"For those of us who have been around Motorola for a long time ... there's a creative DNA that's in us to innovate," said
Trimming the product pipeline allowed Wicks' and Arshad's teams to leave their cubicles and set up "war rooms" where they could spitball ideas in person with employees from supply chain and other groups, a collaborative process they didn't have time for in the past. They also had a live feed to Motorola's
The newcomers helped the team question fundamental assumptions about the design and functioning of mobile phones: Do they have to be black rectangles? Why does taking a photo require so many steps?
Processes at Motorola also came under scrutiny. Motorola Chief Executive
The countless sessions of excited discussion and occasional yelling matches eventually produced trust and a unified vision.
"The (design) team came up with something that got people excited, and the engineers jumped on that and did amazing things to realize it," Wicks said.
One of those things was a resolution to the curved back dilemma. The Moto X uses a "stepped" battery with an extra top layer, which both helps with fit and provides additional power.
Another Moto X hallmark -- its ability to be customized with differently colored back plates and hardware accents -- was also a source of both a-ha moments and engineering riddles. Wicks remembers a meeting in
The signoff from the senior leadership team allowed Motorola to offer a much broader array of colors -- from a vibrant red to a cool mint green -- than other smartphone-makers. Wooden back plates are coming soon.
The customization strategy meant each color and finish had to be tested individually, making sure variations in pigments or materials wouldn't adversely affect the phone's antenna, for example. On the supply chain side, Motorola worked with its manufacturing partner, Singapore-based
The thinking was "if we're going to do (customization), we're going to go all the way and have a very great spectrum of color and materials that would benefit everybody's taste," said
Creating a gadget with natural, humanlike qualities was part of the Moto X's identity from its inception. That vision drove some of the key software features, such as touchless controls and active notifications. Users can train their Moto X to recognize their voice, then use spoken commands to wake up the device, dictate text messages and set reminders. With active notifications, an incoming email or
"The devices you use today are not that smart, actually," Arshad said. "We call them smartphones, but they're really (about) manual operation. We wanted to create something that had more natural human interaction."
Some ideas that didn't make it into the Moto X are being developed for future devices, and the same general team is working on the phone's successor. This continuity is another change from the old Motorola, when the constant churn of products meant employees scrambled from one project to the next.
"At least in my experience, the product was the end," said
Bringing Motorola into the
"Maybe some of the things on the edge look different, the food or whatever," said Ron, who kept forgetting to bring his wallet to Motorola's cafeteria when he visited the
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