Motorola Responds to the Critics: Moto X Engineer Iqbal Arshad Takes to CNET, Part 1

Introducing the Moto X

The Moto X was only announced ten days ago, and both commenters and critics have responded to the phone’s specs since it was announced. The Moto X comes with a 1280 x 720 screen resolution, 4.7-inch display, a 1.7 Ghz, dual-core processor, 720p video recording, and can be customized according to both colors and accents as well as backplate material.

There are over 18 colors to choose from (according to the latest count) and a couple types of backplate material for the Moto X – including rosewood, teak, plastic, carbon fiber, and metal. Google is currently testing rosewood, teak, ebony, and other creative material types for the Moto X. These Moto X customizations will be made available by the end of the year.   The Moto X has proven to be both a delightful and controversial device (as many excellent devices tend to be), and Moto X engineer Iqbal Arshad took to CNET to respond to the criticisms that have been labeled against the Moto X. Let us examine Arshad’s comments and respond to them below.

Moto X Complaints and Criticisms

One of the complaints labeled against the Moto X is that it relies on a dual-core processor instead of the expected 2013 standard of a quad-core processor, such as that of the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. The other complaint against the Moto X concerns the 720p video recording experience that contrasts greatly with the 1080p video recording of the HTC One, GS4, and even Apple’s iPhone 5.   Tech writers and enthusiasts alike believe that the 720p video recording spec is last-year’s technology. Alongside of 2012 specs (a charge labeled at the Moto X) comes the price: Google is looking to make some money off of the Moto X, so Google has placed the price of the Moto X at $199 with a two-year contract. The problem with this, according to tech enthusiasts, is that you cannot place a premium price on the smartphone when you have last-year’s specs.

Arshad Addresses Moto X Criticisms, Demands a Response

Iqbal Arshad addresses the complaint that the Moto X has last-year’s processor and technologies:

For one, we are not using last year’s Qualcomm processor. It’s this year’s processor. It is a dual-core processor, but the thing people have to understand is that in mobile devices, more CPUs don’t necessarily mean better or faster devices. In fact, in most instances, no more than two CPUs are being used at any given time [Iqbal Arshad, quoted by Marguerite Reardon, “Top Motorola engineer defends Moto X Specs (Q&A); CNET].

Moto X Engineer Iqbal Arshad

Moto X Engineer Iqbal Arshad

The first thing that Iqbal Arshad says that I have problems with concerns the fact that he labels the dual-core processor of the Moto X as “this year’s processor.” It is not, if you look at 2013 standards for core processors. In fact, it is no secret that devices such as Sony’s Xperia Z, LG’s G2 (which came out this week), Samsung’s GS4 and GS4 Active, as well as HTC’s HTC One all have quad-core processors.

Dual-core processors are 2012 technology, plain and simple: what about smartphones such as the Galaxy S3, iPhone 5, Nexus 4, HTC One X, and others? Did these smartphones not come with dual-core processors? They did. Any smartphone that uses a dual-core processor in 2013 is behind the technology standard that is uniform to all smartphone manufacturers.

Next, Arshad claims that greater numbers of CPUs do not make better or faster devices. Along these lines, he claims that most quad-core processors are only using two cores at once – not all four. This is true; I will not dispute that. It seems likely that many consumers assume that all four cores are working at once, but they are not.

Where Arshad’s reasoning falls apart is that he seems to imply that because all four cores do not work simultaneously, there is no benefit to having a quad-core processor over a dual-core.   Since a quad-core processor has two cores working at once, this means that the smartphone is built to better handle multitasking capabilities – meaning that the same two cores are not responsible for every task. In short, you can juggle multiple tasks on the smartphone because two cores on a quad-core processor have a backup set of cores for additional smartphone operations, unlike the dual-core processor that exhausts both cores to do everything.

Android Community wrote the following about the input/output (or I/O scores) in benchmark tests and what a quad-core processor means for I/O activities:

A very important aspect of benchmarks, since they don’t determine performance 100%, is the breakdown in Quadrant. Something like I/O is important for opening apps, multi-tasking, loading the gallery and more. With the Snappy 800 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, quad-core processor) I/O results alone are higher than any other processor results combined.

Multi-tasking is a huge deal for smartphones, since it helps consumers juggle reading email and watching YouTube videos at the same time, for example. So, while quad-core processors may use two cores at once (only), it is still far more effective for multi-tasking than dual-core processors.  This can be clearly seen by way of Google’s Moto X. According to CNET’s Marguerite Reardon, the Moto X has a battery life of up to 24 hours, and Reardon seems to agree that the Moto X has excellent battery life. At the same time, what does the Moto X offer customers in terms of software?   The Moto X offers basic Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean software and integrated Google Now.

