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Google Skunkworks Working on 'X Phone,' Reports WSJ 97

Posted by timothy
from the put-a-robot-on-it dept.
The Wall Street Journal says that Google is not quite content to be just a name printed on certain Android phones, and has set some of the cellphone engineers from Google-owned Motorola Mobility to work on a high-end project known internally as the 'X phone.' The rumored phone, says the article, "is due out sometime next year," and is meant as a technology flagship for Android phones, incorporating more innovative features than typical phones, such as advanced gesture recognition. Some of those features, like a flexible screen, have reportedly already been dropped from the design, though. If the X Phone materializes, a tablet is expected to follow.
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Google Skunkworks Working on 'X Phone,' Reports WSJ

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    ugh.

    • ugh.

      Hmm, no paywall issues for me... I got to read the whole article at WSJ, and I'm not a subscriber or registered with them in any way. Perhaps you should check your cookies or javascript settings.

      • Re:pay wall (Score:5, Informative)

        by SternisheFan (2529412) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:47AM (#42375235)
        "AMIR EFRATI of the Wall Street Journal writes: Engineers at Motorola are hard at work on a sophisticated handset—known internally as the "X phone"—but the Google Inc. unit is running into some obstacles in its effort to provide more potent competition for Apple Inc., said people familiar with the matter. Seven months after being acquired by Google for $12.5 billion, Motorola is designing its marquee handset with cutting-edge features to stand apart from existing phones when it is released next year, these people said.

        But while Google is known for swift execution on the Web, its new hardware unit has run into hurdles associated with manufacturing and supply-chain management that have caused the company to rethink some initial plans for the X phone, such as using a bendable screen, these people added. The previously undisclosed development effort is a key facet of Google's strategy for boosting the minuscule market position of the cellphone pioneer, based partly on bolstering quality while reducing the quantity of Motorola products.

        Motorola is primarily working on two fronts: devices that will be sold by carrier partner Verizon Wireless, such as the "Droid" line of smartphones, and the X phone, these people said. Motorola is also expected to work on an "X" tablet after the phone, the people added. Meanwhile, Google must manage complex relationships with smartphone makers that use its Android mobile-device software—particularly with Samsung Electronics Co., a Motorola rival that has become the No. 1 smartphone maker with Google's help."

        • Once it's released, it'll be the "Y phone".

  • Duh! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mspohr (589790) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:30AM (#42374837)

    It would be real news if they weren't working on a new phone.

    • Re:Duh! (Score:5, Informative)

      by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday December 23, 2012 @12:45PM (#42375571) Homepage Journal

      It would be real news if they weren't working on a new phone.

      It would be real news if Google's Motorola division weren't working on a new phone, but this implies that the Google X labs (which are working on Google Glass, self-driving cars and other projects) are working on a phone. That's different. Motorola is clearly working on the next incremental improvements to the smartphone, but Google X is all about radically-different directions. I find it hard to think what could be done differently enough to justify Google X interest, myself.

      • by iluvcapra (782887)
        Given the Google X provenance, wouldn't that indicate this phone is going to be more of a technology concept, as opposed to a "flagship" phone you can buy?
      • I find it hard to think what could be done differently enough to justify Google X interest, myself.

        The rate of growth in phone technology has been impressive enough lately that there's probably still a lot of room for new ideas. I can't personally think what major new advances are possible, either--but I'm willing to bet that someone can. The smartphone is a long way from being a mature technology.

        Well, okay, actually I can think of something that I'd like to see: a device that looks like a phone, which can then be unfolded into a tablet, which can then be unfolded into a laptop, which can then be unf

        • Yes, but no matter how new and novel the ideas are, Apple will claim that they infringe on their patents. Unless - - - a phone that looks and feels like a jellyfish? I dunno - maybe Google can make the idea sound appealing. I'm somewhat averse to the idea of holding a jellyfish to my ear.

      • I find it hard to think what could be done differently enough to justify Google X interest, myself.

        Maybe it'll be like the Q - it'll do Google Chat and Gmail video calls really well, but it won't make regular phone calls nor do SMS.

  • WSJ does not allow people to read this content for free.... KPH
  • by alen (225700) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:33AM (#42374851)

    Than the stupid MoTo ones where you rule all the machines or you're a secret agent if you buy their phone that will be outdated in a month by a newer model

  • Ex Phone (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee (243626) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:34AM (#42374857)

    Just the thing to call your former spouse on

  • by jkrise (535370) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:37AM (#42374881) Journal

    So Google is not only content with releasing an open source operating system which other hardware vendors can use to build phones and tablets. They are also parallely working on their own designs and implementations to take full commercial benefit of the platform they have created. Good to see.

