When Google bought Motorola, most assumed that it was for the patents. Moto could still be a valuable weapon in the courtroom, but the search giant is also ready to wield it in the smartphone market. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is developing a new Motorola flagship, codenamed the X Phone.
Google is developing the phone to take on Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy S product lines. It wants the device to "stand apart from existing phones," and has experimented with top-notch camera and photo software, bendable screens, and ceramics. But the company ran into obstacles, including poor battery life and supply chain issues. It isn't clear what differentiating features it's moving forward with.
Google CEO Larry Page reportedly told the X Phone team to "think big," and strive for Samsung's level of success. The company is also focusing its product line, reducing its smartphone footprint to several Verizon Droid devices and the X Phone. This reflects a similar trend in Google, as Page united the company's software and media sales into the Google Play brand, and cut many of its smaller services.
Playing with fire
Up to this point, Google has been hesitant to put too many eggs in the Motorola-Android basket. It doesn't want to alienate rival Android manufacturers, turning them to other platforms or forked (no Google apps) versions of Android.
Google, however, is preparing for the worst. Samsung is the only company profiting significantly from Android. Samsung could hypothetically shut the door on Google, using its own apps for email, maps, and messaging. This would threaten Google's mobile advertising revenue. Consider the X Phone an insurance policy.
Selling with the best
Non-Samsung Android manufacturers' struggles, however, can't necessarily be traced to a lack of quality. HTC's One X, LG's Optimus G, and Motorola's own Razr Maxx HD were generally well-received, but they haven't been huge sellers.
To take on Apple and Samsung, the X Phone will need an advertising campaign that resonates with regular (non-geek) customers. Google apparently knows this, and is ready to invest heavily in marketing the device.
Motorola also reportedly poached Brian Wallace, who was one of Samsung's top marketing execs. He was instrumental in Samsung's popular Apple-customer-mocking campaign.
Despite the X Phone team's obstacles, the device is set to launch sometime in 2013. Google is also planning an X Tablet, which would launch sometime after that.