Motorola’s hint for the future of computing

Motorola is on a roll. It started last year with the Moto G, the company’s most successful phone ever. I owned one and can vouch for its excellent value. The flagship this year, the new Moto X, has been described by The Verge as possibly “the best Android phone ever made.”

The latest triumph is the Moto 360, which David Pierce says “is the smartwatch [he’s] been waiting for.” It’s already sold out online. As I wrote before, I’m excited about the Moto 360. This is the smartwatch I intend to buy, though I’m still waiting to see what comes out of Cupertino.

The Moto X and Moto 360 are excellent in an expected way. What I’m surprised to be excited about though is the Moto Hint, which just might start a whole new product category and be the future of how we interact with devices.

The Moto Hint is at heart a Bluetooth headset. Motorola doesn’t want you to think of it as that, and for good reason — Bluetooth headsets never delivered enough value to justify its douche bag appearance. Fortunately, technology has advanced enough that we are now on the cusp, thanks largely to the maturation of voice recognition.

I’ll let Motorola’s promotional video for the Hint do the selling:

As you can see, it’s an “always-on” way of controlling your smartphone (and smartwatch?) via voice. The excellent movie, Her (90% on Metacritic), convincingly demonstrated how this might be the main way we control computing devices. If you haven’t already, it’s a must-watch for tech lovers.

However, I don’t think the Hint is good enough to be that device. It’ll probably take two or three more generations for it to be mainstream, and I don’t even need to use the Hint to know that this iteration will fall short. Why? Three reasons.

First, it only has 3 hours battery life. Instant deal breaker. For the kind of vision Motorola wants to deliver, it needs to easily last the whole day. 8 hours at least, and ideally 16.

Second, the thing costs $150. That’s too much. You can buy the new Moto G for just $30 more.

Third, its value proposition to most consumers is vague; certainly too vague given its better-but-still douche bag appearance. People aren’t going to know that the Hint is better than other Bluetooth headsets.

You know what Motorola should have done? Made a pair of them and position it as audio headphones — for working out and for extreme portability. Like Dash on Kickstarter.

I would buy it just for that alone. And once I have them, with usage, I’ll soon realize its true potential.

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