    • by tooyoung (853621) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:04AM (#42374995)
      And if Google's new phone is successful enough, Samsung and other phone makers can incorporate the design elements into their phones.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jkrise (535370)

        How does that follow? Many Android phone makers are content with just doing enough to compete with closed platforms of competitors; and not implementing many possible features taking advantage of the 'open' nature of Android, and Google's other offerings besides Android. Some like HTC have caved in, screwing their customers in the bargain, which is a long term setback for Google's Android platform.

        By building a complete phone themselves, other patent wielding companies would have to sue Google (or Motorol

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by 21mhz (443080)

          Samsung, for one, innovates: they leave wide-open memory access holes, enabling third-party applications to do anything with the user's phone, potentially going beyond what the user intended them to do.

      • And if Google's new phone is successful enough, Samsung and other phone makers can incorporate the design elements into their phones.

        The purported Microsoft model, in other words.

        Personally I think Microsoft (and now Google) are just trying to figure out how to keep their partners happy until they're ready to cut ties with them - so long, and thanks for all the fish!

      • What makes you think that? Google is a company that even holds a design patent on its homepage. Don't pretend google is some happy company that is more interested in helping the community because that's not true.
    • by jiteo (964572) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:18AM (#42375061)
      I'm pretty sure the only long term plan Google has it to own all the data. Phones and phone OSes are just ways of achieving that.
      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        Own ... not really, but have access to as much as possible, absolutely. It's what they do. Once again, you don't need to install any of the Google software on Android, nor do you need to use their search engine. Ad tracking is a separate matter, and applies across browsers and OSes unless you block all cookies and javascript. That doesn't just apply to Google's ads either though.

    • I'm sure Google only open sourced Android due to the length of time to market it would have taken them to produce a competitor to the iPhone all on their own. It certainly worked a treat in stunting the iPhone's considerable growth, but just imagine what Apple's mobile market share would have been without stable/functional Android wielding devices being available ~2009. HTC should take as much, if not more, credit as Google for Android's success.
      • Except that the early versions of Android weren't iPhone competitors (copies), they were Blackberry competitors (copies).

        • As far as I'm aware the first phone released with Android OS was the HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 (UK) and it had 1.5/1.6. This iteration of Android had an iPhone-eque look and feel. Maybe you're referring to the initial goal of Android Inc. at conception, prior to Google's investment?
          • I'm referring to the prototypes demoed in a Google video.

            • Oh ok, so something like this from 2006? [theverge.com] I can't find a video, but that's the phone, and Android version details, they apparently revealed during the Oracle trial. I agree the prototype phone *looks* like a generic Blackberry but the OS implemented "functional apps included the dialer, home screen, messaging app, contacts, and an early example of Android's ubiquitous WebKit-based browser; implementations of Google Talk, Gmail, Calendar, MMS, "chat-based SMS" (presumably a threaded messaging app), and POP e
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:39AM (#42374885)

    In other words, a lawsuit magnet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:39AM (#42374887)

    Will we finally get something open and completely hackable?
    Bomb proof like Nokia with crazy great features like FM radio transmitter or IR remote control?
    I vote for FRS radio tech too, that would be a great way to zap GPS coordiantes or low res pics between users even out of service area.
    At the end of the day though there will be the bloated commercial apps which plague the Android/IOS communities,vs the grassroots stuff that is still buildinggreat stuff for Maemo/Meego.
    When will there be another N900 with all of the apps alll of the tech but not the bloat and spyware.

    • I've read the phone is first going to be ATT branded, so don't expecr it to be open and hackable.
      • I've read the phone is first going to be ATT branded, so don't expecr it to be open and hackable.

        Oops, I got that wrong. Motorola's working on a Verizon phone, and the company internally named X devices. http://gadgets.ndtv.com/mobiles/news/google-reportedly-working-with-motorola-on-x-phone-x-tablet-308598 [ndtv.com]

        • by node 3 (115640)

          That's a separate phone from the one being discussed here.

    • by rjr162 (69736)

      Didn't the Nextel phones have a built in frs mode for when you were out of cell service range.... Pretty sure they did

      • by tftp (111690)

        Didn't the Nextel phones have a built in frs mode for when you were out of cell service range

        As I understand those were not FRS functions. FRS, being 450 MHz, ,won't even work with higher band antennas.

        I had a Sprint phone right around the time of acquisition of Nextel (I was using Sprint from 1999 to 2008, I think,) and the phone (Sanyo something) had the PTT button. I read the manual about what it does. The function was entirely tied to the cellular network. (Why would a carrier compete with itself b

        • by rjr162 (69736)

          Yeah I know the ptt worked over cell tower, and but I swear I remember my friends one Nextel Motorola phone also had basically a frs mode (not sure if it was compatible with standard frs radios but I doubt it) that basically worked ad hoc with other Nextel phones with the same capability. I it had a 2 mile range I want to say and I don't recall if you had to 'pair' the devices you wanted to be able to communicate or not.

