If there's one phone maker that's appealed to Android enthusiasts the most over the past couple of years, it's Motorola. With their speedy performance, "pure Android" UI and thoughtful software additions, Moto phones have earned a loyal following among those who live and breathe mobile tech. So it's not surprising that word of new Moto phones landing before the month's end has fans eagerly awaiting news of what's to come.
Moto dropped a pretty big hint in the invite for its global launch events — a three-city affair this year, in New York, London and São Paulo — signing off with an "XOX" that looked suspiciously like two Xs and a G. (You may remember similar hints being dropped in last year's Moto launch invite.)
So, a new Moto G and a new Moto X, then? Or maybe even two models of Moto X? And what about the possibility of a new Moto 360? Read on to find out what we're expecting from this latest round of Moto launches.
Lenovorola, year one
If we get what we're expecting — a new Moto G, and likely a new Moto X as well — this will be the biggest product launch for Motorola since the Lenovo acquisition was finalized in late 2014, marking the end of Moto's brief stint as "a Google company."
But don't expect any sweeping alterations to Moto's lineup as a result of these top-level changes. The phones being announced on July 28 were almost certainly in development before the Lenovo deal was completed, meaning any input into them from the Chinese firm would have come pretty late in the game.
Lenovo isn't about to monkey with the core of what makes Moto unique.
In any case, Lenovo doesn't seem inclined to monkey with the core of what makes Moto unique. It's clearly 100 percent behind Moto Maker, having recently launched the phone customization service in China. The near-stock Android UI is certainly here to stay as well — during Q&A sessions at Lenovo TechWorld in Beijing, Lenovo execs repeatedly and enthusiastically got behind what they called the "pure Android" experience. (And in fact, some of that influence is now starting to bleed over into Lenovo's Android tablets.) The desire seems to be to scale up Motorola's ideas rather than merely using it to gobble up Western market share for the parent company.
Bottom line: We're not going to see a dramatic change of course, as we did when Google took over the reins and reinvented Moto a couple years ago. A broader, bolder Motorola? Sure. But a vastly different product lineup? Probably not.
The third-generation Moto G (2015)
The Moto G is a hugely important product for Motorola. The affordable handset makes up the bulk of Moto's smartphone sales, having quickly become its best-selling phone ever in 2014. The reason for its success? A very fine balancing act between hardware, software and cost. Essentially, the Moto G was one of the first cheap Android phones that didn't suck, and the second-gen model continued in this vein.
So what now, as the Moto G line enters its third generation? For sure, the mid-range space has become a lot more crowded over the past twelve months, with intriguing new contenders like ASUS and Alcatel around the $300 mark. That's still a price point or two above the Moto G, though, and we don't expect Motorola to go after these new mid-range handsets.
Look for upgraded internals and more premium features in this lean and mean handset.
Fortunately, the rumor mill has a lot to say about the next Moto G. Leaked renders show a phone with a familiar dual front speaker arrangement, and a Moto "dimple" joined with the camera in a new metal area on the device's rear.
As for specs, Brazilian site Tecmundo points to a modest upgrade over last year's G:
The rumored specs include a 5-inch 720p display, Snapdragon 410 SoC with 1.4 GHz quad-core Cortex A53 CPU and Adreno 306 GPU, models with 1GB RAM/8GB storage and 2GB RAM/16GB storage, microSD card slot, 13MP camera at the back, 5MP front shooter and a 2,470mAh battery.
Also mentioned are IPX7 water resistance and 4G LTE connectivity as standard.
The jump up to a 64-bit CPU is a big deal — remember, the second-gen Moto G used the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip as the original. Four Cortex-A53s should provide more than enough oomph to run Moto's streamlined UI smoothly, while also being more power-efficient than the old Snapdragon 400. Similarly, the existence of both a 1GB RAM/8GB storage and a 2GB/16GB option could help the new Moto G to compete in both emerging and established markets.
These specs were later confirmed by numerous leaks from a variety of sources. As for pricing, it appears the next Moto G will fit around the same price point as its predecessors, with one Indian retailer indicating starting prices between ₹11,999 ($187) ₹12,999 ($203) depending on storage and RAM configuration.
And a much-needed camera upgrade on both the front and back of the device — along with what looks like a dual-LED flash — points to photography on the G no longer being an afterthought.
Moto Maker may be coming to the Moto G.
We mentioned scaling up Motorola's ideas earlier in this piece, and one example of this might be the arrival of Moto Maker for the Moto G. Motorola has offered replacement colored backs and bumpers for earlier Moto Gs, but a recent render from seasoned leaker Evan Blass points to fuller customization for the third-gen model.
As the render shows, we're looking at not just a variety of colorful back panels, but also new colors for the Moto dimple and camera module.
