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A New iPhone Killer?

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Rumors have begun to swirl that Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) is planning to release a new smartphone code-named "X Phone." The new device, which is expected to be a full collaboration between Google and the remnants of Motorola, which is now a Google subsidiary, has spurned widespread speculation about not only the specifics of the phone, but how its release will position Google, Motorola, and the entire Nexus brand. Despite the lack of details, there is a general consensus that the device will incorporate enough features and simplicity to place the Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPhone directly in its crosshairs. Of course, the once-called G Phone, which morphed into the Nexus One at release, was not the iPhone killer it promised to be. Regardless of the specifics, consumers and investors alike will do well to prepare for the arrival of the newest thing from Google.

The branding question
With so many brands floating around in this space, the decision on how this new device is branded may be more critical than you realize. Currently, we have Google with its Nexus brand and we have Motorola with its Droid and Razr brands. The new device is being called the "Google X Phone" and the "Google/Motorola X Phone" in various places, but speculation about the Nexus and Droid names are circulating as well.

While the name of the device seems like it would be one of the less important features to worry about, it is easy to forget in the realm of high-end smartphones, image can be as important as anything. At the risk of inflaming the Apple nation, the "cool factor" was the only compelling reason for anyone to break a service agreement to upgrade early from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5.

Both the Droid and Nexus names have already become associated with certain distinct product types that carry with them a sense of the device. The look, feel, and features expectations of the device are captured in the name. It's possible Google's new project has been given the X moniker so that you will need to check it out before making any choice.

In one of the more interesting bits of speculation in circulation, Clinton Stark offered up three possible scenarios for the Google X Phone. Under the first option, Google creates a new, streamlined device that runs a pure form of Android. The new device would represent a step toward vertical integration similar to the paradigm used by Apple. Google would control the device, the ecosystem, and the OS, allowing it to tighten up what it does with Android beyond its own products. There is some logic to this approach, in that Google has done very little with Motorola, but the global appeal of Android might make this more costly than strategic.

Under the second option, Google would release the X Phone as a streamlined, user-friendly iPhone killer and reserve the Nexus brand for the "technorati." This seems like a more probable option, as scrapping the success the company has built to date would be unnecessary. There is definitely a contingent that would love to see a Motorola-quality piece of hardware that utilized a cleaner, pure version on Android. This could be the new genius of the X Phone, but it is too early to tell.

The final option is that the X Phone launches without any other changes going into place. In the smartphone wars, there is always room for one more, but a real concern for Google is that it is hyping the new entry so much, and planning on jamming so much tech into it, that it will be impossible to deliver. It is hard to imagine that the amount of planning and preparation that is under way for a serious new product launch would so unceremoniously be allowed to languish in limbo, but that was essentially what happened on the initial launch of the Nexus One.

iPhone killer?
While it is too early to make a real assessment of the disruptive force represented by the new device, I think the market itself may become the "iPhone killer" in the sense that alternatives are on the rise. The Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) Lumia Series that runs on Windows sold 4.4 million units last quarter, followed by 2.9 million the quarter before. The company also recently landed a contract with China's largest wireless carrier and has placed itself squarely in the conversation as a real player again. Just a few months ago, there was serious concern over Nokia's viability.

Also trying to run down the rebound trail is Research In Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) , which recently announced that it will unveil the BlackBerry 10 at the end of January. RIM has not reached Nokia's level of relevance yet, but initial reviews of its new OS look solid and many, myself included, are excited to see how the BB10 fares when it is released. This is do-or-die time for RIM, which once was the only legitimate name in smartphones -- a return to the field would serve consumers well.

The takeaway is that whether the X Phone kills or flops, technology is advancing in such a way that it is much harder to name a single King of the Smartphones. Rather, there are several that appeal to different audiences and perform different tasks better than others. With that in mind, despite all of Apple's recent issues, it does not need to be on top to be hugely successful. The X Phone may blow us all away, but more likely it will be another impressive device to consider.

Apple has been a longtime pick of Motley Fool superinvestor David Gardner, and it has soared more than 215% since he recommended it in January 2008. David specializes in identifying game-changing companies like Apple long before others are keen to their disruptive potential, and he helps like-minded investors profit while Wall Street catches up. Learn more about how he picks his winners with a free, personal tour of his flagship service, Supernova. Inside, you'll discover the science behind his market-trouncing returns. Just click here now for instant access.

Read/Post Comments (12) | Recommend This Article (7)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 5:42 PM, pwready wrote:

    The Fool just couldn't resist jumping on the killer band wagon with another rumor. So what happened to the buy recommendation at $550?