          I really wish I could remember which model of phone he had

    • Will we finally get something open and completely hackable?
      Bomb proof like Nokia with crazy great features like FM radio transmitter or IR remote control?
      I vote for FRS radio tech too, that would be a great way to zap GPS coordiantes or low res pics between users even out of service area.
      At the end of the day though there will be the bloated commercial apps which plague the Android/IOS communities,vs the grassroots stuff that is still buildinggreat stuff for Maemo/Meego.
      When will there be another N900 with all of the apps alll of the tech but not the bloat and spyware.

      Hmm. Let's look at your TV remote. Yup, just as I suspected, 500 buttons.

  • The phone should be aesthetically beautiful. I know the internals will be well taken care of.

    In othewords, the phone should be catch one's eye. Not some generic ugly slab.

  • by Buzzsaw5 (1047078) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @10:54AM (#42374959)
    If it's going to be anything at all like THIS X Phone then I want to pre-order RIGHT NOW. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0RqPhr-hdA [youtube.com]
  • Here [digitaltrends.com] is a leaked photo. Revolutionary! Put it up to your head: hello? HELLO? allo?

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:05AM (#42374999) Journal

    The next awesome phone will not be a tech geek's wet dream. It will not have 40 custom notifications types. It will not be "customizable" or "programmable" as we currently know it. If Google shoots for the technology demo handset, it will miss the entire modern use for electronics, which is to simply be an extension of your mind. I don't mean that is some telepathic, sci-fi way, but rather a device which is so well integrated that the actual interface never gets in the way and doesn't require set up.

    And geeks will hate it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Geeks absolutely LOVE what never gets in the way. A thing which is as powerful as a 10 year old laptop and doesn't do half of what a 10 year old laptop could do, has something that gets in the way.

      Example: I want NOT to give an app I just got from the play store access to my friggin contacts, so maybe if i make a chroot for it somewhere... except i have no root by default, and to get root I have to download a random blob from teh internets.

      This gets in the f.ing way.

    • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:26AM (#42375097)

      "The only 'intuitive' interface is the nipple. After that it's all learned." — Bruce Ediger

      What you wish will never be. Unless you want to suck on your phone, of course. But other than that, there is no interface that won't "get in the way". Until you learn it. Then it will be sublimely easy to use. To you. Not necessarily to anyone else.

      The best we user interface designers can do is to try to minimize the number of times you have to poke your finger at your phone to get it to do what you want. Unfortunately for us, we have to do that for 6 or 7 different usage patterns, so nobody is ever happy. Teenagers text exhaustively. Old people want to make phone calls. Geeks want to tether all the time. Somebody in there mostly uses their phone to play games. Somebody else mostly uses their phone as a camera. And everybody thinks every feature they use are the important features and none of the other features are important.

      Do we try to make the phone learn you? As it turns out, that's even more obnoxious. About when you've learned where everything is, it adapts, and changes things. Trying to guess what you want is counterproductive, to say the least.

      So.... we give you set up options. Move stuff, change stuff, rearrange stuff, until the stuff you use most often is easiest to get to. Or not. You could just leave it alone.

      Anyway, quit complaining, or we'll make your next phone shaped like a boob. Intuitive.

      • by swillden (191260)

        "The only 'intuitive' interface is the nipple. After that it's all learned." — Bruce Ediger

        And the nipple isn't all that intuitive, either. Babies have to learn how to latch on correctly. In recent years, where young mothers often don't have the support of their mothers and other older women around to help them teach their babies, this has led to the creation of a new career: Lactation consultants are employed by hospitals to help teach mothers how to teach their babies to use the nipple.

        It's all learned.

    • by russotto (537200)

      Geeks only hate easy to use things which are "an extension of the mind" when those things fail to extend geeks minds. If the geek tries to use the device and finds it inadequate but with just a small modification it would be great, and then finds the device is not amenable to modification, that's when the geek hates it for lack of customizability.

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:10AM (#42375023)
    Not an awful lot of detail yet, just that it's probably going to be officially announed in March 2013.

    http://www.engadget.com/2012/12/21/motorola-x-phone-x-tablet-rumor-android-smartphone/ [engadget.com]

    http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2413528,00.asp [pcmag.com]

    • From NDTV: " Google Inc is working with recently acquired Motorola on a handset codenamed "X-phone", aimed at grabbing market share from Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. Google acquired Motorola in May for $12.5 billion to bolster its patent portfolio as its Android mobile operating system competes with rivals such as Apple and Samsung. The Journal quoted the people saying that Motorola is working on two fronts: devices that wi
      • by rjr162 (69736)

        Wasn't Motorola the company that picked up one of the lead developers of CyanogenMod a year or so ago?

