Motorola’s always-on speech recognition with its “Okay, Google” hotword was a killer feature for the device, so it was kind of surprising when it wasn’t available on the Nexus 5. Sure, you can still open Google Now and perform tasks and searches by voice after that point, but with the Moto X, that voice command is always available. Since the Nexus 5 runs KitKat just like the Moto X and has a similar, stronger processor, so theoretically the voice recognition apps should be able to be easily ported over to the Nexus 5, right? Developer Siggi Simonarson thought so, but found out why Google didn’t implement the feature in native KitKat in the process.
A teardown of the voice apks on the Moto X revealed something pretty major; Nuance, the company responsible for Apple’s Siri and a leader in voice recognition software, allowed Motorola to use their Dragon speech processing software to power the always-on voice commands. Now, Dragon is a fantastic program that works extremely well, and Nuance is one of the best in the game here, but they probably aren’t in it for charity. Motorola and Google, like Apple and any other company that uses Dragon for voice commands, probably had to pay some type of patent licensing fee to use the software. That means if Google wanted to include the always-on commands in stock Android 4.4, they may have had to pay a licensing fee for every device running KitKat and above. Right now, that wouldn’t be so bad, but if Nuance did want some licensing, you can see how that could bleed money for Google in a year or two.
Whatever the reason may be, Motorola’s voice commands make a strong selling point for the Moto X. Even if the Nexus 5 has it beat in some areas, having a few exclusive killer features has really helped Motorola out.