Google Challenges Apple With ‘Hero’ Phone

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Google is preparing an attack on Apple's iPhone with a device that is more aware of its surroundings and smart enough to anticipate how it will be used next, according to the head of the internet company's Motorola subsidiary.

The gadget, called the MotoX, will also be made in the US and will be part of a campaign to drive down the cost of smartphones and end the high profit margins companies like Apple have enjoyed, said Dennis Woodside, the Google executive installed to run Motorola after it was acquired in late 2011.

Mr Woodside's comments, made at the D11 conference in southern California, marked the first official confirmation by Google that it would launch a "hero" phone, or flagship handset capable of competing with devices such as the iPhone and Samsung's S4.

The MotoX "is more contextually aware of what's going on around it. It allows you to interact with it more than other devices today. It anticipates my need," Mr Woodside said.

Sensors inside the device, like a gyroscope and accelerometer, will be constantly powered up so that the phone will know whether it's in a car travelling at 60mph or being taken out of a user's pocket, he said. Based on that, it will try to anticipate what a user is likely to want it for, for instance enabling it to open a camera app in advance to take a picture.

Mr Woodside hinted that the new handset would go on sale later this year and be priced well below the iPhone 5, adding that the sort of steep price declines seen in consumer electronics from personal computers to televisions were overdue in the smartphone market.

Without naming the iPhone directly, he said: "Those products earn 50 per cent margins. We don't necessarily have those constraints. Those [margins] will not persist."

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Google also sought to upstage Apple with the news that it will produce the MotoX at a plant near Fort Worth in Texas. While Apple won plaudits in Washington when it said recently that it would bring a small but unspecified number of manufacturing jobs back to the US, Google said it would start to hire 2,000 people at its Texas plant in August.

Components like processors and screens will still be made in Asia, but 70 per cent of the assembly of the MotoX would take place in the US, Mr Woodside said.

He added that Google was confident that the device, which will be "broadly distributed", would be a big seller, since "the experiences are unlike other experiences out there."

Among the aspects of the MotoX that would set it apart would be the way consumers "engage with how the devices are designed," he said, without providing further details.