A general trend with the third-gen Moto G seems to be this slow creep of premium features into this affordable handset. According to the Tecmundo report, the new model is supposed to retail around the same as the second-gen G — so it's impressive that the phone could include 4G as standard, IPX7 certification, an array of customization options and a potentially decent camera setup.
The third-generation Moto X (2015)
The Moto G may be the more important handset for Moto's bottom line, but it's the prospect of a new flagship phone that has smartphone nerds salivating. While it could be a little early in the year for a new Moto X (the last model was unveiled in early September ahead of an October retail launch), nowhere is it written in stone that a new flagship has to come exactly twelve months after the last.
And with Moto holding events at major venues in three cities, and littering its invite with Xs... well, you get the idea. There's an above-average chance we'll see a new Moto X on July 28.
Reliable info on the next unannounced Moto flagship has been harder to come by. Unconfirmed reports point to either a Snapdragon 808 or 810 CPU running the show, with the expected upgrades to internal storage, RAM, camera and other components. There's been nothing we'd consider 100 percent reliable just yet, however. At a guess, we'd imagine that Snapdragon 808 is a more likely candidate for the next Moto X, given Moto's track record of not always selecting bleeding-edge chips, and the challenges with heat dissipation associated with the 810.
There's also talk of a 5.5-inch display and a much larger battery. Due to the importance of the Moto Display feature, it's highly likely the new Moto X will stick with an AMOLED display, perhaps upping the screen resolution to Quad HD this time around to match its competitors.
And you can bet Moto Maker will be back too — especially if, as reported, it's coming to the Moto G as well.
There are two areas where Moto needs to improve substantially: camera and battery.
Motorola got a lot right with the hardware of last Moto X, but it missed in a couple of important areas. The 13MP, OIS-less rear camera was disappointing at launch, and hasn't gotten much better since then. And the 2,300mAh fixed battery was only barely sufficient to get through a full day, even with the power savings from Moto Display. We're hoping for big improvements in both areas this time around.
The first reliable information on the next Moto X came from Hong Kong-based outlet hellomotoHK. The site published images (above) showing the back panel of the 2015 Moto G, along with what it claims is a 2015 Moto X and two new Verizon Droid phones.
The purported third-gen Moto X bears some visual similarities to the previous model, including a familiar metal trim, while also including a metal strip and dimple, like the 2015 Moto G. It certainly looks like a next-gen Moto phone, but the black model on show doesn't tell us much about how we'll be able to customize this Moto X, nor what's lurking around the front.
Later leaks cave us a clearer look at the back and front of the next Moto X in black and grey, as well as an eye-catching white and gold.
Could we see two Moto X models?
Maybe it's wishful thinking, or maybe we're reading too much into the two Xs in the "XGX, Moto" signature from the event invite. But what if the Moto X comes in two sizes this year? Such a step wouldn't be unprecedented, especially in a post-iPhone 6 world where consumers are becoming used to choosing between a big phone and a small phone. Indeed, many Android manufacturers now offer a larger and smaller flagship — HTC with the M9 and M9+, Sony with its Z3 and Compact devices, and Samsung with the GS6 series and expected GS6 edge+. For a manufacturer releasing phones under the mantra of "choose choice," it's easy to see how one of those choices could be between a larger and smaller Moto X.
The model we're hearing the most about has a 5.5-inch screen, for what it's worth, so it's easy to see how an alternative model might offer similar features with a smaller footprint. And that'll be a good thing for fans of the original 2013 Moto X, a 4.7-inch handset. A late-breaking Google+ post from hellomotoHK offers a tantalizing partial spec sheet for at least one of the potential Moto X models, including claims of a 3600mAh battery, microSD slot and 21-megapixel main camera.
For now we'll have to wait and see. A new Moto X isn't a dead cert for the July 28 presser. But given the size of the event, and recent heavy discounting of the 2014 Moto X, there's a good chance we'll see something more than a new Moto G.
A new Moto 360?
Motorola is certainly working on a successor to its well-received Moto 360 smartwatch. But it's unclear if we'll see a new wearable at the July 28 event. There's nothing in the invite that refers to watches, and Moto's teaser site focuses solely on phones.
So our gut feeling is we'll have a little longer to wait before the debut of a new Moto smartwatch. When it arrives, hopefully the second-gen Moto 360 will address longstanding performance and battery life gripes with the first model, while consigning the troublesome "flat tire" beneath the display to history. That's just guesswork though — we won't know until we know.
Whatever happens on July 28, we'll be live from NYC and London to bring you full coverage of all Motorola's announcements.
Moto fans, what do you want to see from the next Moto G and Moto X? Are you expecting any surprises from the July 28 event? Shout out in the comments!
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