Motorola – and its Android overlord, Google – has a smartphone problem. Strategy Analytics believes that the company has only sold around 500,000 Moto X units since the phone launched in August. And really, when you look at the big picture, it’s not hard to see why.
Let’s be clear: Motorola made a great Android phone with the Moto X. Some even say it’s the best all-around Android phone you can buy. Active Notifications is a great solution to often cluttered lockscreens, and the driving assist functionality garnered similar praise. People like the fact that it’s built in the United States. Moto Maker – the customisable chop shop for the device – is also a nice addition.
None of that matters when you look at two key factors: price and marketing. Samsung’s marketing budget is enormous, so much so that retail employees receive the most training for device’s from the South Korean chaebol. Apple, meanwhile, still has a firm control of its message and pricing structure. $200 is the flagship tier – no matter what year it is, you’ll get the best the company has to offer.
In the eyes of the consumer, a mid-range device that costs the same as a flagship isn’t a good purchase. Motorola would argue that specs don’t really matter, and that it’s about the experience. That’s true – up to a point – but the company failed to deliver that message in the US, especially given that most of the launch hype for the phone was surrounding its online storefront and availability.
Moto didn’t even attempt to release the Moto X in any other country in the world. Motorola could have been testing the waters to see how the US would react to its proper re-entry into the smartphone market, but it’s a fatal mistake to assume that the US is the only market that matters at this point.
The Moto G, then, will be an extremely interesting follow-up to the Moto X. Here’s what we know: it’s an affordable alternative to the Moto X destined for a worldwide release. The specs certainly look good for an entry-level device – 720p display, quad-core processor, 5-megapixel camera – but it’s really the rumoured £135 to £160 price point that’s important.
If that range turns out to be true, then the Moto G would instantly become the best budget phone on the market. And if the phone is sold in the US for a similar price – say, $199 off-contract – then the device could very well generate some actual sales. Some of the original rumours for the Moto X, after all, described an ultra-cheap smartphone that could hit the $199 price point – maybe they were simply aimed at the wrong device.
The Moto X laid the groundwork for a new Android experience, one where the emphasis was placed on glanceable information and touchless controls. If the same software features are carried across to the Moto G, then it could be finally be the in that Google really wants with the consumer. Sure, it has the Nexus line, yet those phones come across more of a showcase rather than a consumer oriented product. Google’s acquisition of Motorola seems to be the real gambit, but one that the search giant has failed to execute properly.
Google was late to the game. Apple tied up the high-end market, and Samsung quickly moved to secure everything from the mid-range upwards with sheer brute force. Going toe-to-toe with those two contenders is a huge undertaking for any company – really, it isn’t worth it at this point. But going for the entry-level, the low end, and the developing markets? There are still plenty of sales to be had there. Motorola and Google aren’t going to make any money from this new adventure, but they could increase the reach of Android even further.
The Moto G, then, represents a key opportunity to control the user experience for the millions upon millions of people who not only don’t live in America, but may not have even owned a smartphone before. If selling a phone at cost is what it takes to grab hold of that, then it’s exactly what Google and Moto are going to do.