Apple products bear a now-familiar slogan: “Designed by Apple in California | Assembled in China.”
Google is taking a different approach in building what it says is the very first smartphone ever be to be made in America.
As mentioned by my former Wired colleague Dylan Tweney on LinkedIn Today, Google’s Motorola division is opening a plant in the Fort Worth, Texas area to assemble at least 70 percent of the 1,100 components of Google’s upcoming Moto X phone. Those components come from all over the world, which makes sense. You can’t go all “locally-sourced artisanal” with something as complicated as a smartphone.
Still, “the Moto X will be the first smartphone to be built entirely in the United States,” as Google Motorola chief Dennis Woodside said at the D11 conference. Google will employ about 2,000 people at that factory, a rare reversal of the usual trend of manufacturing jobs shifting to other countries. The site had previously been used to manufacture pre-smartphone Nokia devices.
Google bought Motorola two summers ago for $12.5 billion in cash — a move we said would help it copy Apple, vertically integrating its hardware and mobile operating system. You know why iOS “just works,” and has since Day One? Because Apple builds — or, rather, designs — all of it, except the apps, and it has pretty strict rules and near-total control over which apps the iOS crowd can use.
Meanwhile, one app developer we met with recently had to loan us an Android device, because neither of our Android tablets and none of our phones would work with his Android music app. Ostensibly, a Google-manufactured smartphone might be easier to develop for, and on top of that, this one will be made in America, although it remains to be seen what that will do for its build quality.
Will American factory workers in Texas (apply here) be able to manufacture a higher-quality phone than their lower-paid, longer-shift-working equivalents in Chinese factories (whose lot in life Apple has recently been improving)? Google seems to think so, because a U.S. factory means a tighter union between “designed” and “assembled,” at least geographically.
“When your phone manufacturing is thousands of miles away from your designers and your engineers, you lose the ability to innovate,” said Woodside. “We think [not doing that is] going to allow us to innovate and iterate much faster.”
“There are more than 130 million smartphones in use in the USA today and not one of them was assembled here…until now,” reads Google’s announcement. “We’ll be able to iterate on design much faster, create a leaner supply chain, respond much more quickly to purchasing trends and demands, and deliver devices to people here much more quickly.”
It’s not clear when the Moto X will go on sale, and in fact all details about the device are fairly scant, other than that it will act differently depending on whether it’s in your pocket or you are on the highway, possibly among other factors.
“It knows that when I take it out of my pocket I might want to do something, I might want to take a picture so it’s gonna fire up the camera,” added Woodside at the D11 conference. “Imagine when you’re in the car the device will know, whether it’s on or off, that it’s travelling at 60 miles per hour, so it’s going to act differently. It’s contextually aware of what’s going on around it, it allows you to interact in very different ways than you can today with other devices.”
Whatever this Moto X is, and however well or poorly it is built, its extra-sensory capabilities should offer new possibilities for apps that play the right music, at the right volume, at the right time, according to circumstance.
Image via @evleaks