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Summary:

Motorola takes on the world with Moto G, an Android phone styled after the Moto X and costing as little as $179 without contract. The target audience is the 500 million who will spend up to $200 for a handset in the next year.

moto g in hand

For the 500 million people around the globe expected to spend $200 or less on a phone in the next year, Motorola has a compelling new option for them with the Moto G. The company unveiled the handset, which is largely based on the Moto X design, on Wednesday at an event in Brazil. Motorola will offer an 8 GB model of the Moto G for $179, while a 16 GB edition will cost just $20 more. Both are contract-free and SIM unlocked.

At this price, the Moto G won’t compete for dollars with higher end smartphones costing two or three times more. But it’s not meant to. “We’re setting our sights on the world and solving a problem for hundreds of millions of people,” said Motorola CEO, Dennis Woodside. So does that mean this is a low-cost phone with a corresponding poor experience? Not necessarily.

The Moto G looks much like the Moto X, complete with an edge-to-edge display, curved back and Corning Gorilla Glass. A waterproof nano-coating covers the device inside and out as well. The 4.5-inch display uses a 720p resolution screen, just like the Moto X, but because it’s smaller, the pixel density is even higher: 329 pixels per inch. A 5-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front sensor are included, as is Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.

Motorola chose Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 400 chip, a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, and 1 GB of RAM to balance performance and battery life. Motorola says the Moto G offers “all day battery” life as a result. While there are faster processors on the market, the Moto G performance should be acceptable for its target audience. The phone will ship with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but the company says it will upgrade the Moto G to Android 4.4 KitKat by January of 2014. Dual-SIM support is included in some regions and an FM radio is standard in the device.

moto g shell

Also like the Moto X, buyers can customize their Moto G.They won’t choose custom colors of the device itself, but instead can buy Motorola Shell cases in various color choices. As a bonus, Moto G buyers will get more Google Drive storage than Moto X owners, for a total of 65 GB of online storage.

The phone goes on sale today in Brazil and parts of Europe. It arrives in early January in the U.S., India, and the Middle East. Overall, Motorola says it will be sold in 30 countries with 60 partners.

Overall, I’m impressed with what Motorola is doing here.  The phone doesn’t support LTE networks — it tops out at 21 Mbps HSPA+ services — but that’s not a huge issue outside of countries without significant LTE network rollouts. For its intended audience, the Moto G looks — on paper — to be a fantastic option for the price. Comparable handsets in this price range typically don’t have the blend of features and functions offered by the Moto G. And there’s likely more growth opportunity in this market than that of the high-end, which could help boost Motorola phone sales significantly.

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  1. This is excellent news. A lot of people are leery of spending $500+ to buy devices outright. At the same time they are not willing to pay the inflated fees charged by leading providers offering 2 year contracts. An option like this will be a godsend. Not only will it generate interest outside the US, I would expect interest in US too — especially among people that use month-to-month arrangements popularized by T-Mobile and some other providers. $200 a year is a decent amount if one can upgrade the device every year and sell the old one for maybe $50.
    And it’s not only the cost part, the screen and processor specifications seem quite good as well. Good job, Motorola.

  2. Lots of great points. With the majority of the growth in smartphone sales in the next 5 years expected to come outside of the U.S this is a very shrewd move by Motorola / Google -providing the developing world with a “best in class” Android experience. Very similar to what Google has done with the Nexus 5. Not necessarily absolute “cutting edge” technology. But, it’s hard to argue anyone else is providing more “bang for the buck at those price points”. Clearly a phenomenal choice for an affordable Android experience.

  3. i hope this becomes widely available in the US unlocked and without carrier branding.

    you comment that this will not compete with phone cost several times as much. i am not so sure. people are not going to drastically change there buying habits to save a couple hundred dollar on a high end item but when the price difference becomes extreme enough we may actually see people walk away from seeking out the best, latest and greatest.

    some years ago i was working at diner with a large breakfast business. we ran a $1.99 special for egss, potatoes and coffee. we know that we would lose money from the regular customers spending $5 on breakfast. what we were not expecting that the regular customers who were spending $15 consistently would also switch to the $2 special.

    i can see plenty of people who have been buying top end smartphones says enough of spending $600 – $900 when i can get something good enough for $179. along with this could come a large shift over to prepaid plans.

    1. I am seriously thinking about canceling my Nexus 5 nightmare-4 course-meal order for the Motorola G. I’ve had plenty of $1.99 breakfasts and you know what? They taste just as good.

  4. DOA, like Moto X Motorola is slowly sinking into the sunset, the massive losses by Google wont go on past 2014.

    1. Could be, but why?

    2. I’m curious to know why too. There’s a tremendous market for this and it’s currently held tight by Samsung with their sub-par offerings.

      And I think I’m pretty qualified to make an anecdotal claim that there will be demand. I’m a Malaysian currently residing in Bangkok. When I’m working in my job with white-collar executives, I see plenty of iPhones and Galaxy S’, the market for these top of the line models is always there, whether in the first or third world.

      But outside of working hours, I’m a street photographer who likes walking around in the slums and dark alleys of Bangkok snapping shots the life there. Guess what are the phones I see there? I see low end Galaxies, I see barrel bottom LGs, I see discount Sonies. I see a night security guard passing time on his shift watching Thai serials streamed over WiFi from the hotel lobby. I see teenagers helping out at their parents’ food stalls and chatting with their friends over Line. I see normal everyday consumers redeeming promotions and coupons using SMS shortcodes. And I see them doing all that using cheap low-end smartphones. They can’t afford the latest high end Samsung or HTC or even a Nexus 5.

      This is an awesome phone for them if it can perform as well as the demo.

  5. I was hoping for a model that runs US 4G-LTE bands but no joy.

    Oh well, maybe in a year or two.

  6. Google’s unofficial Nexus phone. That’s why it hasn’t asked Motorola to build a Nexus phone. They just put the ‘Nexus’ in a budget Motorola phone. The next version would be a high end ‘Nexus’ in a Motorola device at the same price level. It’s even getting the latest Kit Kat same time or before the Nexus 4.

  7. Michael Elling Sunday, December 15, 2013

    ” The phone doesn’t support LTE networks — it tops out at 21 Mbps HSPA+ services — but that’s not a huge issue outside of countries without significant LTE network rollouts.”

    1) what would an LTE chip add to the cost? ~$20?
    2) if so, they are missing a very large market in the US
    3) is it really a carrier issue?

    If so, the FCC should wake up to this issue.

    1. What issue here should the FCC be dealing with? It doesn’t (nor should it IMO) dictate the capabilities of a mobile device.

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