A signature design element of every Motorola smartphone over the past few years has been the dimple, a small indentation on the back of the phone that ensconces the Motorola logo. It’s a beautiful detail: the navel-like hollow is not only pleasant to rest your finger in while holding the phone, but since the back of Motorola’s smartphones are curved, it keeps the device from teetering when place on a table.
In a new interview with the Telegraph, though, former Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside says the dimple was about to become more than just a pretty design detail…that is, until Apple came along.
According to Woodside, for the Nexus 6, the Motorola dimple was going to get a new power. It would have become a fingerprint reader. But then Apple intervened. As Woodside told the Telegraph:
“The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren’t there yet,” says Woodside.
The supplier in question was AuthenTec, a Florida-based biometrics company that Apple bought up in late July in 2012. That makes this anecdote interesting from a couple of different perspectives.
For one thing, it shows just how long the design process of a flagship smartphone actually takes. The Nexus 6 didn’t debut until October 29, 2014, but according to Motorola’s erstwhile CEO, Apple swiping up AuthenTec over two years previously was enough to leave its mark (or lack thereof) on last year’s Nexus 6.
It also shows just how long it takes to design a smartphone, and why the biggest tech companies these days are snatching up anyone they think might give them the edge. If you don’t, you’re just begging to get dimpled yourself.