What the Pixel portends (hopefully) for future Google hardware...
One thing that struck me after reading all the review for the Chromebook Pixel was the uniform gushing over the hardware. Most reviews conclude that for the functionality it offers, the Pixel is too expensive. But in terms of hardware, there's nary a negative statement to be found.
Indeed, if you block out the places where they mention the name of the product or the OS it is running, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a review of an Apple product. No other company, not even HTC, gets this kind of praise for hardware so universally. Even the most controversial aspect of the hardware, the 3:2 aspect ratio, is usually praised, which is a major surprise.
For a device that, when it was rumored, very strongly resembled a MacBook Pro, and in its final avatar adopts a lot of the design sensibilities of Apple and actually improves on some of them, this is pretty amazing. And given that this is the first fully Google made product to ship, this kind of praise takes on even more significance.
Which begs the question: Will Google be clever enough to employ its newly gained design chops for a device that a lot more users actually want and will end up buying?
I'm referring to the Motorola X Phone, of course, and I think if Google plays its cards right, this could be the phone to change a trend: the trend where the newest iPhone is the standard bearer for hardware design. These are the things I hope Google learns from the Pixel:
1) Forget thinnest and lightest:
For all the Mac-beating Google tried out here, I'm very glad Google didn't go for making the Pixel thinner and lighter than he Air. They played their cards right, and focussed on the really important things: the screen and the touchpad. While a smartphone should be thin and light, I hope Google keeps in mind that a little heft is a small price to pay, especially for longer battery life. I hope Motorola's strength in cramming in huge batteries is maintained, and refined, with the X Phone.
This aspect we can be fairly certain of already. The Nexus 4 is pretty close to being unibody (though it isn't really). I'm fairly sure the next phone Google designs will go full throttle in this direction. While it does sacrifice removable batteries, this shouldn't be an issue if we get Razr Maxx levels of battery life.
3) Material texture:
It seems clear to me that Google is aware of the impact of material texture on how premium a phone feels. The tactile pleasure of holding a well made phone plays a huge role in how we view feel about it, and HTC has been the only Android vendor to really implement this well for now. Given how well Google apparently understood this concept with the trackpad, I sincerely hope that this is carried forward with whatever material they use for the X-phone. I've read about ceramic being an option, and I hope Google realizes that a toilet bowl look and feel on their phone would be terrible. The feel of my matte ceramic coffee cup, on the other hand, is something else.
If sharp edges on a computer are a problem, sharp edges on a device intended to be held in your hand are beyond idiotic. Its something even Apple has failed to account for several time. The Pixel showed immense thoughtfulness on this aspect from Google, for all that its a rectangular device. You don't have to sacrifice clean lines to make a comfortable-to-hold phone. Hopefully, Google will keep that in mind. Also, no cheap chrome please. That thin line of glossy plastic serves the spoil the Nexus 4. Pick a better material if you want edge accents of any kind.
5) Color and minimalism:
Windows phones interest me not at all, yet the multiple colors on WP8 devices are undeniably attractive. Given Googles love of colors, and its multicolored logo, and its very colorful OS, you'd almost think this design aspect fits Google better...
Not so. I think multiple colors fit Microsoft very well because they're trying to target their phones that way. The bold colors are a statement: This is not a product from the old microsoft, this is new, and exciting.
Google's design choices in Pixel are perfect. The sleek gunmetal color is a statement that is as important for Google as the multiple colors are for Microsoft. Its saying: our products are ready for work. Its a classic, very futuristic look that will only emphasize the explosion of colors once you do enter the OS. And in the sea of serious looking metal is a single playful element: a line that cycles through Google's colors, and very tasteful and subtle reminder that this is a Google product.
I hope Google sticks to this. Shades of black, grey and white that will emphasize a minimal design element that will show the "true colors" of Google. When I think of the X phone's back, I see stark, unrelieved black, a dark grey Motorola "M" symbol in the bottom, and an LED line that cycles through Google's colors just below the camera lens, and spanning the width of the device. Almost like the LED circle that split the black sphere that was the Nexus Q. That's it. And the front will match the Nexus 4 for being entirely devoid of anything but the screen.
Not much to say here, except to hope that that it isn't a 5" monstrosity. You bucked a trend by going with a 3:2 aspect ratio Google. Do that again with the phone. At worst, keep it at 4.7, but work to make it a little slimmer by reducing bezels on the sides. Or do us all a favor, and make a 4.5" phone.
There are other things I hope Google keeps in mind too. Sound grilles on the sides would be awesome, a physical camera button a god send. Placing the headphone jack on the bottom would be another good idea, too.
What do you think the X phone needs to be a best-in-class device as far as hardware design goes?