When Google ploughed £7.8bn into buying Motorola Mobility this summer, one question immediately sprang to mind: would the new company be called Googlorola or Motoggle? Then we had another thought: when their first collaboration hits the streets, just how awesome will it be?
If Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) and the new Motorola Razr are anything to go by, we are preparing to have our minds well and truly blown. Google's new operating system is the smoothest and smartest yet, while Motorola is enjoying an incredible renaissance for a company that has been coasting for the best part of a decade.
Now the first fruit of the union is taking seed -- the very first phone that Google will own from top to toe, as opposed to being manufactured by a third party. When can we expect it? What will it look like? And is this finally the Droid that you have been looking for?
The first thing to remember is that the development cycle for a new phone is around 18 months. That means we'll still be seeing Motorola-designed handsets next summer, prior to the first proper Google phone popping up in the autumn at the earliest. Any 'rationalising' Google has to do at Motorola in the meantime could delay things further.
However, we would expect to start seeing Google's influence on Motorola's hardware sooner than that. While Google used the Samsung-made Galaxy Nexus handsets to introduce Ice Cream Sandwich, there's no reason why a Motorola device couldn't take centre stage for its rumoured follow-up, Jelly Bean (Android 5.0).
Look and feel
We love the new Motorola Razr. Not only is it the thinnest smart phone in the world (this week), it's been built with an attention to detail and an eye for design that has for too long been absent at Motorola. But for all its Kevlar-coated, water-resistant, ninja-blade stylishness, we don't see the Razr as a precursor to the first Motorola Nexus.
Google is not the most subtle of companies. It does not build products for the rarefied appreciation of graphic designers or snooty shoppers. It makes stuff for the mass market, with broad appeal and the latest technology. That tends to mean clunky-looking web services that get updated frequently, and chunky feature-packed phones to showcase them.
That suggests a handset along the lines of the Droid Bionic, which didn't receive a UK release; it was Motorola's square-jawed, LTE high-speed mobile network-enabled bruiser with a 4.3-inch screen and dual-core chops. We expect the new phone to be even bigger, brasher and more bionic.
One drawback of shifting Nexus from Galaxy to Motorola is that Samsung really understands Google. The Korean company is also all about size, power and features. Surpassing the Galaxy Nexus would stretch the Google-ised Motorola engineers to the limit.
Motorola has been a strong innovator in 4G, and the Motorola Nexus will be built around a seamless LTE experience. If Motoggle sticks with Texas Instruments for silicon, the timing could be perfect for the new OMAP 5 processors shipping next autumn. These dual-core ARM chips will have dedicated graphics accelerators and clock in at a nice, round 2GHz.
OMAP 5 will support camera resolutions of 24 megapixels, although twin 12-megapixel snappers would make more sense, possibly with 3D support all the way up to 1080p. And talking of 3D, that would be one way for the first Motorola Nexus to make an impact; a Jelly Bean operating system designed from the ground up could support stereoscopic visuals including 3D home screens, menus, keypads and -- of course -- games.
Jelly Bean inside
As mentioned above, hand-in-hand with the hardware will be a new OS. Android Beam, a feature of Ice Cream Sandwich which allows you to tap two near-field communication-enabled phones together to zap photos or files from one to the other, is likely to get some upgrades.
This would involve developing more uses for NFC in the real world by growing its partners and the use of e-cash. As NFC devices become more common, Google will use them to construct a richly-detailed virtual universe, the first steps towards the fabled 'Internet of things' -- whereby all manner of devices will be able to talk to each other as part of a vast network of technologies and services, beyond the scale of the current internet.
Expect interior maps giving directions around shops and museums and the ability to 'tap in' almost anywhere -- like Foursquare on steroids -- changing your phone's performance or profile, depending on your location.
Google is playing catch-up to Apple with voice search but it has more resources to bring to bear in search, navigation and behind-the-scenes cloud smarts. The Motorola Nexus will have voice control with a dedicated button -- which would never happen with minimalist Apple phones -- letting you converse with your phone without even turning on its screen.
Google+ should also find a place in Jelly Bean, with closer integration into all aspects of the OS, especially with third-party Android apps. Think of it like Apple's Game Centre, transporting your preferences from app to app to give the entire platform a more cohesive feel.
Less is more
The Motorola Nexus won't just be piling new features on. It also stands to lose a few -- specifically those with 'Moto' at the start of their name. Bid farewell to the media streaming MotoCast, say sayonara to the Firefox browser -- it'll be Chrome all the way, and take a last look at MotoBlur-esque mini-apps like Smart Actions.
The future of Webtop is still uncertain -- the concept of docking your phone into a laptop shell or home cinema dock. It's one of the best ideas of modern gadgetry, but Moto's accessories have been shockingly over-priced. If Google can bring the cost down and make the whole experience a little easier, a transforming Motorola Nexus with bolt-on goodies could be a real winner.
Solid facts are few and far between when it comes to the first Googorola phone, but here are our safest guesses:
- Android 5.0 Jelly Bean to debut on a Motorola handset
- A next-gen TI OMAP 2GHz dual-core processor
- Screen at least 4.6 inches in size
- Beefier, smarter near field communication Android Beam technology
- Shipping Q3 2012
And if we wanted to write a wish list for next Christmas, it would definitely include:
- Complete 3D Jelly Bean experience, from menus to apps to movies
- Advanced Webtop accessories to bring Android into the living room and aid mobile working
- Full voice control, including a dedicated 'speak to me' button