Today, Motorola made four product announcements for the new Moto X and Moto G smartphones, for the much-awaited Moto 360 smartwatch, and finally for its "Moto Hint" Bluetooth headset; but all of them seem to have some deal-breaking flaws.
Let's take the Moto X, which effectively is Motorola's attempt at a flagship handset. It comes with a Snapdragon 801 processor, which isn't even the latest Qualcomm chip (Snapdragon 805), and it's not even a 64-bit ARMv8 processor, which is something that seems to be long overdue in Android flagships. The lack of such a chip for this holiday season seems like a major disappointment considering that Apple has already had one for a year in its iPhone.
The Moto X has a 1080p resolution, which is probably just about ideal for a high-end smartphone these days. However, the disappointment here comes with the 5.2" screen size, which is too large for most of the customers who bought the Moto X last year precisely because it was a smaller phone than so many phabet-type devices. Now the Moto X is 5.2" just like all the other competition at the high-end, losing its major size differentiation appeal.
The battery has barely improved, too; Motorola raised the capacity from 2,200 mAh to 2,300 mAh, while the competition is now more in the 3,000 mAh range. The Moto X could get away with the smaller battery last year thanks to its lower resolution 720p display, but now it has double the pixels, and even though it features a more powerful GPU, the battery life may suffer compared to the previous model.
Finally, the device retains the small storage options of 16 GB and 32 GB despite the plummeting costs of flash storage over the past few years. To make matters worse, it still doesn't offer a microSD slot, which would be handy for the higher-resolution pictures.
There are some things that have improved over the previous model such as using a newer-generation Super AMOLED panel; a metal frame that improves the in-hand feel of the device; and a 13MP Sony camera that has been in Galaxy S4, LG G2 and LG G3.
It also comes with a price tag of $500, which is lower than those Samsung and LG devices, but $500 doesn't feel like it's low enough to compensate for the Moto X's flaws this year. The Moto X's price quickly fell to $300-$350 last year, which many felt was a much more appropriate price point considering its good-but-not-great specs. For this year's model, $400 rather than $500 feels like a much better price for this device; the Moto X wouldn't make it as high-end handset against competing smartphones out there, but at least it would be great value for the price.
Then there's the new Moto G, which disappoints even more than the new Moto X because the device has barely improved at all. The main changes to the new Moto G are a higher-resolution 8MP camera (up from 5MP), a 2MP front-camera (up from 1.3MP), an increase in screen size to 5" (up from 4.5"), the addition of front speakers and 802.11ac connectivity.
However, the Moto G comes with exactly the same Cortex A7-based Snapdragon 400 processor, storage and RAM as last year, which means there will be no improvement in terms of performance. It's especially disappointing that the Moto G doesn't have the ARMv8-based Snapdragon 410, which is the successor of the Snapdragon 400 processor that is being used by some of HTC's recently announced phones. There's also no word about an LTE version yet, so customers in LTE countries could find that a deal-breaker.
While the storage is the same as last year, with only 8 GB and 16 GB options, this year the new Moto G does bring microSD support up to 32 GB, just like this year's Moto G 4G model. MicroSD's are going to continue to remain an important feature on Android devices, whether internal storage increases or not.
Finally, the battery remains the same, despite the new Moto G being a larger device. This, combined with the higher-resolution camera that requires more processing power, could lead to slightly lower battery life compared to the old Moto G, too.
The much-awaited Moto 360 does indeed look like the best smartwatch money can buy right now, especially the beautiful design that should appeal to a wide range of people (not just tech nerds). However, the deal-breaker could be its battery life; even Motorola seems to be recommending that users charge it at night, which means it won't even last 24 hours. If a smartwatch becomes just another thing people have to worry about charging, then it won't be especially appealing.
The main reason why most of the new smartwatches can't break even two days of battery life is the display technology they are using. A smartwatch can't be treated like a smartphone, because then it will have the same battery life as a smartphone, or perhaps even less than that.
The smartwatch should have a display panel that allows the device to last days or even a week on a single charge. Right now, the only candidates for that are Qualcomm's Mirasol display technology, transflective LCDs (that Pebble is using), and e-ink (that e-readers use). An operating system like Android Wear, which is heavily animation-dependent, may not work as well with e-ink (which works better with very static content), but the other two should be appropriate.
Motorola has also launched a new Bluetooth headset called the Moto Hint that looks to be as attractive a Bluetooth headset as you could want. The Moto Hint hides in your ear, rather than covering your whole earlobe like most other Bluetooth headsets do. Its price is probably not what everyone wanted to see for it, though; at $150, it's only $100 less than a Moto 360 smartwatch, so that could be a deal-breaker for many.
Overall, while both of its phones have improved in some ways, and Motorola has introduced a couple of new products, it doesn't feel as though Motorola is making nearly as a big of a push as it could have this year. Motorola is still owned by Google right now, so perhaps Google didn't feel the need to try too hard with Motorola's product pipeline this year. We'll have to wait and see if Lenovo handles the company any better next year and makes its products any more competitive.