The most important message about Motorola's mysterious 'Moto X' phone

Motorola Moto X Phone

After months of hype and anticipation, Motorola's finally spilling the beans on its mysterious new Android product -- the "Moto X" phone.

Well, sort of.

Speaking at a conference hosted by the website All Things D last night, Motorola chief Dennis Woodside talked about the top-secret phone for the first time publicly. He confirmed it would be called the Moto X and would mark the first product conceived since Google's purchase of the company.

Woodside shed a few details about the device, like the fact that it'd launch by October and would sport a series of special sensors that'd cause it to act differently when taken out of your pocket or traveling in a car.

Sensors -- right. That's cool. But that's not the most important thing Woodside divulged; the truth is that we're barely scratching the surface when it comes to this phone's technical feats. Rest assured, we'll hear all about that stuff in full detail soon.

Right now, the most important message about the phone is something far broader and more significant. And it's something that, on some level, we've known for a while. Take a deep breath:

The Moto X phone is not a "Google phone." At least, not in the way most people think of the term.

Sounds like a strange thing to say, I know. Let me explain.

In all the hubbub surrounding the Moto X, people have gotten pretty excited about the idea that a company owned by Google is getting ready to put out its first fully original (i.e. developed after the acquisition) product. People have wondered if the X phone would, to borrow words from one report, "provide a Google service experience like no other device before it."

Maybe it will. But unless Google is blatantly lying to us and everyone else in the world (and I'm sure a few "OMG-they're-evil-and-plotting-against-us" conspiracy theorists will happily weigh in on that topic), it won't do it in any way that couldn't just as easily be done by Samsung, HTC, or any other Android manufacturer.

When Google announced its plans to acquire Motorola in 2011, it made one thing abundantly clear: It would operate Motorola as a separate business and keep a firewall firmly in place between it and the Android development team.

During last night's talk, Woodside reaffirmed that stance, noting that Motorola is treated "as a separate company" from Android and that employees have no special access to private Android resources or unreleased Android code. 

So, yes, Motorola is now a part of Google. But using that connection to refer to a Moto product as a "Google phone," while not technically inaccurate, conveys a misleading message.

Google Nexus Program

When it comes to Android, the Nexus program serves as Google's vision for what a mobile device should be -- "the best of Google," as the official Nexus site puts it. Nexus phones are without a doubt Google's flagship Android devices, developed with close involvement from the Android team and built to showcase what an optimal Android user experience can be.

Motorola's phones, while built within a division of Google, have nothing to do with this notion. From everything we've been told, they aren't being developed as -- nor will they be presented as -- "Google phones." That's what the Nexus program is for (and Google has said numerous times that the Nexus program will continue as it stands uninterrupted, with multiple manufacturers "bidding" to be the official partner for each release).

It's an unusual dynamic, I know -- and ultimately, the distinction comes down to a matter of semantics. But that distinction is important. When news sites refer to the Moto X as a "Google phone," they're giving consumers the wrong idea.

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Make no mistake about it: The Moto X sounds like an intriguing device with plenty of potential. For all intents and purposes, though, it'll be a flagship Motorola device -- not a "Google phone."

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