        • by breeze95 (880714)

          Wasn't Motorola the company that picked up one of the lead developers of CyanogenMod a year or so ago?

          No, that was Samsung.

  • by kc8tbe (772879) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:19AM (#42375065)

    Maybe in addition to flexible screens, a brain scanner, and antigravity, this Nexus phone will finally feature the latest in high-bandwidth media transfer technology. An unnamed source tells me this wireless technology will take the revolutionary form of a small, fingernail-sized chip that can be easily inserted into and removed from the phone. Many gigabytes of data from the cloud can be stored on the chip and then transfered between the phone and other compatible devices such as phones, tablets, and notebooks. Some media sources have speculated that this pioneering technology may even allow users to access their media when an Internet connection is not available, although experts have cautioned that the technology to implement such a feature will not be available until 2015 at the earliest...

  • With the Moto acquisition, Google should set the bar by putting out segment defining handsets. There hasn't been too much of innovation outside of Google in the android space. Time for Google to show what's possible with Android + Moto's phone making experience.
    • by green1 (322787)

      Motorola already made the absolute best hardware handsets out there. Their problem was the complete lack of after sales support, and their awful software customization, and lock down. Those 3 things are things that Google knows how to fix. Not sure why nothing decent has come out yet...

      • Google sucks at support too. They only just came up with phone support for customers years after realising no one wants to get support off some shitty message board.
        • by green1 (322787)

          When I said support I meant more like software updates and such, but you are right on that part, Google doesn't provide any real support for their products.

  • by fermion (181285) on Sunday December 23, 2012 @11:33AM (#42375159) Homepage Journal
    Isn't this a software feature that can be incorporated in all phones? Is this the beginning of Google keeping the best for itself, as MS used to do, and only releasing the second rate product to others?

    It is inconceivable that Google can't release software and technical specs to the OEM and have these phones produced. The only thing I can think of is this is going to be another incompatible version of Android, i.e. most phones are not going to upgrade to it, so the best way to handle the PR is to make it sound like a new special version.

    Apple really screwed the pooch by making smart phones look like computers, in terms of the ability to upgrade the software. It would have better to simply have the expectation of upgrading the phone every two years to get an upgrade, with simple updates given between those times. It would have made the carriers much more happy, knowing users would have to sign a new two year contract to get the latest software. Even better if updates were every 18 months so customers would just build up contracts. As it is, I my phone is two years old and still run current OS and has many of the current features. I will upgrade soon because it makes no sense not to if you are paying monthly tarrifs.

    • by rjr162 (69736)

      Considering the S3 already supports some gesture features such as swiping the screen from leftto right wwith the side of your hand takes a screen shot, but double tap the top of the phone to go to the top of a page, place phone face down to mute any audio (say if you're in a meeting and forgot to shut the ringer off), and while in text just put the phone up to your ear to dial, plus others I haven't used yet and/or forgot about

    • They have already started keeping the best for themselves. They touted PhotoSphere and the new tracing keyboard as a part of Android 4.2, yet those features are not part of AOSP and can only run on Nexus Devices (without hacking or fiddling with APKs).

  • What is the Google Nexus supposed to be if it's not a Google Tablet?

  • Unfortunately, if both my own experience and that of Consumerist submitters is accurate, Google is even less responsive to individual customers than the big wireless carriers.

    It's sad.

  • This is great news. It's frustrating to look at the lineup of Android handsets and see all the different ways the various OEMs have taken a good platform and ruined it. It's even more frustrating when you find the magical Phone That Doesn't Suck and ask yourself if/when it's going to get OS updates. Android is a mess and Google needs to take back some control.
  • that Google will be adding all sort of 'sensors' to the cameras and microphones using a special DSP chip to process the information. You won't just have voice commands, but you will be able to make gestures with your hands in an ASL type of control using the camera. It would come in handy for the deaf and possible it can translate ASL into text as well for faster typing. Non-Verbal commands I think is what they might call it. There will most likely be ASIC chips added for SHA-256 hashing so it could process Bitcoin mining and solve SHA-256 hashes for other reasons as well.

  • Can I just get a phone that I don't have to recharge every 8 hours if I actually use the thing? More apps, more features, more browsing all means a worse experience because it is a wireless device that I always have to have plugged in for power.
  • I wish Windows Phone would have been named the XPhone instead, after Microsoft's hippest product, the Xbox. I'm not alone. I've seen the same sentiment dozens of times on blogs and on twitter.

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