By Stephen Schenck | December 27, 2012 7:58 PM
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on some rumors its sources provided about Motorola and Google’s work on a mysterious high-end “X phone”. Ever since Google scooped up Motorola Mobility, I’ve been curious to see what hardware would come of the new partnership, so of course upon hearing this rumor I found myself conflating “X phone” with “neXus phone”. After all, wouldn’t the obvious way to showcase this new relationship be taking full advantage of Motorola’s engineering chops and Google’s software and design skills to create the best Nexus device we’ve ever seen? I’m sure a great number of you have been thinking the same thing, but just what could we hope for out of a Motorola Nexus? I’ve got a few ideas, maybe some more plausible than others, that could add up to a really fantastic phone.
Let’s get the SoC out of the way because, all things considered, it’s probably the least exciting part of what this phone could be. That’s not to say that it wouldn’t be one screamingly fast hunk of silicon, but just that the paths chip design has been taking seem so predictable. For next year, A15-based designs will reign supreme, and I assume Motorola would look to a hot dual- or quad-core SoC, maybe depending on when in the year the handset is set to arrive.
I very much dig Motorola’s design aesthetic, but I’m not so sure I want a Motorola Nexus looking like another RAZR. The WSJ piece gave the sense that Motorola would be splitting its efforts between the X phone and its Droid lineup, so what better way to make the two distinct than by creating a new look for the former? Still, I’m a big fan of devices with well-defined edges and sharp lines, so maybe entirely reinventing the wheel could be going too far.
What about Motorola’s now-iconic woven Kevlar back panels? Again, I’d like to see something different for the sake of making a Motorola Nexus a phone of its own, but that sense of durability the Kevlar offers is something well worth holding onto. One of my biggest problems with the Nexus 4 is how fragile it feels, and Motorola would do well to keep robustness in mind when designing the hardware. I’ve got high hopes there; I still have a first-gen Droid that, a slightly less than perfectly-fitting battery cover aside, continues to be in fantastic shape.
Motorola knows radios better than almost anyone else out there; just look at how many law enforcement agencies rely on Motorola gear for communication. With a Motorola Nexus, I’d love to see Google correct the LTE oversight that affected the Nexus 4 and deliver a phone with a really diverse selection of available bands – I’m thinking the sort of ridiculous frequency coverage we saw with the Indian Nokia Lumia 920 before Nokia went and edited the phone’s specs page. Even if you don’t live in an area with LTE (or with LTE from the right carrier), just having that option would make the phone hugely more attractive.
I’m torn on the issue of a screen. Depending on how well the big 2013 flood of high-end 1080p Androids goes over, there might be big pressure to deliver the next Nexus with just such a display. While that would certainly look fantastic, I’m concerned it might negatively impact just how cheap a price Google is able to attach to the phone. Especially if we’re dealing with the expense of an LTE modem, we might have to live with 720p; really, I can deal with that just fine.
Of course I’d love to see microSD, but I harbor no illusions that Google’s going to change its feelings about the ideal “Android experience” anytime soon, so don’t count on seeing it emerge here. The inverse goes for NFC, and whether you think it’s useful or not, Google seems committed to the technology; at the least, there’s not much in the way of a negative impact from NFC’s presence if it’s not really your bag.
Ah, and there’s also the camera to consider. Camera quality was one of the areas where Motorola was rumored to be focusing its efforts for the X phone, and I would love to see a Motorola Nexus come through with a camera package to be envied. I’m seriously underwhelmed with the Nexus 4′s camera performance, both for the main shooter and the front-facer, and really any improvement would be welcome. If I had to focus (pun slightly intended) on what deserves the most attention, I’d say low-light performance and color accuracy.
It would be great to see a Motorola Nexus adopt something like the Maxx-sized batteries from the RAZR line. Leave it to some other phone to be the super-thin Android option; so long as this guy comes in under a centimeter thick, I’ll be happy. When it comes to wireless charging, I could take it or leave it, but a removable battery is definitive one feature I’d want to campaign for.
As for the software, that’s really secondary for me. Sure, you buy a Nexus phone to get early access to the latest and greatest Android build, but it always makes its way to other phones eventually. I care about what the hardware has to bring to the table, and if a Motorola Nexus hits on some of the points I’ve made here, I think it could be next year’s Android to beat.