What Will Googorola's iPhone Killer Look Like?

Late last year, rumors surfaced that Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Motorola subsidiary was working on a new high-end flagship smartphone to take on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPhone. The device was reportedly called the "X Phone" internally, and it wasn't long until the device's existence was inadvertently confirmed through a job listing for a senior director of product management that was promptly taken down.

Just last month at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference, Google CFO Patrick Pichette went and candidly bashed the product pipeline that Google inherited from Motorola, saying they wouldn't live up to the search giant's standards for "wow" products. "We've inherited 18 months of pipeline that we actually have to drain right now, while we're actually building the next wave of innovation and product lines," he said, adding, "We have to go through this transition. These are not easy transitions."

Big G is clearly looking to flush out the mediocre devices that are already en route posthaste so that it can clear the way for a real "wow" smartphone. It's now been 19 months since the acquisition was announced (and nearly 10 months since it closed). During that time, Apple has continued dominating the domestic smartphone market, comprising 65% of all smartphones activated on the three biggest domestic carriers during the fourth quarter.

Where is the X Phone when Google needs it?

Thankful for the X Phone?
According to a rumor out of phoneArena, Googorola is planning on launching the device in November ahead of the holiday shopping season. The anonymous source claims that the X Phone will sport a 4.8-inch display covered with sapphire glass instead of Corning's (NYSE: GLW  ) ubiquitous Gorilla Glass that almost all modern smartphones have. The device may also pack a substantially beefier battery.

The talk of sapphire comes just after the MIT Technology Review released a report last week discussing the use of manufactured sapphire in smartphones. Apple just started using sapphire crystal in the iPhone 5, but as the primary camera lens cover.

Sapphire camera lens covers used in the iPhone 5. Source: Apple.

Sapphire is three times stronger than Gorilla Glass but also costs up to 10 times as much. Those costs should come down in the future, which may spur adoption and potentially threaten one of Corning's fastest-growing businesses. However, that cost discrepancy means that Corning has time to continue beefing up Gorilla Glass. The glass maker just unveiled Gorilla Glass 3, which debuted on Samsung's Galaxy S4.

Apple was the first smartphone vendor to catalyze Gorilla Glass adoption, and it may be the same one to signal an eventual shift toward sapphire displays. Sapphire suppliers like Rubicon Technology and GT Advanced Technologies could potentially benefit from that transition if it materializes meaningfully over the next couple years.

All that and a bag of chips
Inside the X Phone should be one of Qualcomm's (NASDAQ: QCOM  ) latest and greatest Snapdragon processors, potentially its high-end 800 Series that was just announced in January and is currently sampling for mid-year commercial launches. Specifically, phoneArena believes it may be a quad-core 2 GHz chip inside.

As with all rumors, none of the above may be true, especially since the rumbling directly contradicts another X Phone rumor from earlier this month. Android World had speculated that the device would carry a 4.7-inch display and notably a different processor -- NVIDIA's (NASDAQ: NVDA  ) quad-core Tegra 4i.

Processor

CPU Core

Modem

Snapdragon 600

Krait 300

None

Snapdragon 800

Krait 400

Integrated

Tegra 4

ARM Cortex-A15

None

Tegra 4i

ARM Cortex-A9 r4

Integrated

Sources: Qualcomm and NVIDIA.

That processor is NVIDIA's first processor with integrated connectivity and would be a big win against Qualcomm if it scores the X Phone spot. The Tegra 4i uses less powerful cores compared to the regular Tegra 4, which may not be able to challenge the Snapdragon 800 as well. If Googorola is set on using a chip with integrated LTE, it has to go with one of these two chips since the other choices only offer discrete connectivity.

Tag team
Until the X Phone's launch, the Android army will have to rely on the Galaxy S4 and HTC One to keep the heat on the iPhone. Just don't expect the X Phone to kill the iPhone.

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  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2013, at 12:28 PM, ScottAtlanta wrote:

    Hey, great article.

    Don't forget another line of evolution for these devices from the OLED industry --- which allows screens on flexible v. thin plastic displays (and who knows what optics proj. tech will bring?). One ex. of this might be, as seen in a vid presentation from Samsung, a rollable screen that rolls out when you need it and up into a small space when you don't --- i.e., that's really cool, absolutely transformative (the phone b/cs shape of small/short cylinder vs. flat rectangle), and requires no glass.

  • Report this Comment On March 26, 2013, at 8:26 PM, JustOneT wrote:

    Good work, Evan.

    Any chance that Intel's Android optimization could turn into a surprise Atom SoC on the X Phone? Probably one big issue is whether Intel could be ready to ship LTE by November. Seems like Intel would really bust it to get a design win like this and the high end fits their target niche.

    Thoughts?

    Blessings,

    scot

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