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 5:49 PM, TimKnows wrote:

    RIM will kill Apple in 2013, NOK isn't in the game.

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 5:58 PM, techy46 wrote:

    spurned widespread speculation? Really bad grammer?

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 5:59 PM, techy46 wrote:

    xPhone is a good moniker for doesn't matter.

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 6:26 PM, digitally404 wrote:

    All this talk about an "X Phone" whose details are not known.

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 8:00 PM, jelp2 wrote:

    There's no need for an iPhone killer, it's dying of boredom on it's own!! YYYAAAWWWWNNNN, I get tiered just thinking about it!!!

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 8:02 PM, jelp2 wrote:

    "There is no 'iPhone killer', because it's impossible to kill iOS+iTunes+iCloud+OSX+Siri+760000 apps. However, in the tradition of everybody killing the BB7 so wildly successfully, GPhone X and the legions of Blackberry Killers will certainly have an easy time killing the Rim BB10 phones, when they do show up."

    I almost spit my drink out of my nose laughing so hard when I saw this!!! ^^^^^^ How delusional!!!

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 8:57 PM, Arthur1111 wrote:

    "Apple has been a longtime pick of Motley Fool superinvestor David Gardner, and it has soared more than 215% since he recommended it in January 2008. David specializes in identifying game-changing companies like Apple long before others are keen to their disruptive potential, and he helps like-minded investors profit while Wall Street catches up. Learn more about how he picks his winners with a free, personal tour of his flagship service, Supernova. Inside, you'll discover the science behind his market-trouncing returns. Just click here now for instant access."

    Who cares what you recommended back in 2008. The fact is you have been recommending Apple for many months now and it has been declining steadily. You have also been advising investors to stay away from RIMM and it keeps on surging. Obviously, the stock prices are moving in the opposite direction to your recommendation.

    Are you ashamed?

    Are your sorry?

    Are you hiding your faces?

    Are your curious to know what went wrong?

    Are you curious to know why your method is resulting in the exact opposite to the actual stock price trend?

    Do you care?

    Are you doing this on purpose?

    I think the answer is NO to all of the above. I will not be surprised to see another article or video from TONNER saying exactly the same bashing words that he said an hour earlier.

    GO with RIMM. That would be your first corrective action for the mess you made to yourselves

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 9:05 PM, LessSpin wrote:

    There is another possibility that is just as likely if not moreso. The XPhone will deal Samsung a huge hit. Google is tired of watching Samsung make all the profits from the Android ecosystem while they do all the work. Additionally we all know Google didn't really pay 12 BILLION to defend Samsung and not make anything back on that investment. Samsung knows this and that is why Tinsen is being readied for market as a preemptive strike!

    Android and Apple have successfully eaten RIM/Nokia (the idea either of these will recover is laughable unless Android civil war gets bad) and the rest of the competition. Android is now finding it hard to gain share at the expense of the iPhone as US share numbers show in markets where both Android and the iPhone are present. The truth is Android is a large fragmented market that will now try to feed on itself much as happened in the PC industry and war on price to the detriment of all it's manufacturers.

    Most "Android" devices in Asia have Google services stripped out in favor of regional players like Baidu and thus Google makes no revenue even on the click thru mobile advertising. Google knows this and seeks to recapture this by a vertical integrated model like Apple's at the expense of current manufacturerers. If the Apple model is "doomed to failure" as droid fans believe they must ask why the king of Android is going this route.... Something to think about?

  • Report this Comment On January 15, 2013, at 9:15 PM, LessSpin wrote:

    Perhaps you should consider a timeframe.... Just because RIMM has been up recently (when you approach zero almost anything is up) doesn't mean it is a good long term play as it is still not in a good fundamental position!!!! I remember RIMM lovers in 2007 saying how they were shipping more phones than ever because of the iPhone and look how that turned out!!! RIMM is dead and wrote its own obituary long ago!!!! Windows phone has a better chance by far as MS has more cash to burn thru in its desperation (look at ad spending vs units sold on Surface).

  • Report this Comment On January 16, 2013, at 12:45 PM, theflew wrote:

    RIMM has a long uphill battle. RIMM will have to show the market they can do something no one else can. Security, multitasking, etc... are no goes when it comes to selling to the average consume and that's the biggest difference in BB10. There's a reason MS developed WP. A simple interface that can provide a wealth of information quickly. There is no complex panning or gestures or multiple desktops or hidden options or complex settings.

    If a user can't pick up a phone and start using it without a manual you have lost people at the carrier store. They will go to the device that does what the want with the easiest to use interface.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2013, at 3:31 PM, anstin wrote:
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