Late last year, rumors surfaced that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s Motorola subsidiary was working on a new high-end flagship smartphone to take on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s 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 (NYSE:MS) Technology Conference, Google CFO Patrick Pichette went and candidly bashed the product pipeline that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) 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 Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) 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 Incorporated (NYSE:GLW)‘s 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 Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) just started using sapphire crystal in the iPhone 5, but as the primary camera lens cover.
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 Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) 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, Inc. (NASDAQ:RBCN) and GT Advanced Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ:GTAT) 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, Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM)‘s 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 Corporation (NASDAQ:NVDA)‘s quad-core Tegra 4i.
|Snapdragon 600||Krait 300||None|
|Snapdragon 800||Krait 400||Integrated|
|Tegra 4||ARM Cortex-A15||None|
|Tegra 4i||ARM Cortex-A9 r4||Integrated|
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.
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.
The article What Will Googorola’s iPhone Killer Look Like? originally appeared on Fool.com.
Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Corning, Google, and NVIDIA. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Corning, Google, and Qualcomm.
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