“Do not look at the spec sheet. Look at the phone.”
I still remember the intensity with which the Motorola executive briefing us about the Motorola Moto X in early 2014 uttered those words. It is a line that we think Google could do well to pick up when it starts marketing the Pixel 4a in India.
And that is because the Pixel 4a somewhere seems to hark back to the Moto X in terms of philosophy. By Moto X, incidentally, we mean the first Moto X, not the ones that followed, that got drawn into the spec sheet battle. So what was so special about the first Moto X? Well, at a time when Android was deeply mired in spec wars, with this processor and that large a display with that resolution and so many megapixels on cameras, the Moto X seemingly took a step back and tried to bring the focus back to a word that was being rapidly forgotten: experience.
Initially launched in 2013, the Moto X did not even come with a full HD display – in fact, its 4.7-inch HD display was considered small for its time – and did not sport a top of the line Snapdragon 800 series chip (just seen on the Nexus 5 and other flagships). It did not even come with a massive battery or a crazy-good camera. So what was it fighting on? Quite simply: being a phone that ran smoothly and was easy to use. There were some very neat options like Voice Recognition (Google Now) and even the choice to customize your device with chosen apps and the back panel even as you placed the order. But the core proposition was: this is simple, clean Android for everyone. And anyone.
It was much more affordable than most Android flagships, including the Nexus 5. No, it was not a super hit but almost everyone who bought it loved it, even while they complained about the battery and the cameras. It was just so smooth to use.
And that is exactly what I feel Pixel 4a is trying to do – bet on experience rather than being top of the spec charts. It does not sport a high-end processor either and although its camera is highly acclaimed, it will face competition. Yes, while the geek brigade has as usual gone into ecstasies over it (especially in the US, where quality phones at USD 349 are a rarity – they are a rule out here in India at USD 200!), there are people murmuring about the battery, charging speed, processor, refresh rate and so on. Given the fact that the 4a’s price in India is likely to be north of Rs 30,000 rather than south, those murmurs are only going to increase come October.
Which is perhaps why Google (although I am sure there are smarter heads thinking about this than mine in the search giant) should be looking at the Pixel 4a more as a mainstream ambassador of the Android experience rather than a “upper mid-segment” player. While we have not used the Pixel 4a, only those having unlocked deranged fanboy levels would feel that it has the hardware to take on the likes of the OnePlus Nord, the Realme X2 Pro, the Redmi K20 Pro or even last year’s OnePlus 7T. What it does have that the others do not, is the pure Google experience. And it is perhaps time for that to be brought to the fore again. Push the specs back. Bring the experience to the fore. And make sure it is exceptional (the 3a was not the greatest example with its random reboots and crashes).
Ensure that consumers look at the phone. Not the spec sheet. Like the Moto executive told us to, way back in 2014.
A bit of trivia to close out: Google had taken over Motorola in 2011. Guess which was the first phone launched by Motorola after the takeover? It was actually called the “affordable Nexus.”
Yep, the Moto X.
And guess who was one of the senior vice presidents at Motorola Mobility when the Moto X was launched?
Rick Osterloh. The current senior vice president of devices and services, at Google.