In all the Moto X commercials and announcements I’ve seen (even those involving Motorola representatives), Motorola representatives have consumed their announcement time stressing how Google Now integration provides touchless control options for Moto X users. Have you seen anything in Moto X presentations and announcements that involves cool software features designed by Google?

I ask this question not to tear down the image you may have of the Moto X, but I do so to say that it’s easy to maintain excellent battery life when you have few features (if any) in the software. When a phone only does one operation at a time, and lacks a feature such as Samsung’s multi-window mode, it’s easy to conserve battery life. Even if the device is on standby, it can still hold up well in terms of battery life because it doesn’t involve the kinds of features that say, Samsung’s GS4 or the HTC One has.

Take the Apple iPhone 5, for instance. It comes with a 1,400mAh battery – considered by many to be a very low battery power when it comes to quad-core devices such as the top Android devices on the market. Apple just introduced iOS 7 to iOS users at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, and iOS 7 involves a Control Center (a place to access quick features such as brightness, volume, etc.), a parallax/3D motion on the main desktop, plus live animations in its weather app.

iOS 7 is what many consider to be “a major rethink” of iOS in the last six years, and will require a larger battery to handle the many new capabilities that are included in iOS for the first time. Apple will also need a quad-core processor to juggle the new capabilities along with something such as iTunes Radio.

iTunes Radio, I presume, will allow iOS users to listen to music in the background while doing other things: checking email, reading the latest news, playing a game, and so on. This means that Apple’s iPhone will have to gain a quad-core processor to juggle its newest tasks. It will certainly have to step up the battery game in what many have dubbed the iPhone 5S.

When it comes to Google’s Moto X, it has a flick-your-wrist feature that allows you to snap your wrist twice to activate the camera, but it seems to be the only feature (outside of the camera) that’s being touted as part of the Moto X capabilities. When stacked up to the capabilities of the GS4, then, it seems as though the Moto X lacks in the software department – which means that, without lots of software, Google decided to focus more on battery life in the Moto X. This is not a bad thing, but it means that Google went after single tasks while quad-core processors aim for multi-tasking.

While the Moto X may have excellent battery life, it will not (and cannot) dare to do the types of multi-tasking capabilities that the GS4 can do.

There is another pertinent point to explain regarding Iqbal Arshad’s comment about how the dual-core processor in the Moto X is “this year’s processor.” Arshad admits to CNET (and to readers) in his interview with Marguerite Reardon that the Moto X itself does not rely solely on its two basic cores:

We are using the fastest dual-core processor from Qualcomm for general purpose computing. And then we have other processors, like a graphics processor and the dedicated natural language and contextual computing processors, that handle other functions. This helps speed up performance, but also ensures a long battery life.

The underlined emphasis is mine, but I wanted to do this to show you the problems with Arshad’s statements about quad-core processors. Arshad said earlier in the CNET interview that “the thing people have to understand is that in mobile devices, more CPUs don’t necessarily mean better or faster devices.” Perhaps this is true, but Arshad just said in the quote above that the Moto X has more than two processors, and that the multi-core processors “speed up performance” and “ensures a long battery life.” Maybe it is the case that multiple CPUs can slow down a device, but even Arshad would agree that multiple processors can improve battery life and the speed and performance of smartphones.

As a result of his admission that the Moto X has multiple processors, Arshad is admitting (even if implicitly) to the inferiority of a dual-core processor to handle all of a smartphone’s various tasks. From Arshad’s admission, there are two basic cores to the Moto X, followed by at least three other processors (graphics, natural language, and contextual computing processors).

In other words, the two basic cores of the Moto X were (and are) not enough to handle the strong Google Now integration that has become the Moto X’s selling point; Google had to add extra processors to better handle the Moto X’s multi-tasking capabilities. As an engineer, Arshad understands that he has just admitted to the superiority of quad-core processors over dual-core processors. Even if he would not admit to this explicitly, he has still admitted that multiple processors can better juggle multi-tasking than the Moto X’s basic dual-core processor.

While this is not all of Iqbal Arshad’s argument, it goes to show you that his attack on quad-core processors is unwarranted – especially when you consider that the Moto X itself relies on multiple processors to create the speed/performance and great battery life that it has. By helping to build the Moto X the way it has been built (two cores and additional processors), Arshad testifies to the fact that dual-core processors have the same potential flaw as quad-core processors. In that case, why stick with dual-core processors when quad-core processors have, at the very least, an advantage with regard to multi-tasking capabilities?

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