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Google goes for mass market with Moto X

Search giant's hand clearly seen behind its hardware unit's new flagship, which pushes friendly Android experience at non-teccies


Published: 2 August, 2013


Motorola Mobility unveiled its first handset created purely under Google's auspices, the long-awaited Moto X. A series of leaks had crushed earlier speculation about a high end superphone, and the X is not designed to take on the Galaxy S4 head-to-head. Instead, it aims t o carve out a mass market for Google's own implementation of the Android user experience, and maintain distance from the Nexus range.

The search giant may have protested about keeping its hardware unit at arm's length, but the launch of the new smartphone shows that Motorola now has a clearly defined place in the overall Android strategy. Google is attempting a double whammy - a high impact flagship for the brand, but with the accessible price and feature set to suit its primary goal, of getting web access, via Android, to the masses.

The product will aim for broader reach than the rather exclusive Nexus models but, like them, will place the Android experience firmly under Google's control rather than that of its sometimes wayward licensees. It will not compete directly on feature sets with the top end Galaxy, Optimus or Xperia Android models, but will aim to bring a friendly, somewhat aspirational experience to the mass user base, and so remain clearly differentiated from Nexus.

However, Google is, of course, going after the same sweet spot - first or second time smartphone users who are still open to influence over their mobile web experience - as most of the Android vendors, notably ZTE, HTC and the lower end Galaxy variants from Samsung.

The Moto X's differentiation attempts revolve around fashion and design, more than raw features. It is firmly aimed at people with no interest in the specs, but who want a simple, fun mobile experience - something Apple could deliver too, if it decides to bring out a lower priced iPhone. This is clearly Google's attempt to replicate the emotional relationship that Apple creates with its fans, and which has generally eluded Android vendors. And while Apple dithers about a cheaper handset, Google insists there will be a lower cost X coming along soon.

The X will launch with all the major US carriers for $199 with two-year contract and will then roll out in other markets. One of its key features is Moto Maker, an application which allows users to customize the color and other attributes of their handsets when they order. This app will be available first at AT&T and Best Buy in the US and offers choices between two front colors, 18 back colors and seven accents. The supply chain challenges of customization will help Motorola to stand out from the crowd in a design sense, for the first time since RAZR, and if it can deliver, it will go some way to justify its much-touted decision to make the X in the US rather than ship them in from Asia.

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