After lackluster results selling devices made by other companies Google is giving hardware another try this time with a smartphone made by a company it owns. On Thursday Motorola Mobility the handset maker Google bought last year for $12.5 billion and then retooled introduced the Moto X the company s first major device since the deal.
The phone has all the standard features expected of today s top smartphone with a twist the ability to control the phone by talking to it without lifting a finger.
The stakes are big for Google and not only because of the high price that it paid for Motorola. Google is enormously profitable but its growth is slowing because of lagging ad sales. Finding success with the new phone could lead to a new source of revenue and a way to get more users to view the company s ads.
The company has been aggressive in absorbing Motorola. It put a former top executive Dennis Woodside in charge of Motorola laid off thousands of Motorola workers and formed a new team with many employees from its fiercest competitors including Apple Samsung and Amazon. A major marketing effort is expected for the Moto X.
I think we ve created an awesome company said Iqbal Arshad Motorola s senior vice president of global product development. And Moto X represents who we are.
Still sales could be an uphill climb. The phone decked out with multiple processors sensors and voice controls is landing squarely in the brutally competitive market for high end smartphones. And Google has a lot to prove before it is taken seriously as a hardware maker.
Motorola s executives contend they have something special with the Moto X which will be sold by all the major American phone carriers beginning in late August or early September. It has a 4.7 inch touch screen which puts it right between the smaller iPhone 5 and the larger Galaxy S4 from Samsung. And it has a sophisticated camera and high speed connections.
But what executives hope makes the Moto X stand out is its voice command capabilities like continually listening for a user s voice and quickly reacting to commands. Saying O.K. Google now find me my way home will quickly pull up a Google map with directions to a user s house for example. The phone learns the voice of its owner and responds only to it. Some people might find this creepy but it is a feature that a user must turn on voluntarily.
Google executives have long talked about building computers that are so integrated into our space that we can ask them to do things without lifting a finger. The Moto X is a big step in that direction.
Mr. Arshad said the company had to develop a new computing system X8 to make Moto X work well. One low powered processor in the phone is devoted to processing natural language. Another low powered processor is dedicated to detecting movements of sensors two twists of the wrist will open the phone s camera for example. The design of the computing system allows the phone to constantly listen for the user s input and quickly respond without constantly draining the battery he said. (The phone s battery is supposed to last 24 hours handling various tasks.)
We want to change the way people call we want to change the way people search and we want to change the way people navigate Mr. Arshad said. That s what touchless control enabled you to do. So we had to design a mobile computing system to do that.
Still as other device makers have learned it takes more than snazzy features to gain traction in the handset business. Samsung and Apple dominate the market and some Asian manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE are selling low cost smartphones and quickly gaining ground in economically disadvantaged markets.
Tero Kuittinen a telecom analyst at Alekstra a mobile diagnostics firm said it was bad timing for Google to be competing in the high end of the smartphone market. The smartphone business is still expanding in the second quarter this year it grew 52 percent compared with last year according to the research firm I.D.C. But most of that growth is coming from manufacturers offering cheap smartphones in emerging markets he said.
Claire Cain Miller contributed reporting.