’t really know that you’re walking, running, skiing, shopping, driving, or biking, but in the future, Google will know that and will be able to build wild new kinds of systems that can serve you when doing each of those things.