Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Moto G revealed: A 'premium phone' for $179, unlocked and off-contract

As expected, Motorola Mobility (via AllThingsD) made the Moto G official on Wednesday. The lower-cost alternative to the Moto X is priced at $179 -- unlocked and sans contract -- and will, Motorola said, be "something that is going to appeal to lots of people.”

Are you listening, Apple? Apple's iPhone 5c was rumored to have a similar unsubsidized price point, but instead Apple chose to price it at the same price as it has always done for one-year-old iPhones: $99 on contract.

During a press event on Wednesday, Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside noted that the global average for a smartphone is around $200, as opposed to the $500 - $700 most smartphones go for -- at least the high-end ones -- unsubsidized.

Woodside made a point of saying how cheaply and poorly those phones perform, though, using the Samsung Galaxy Fame as an example. It was an ironic choice, considering the fact that Samsung leads the world in cell phone, not just smartphone, sales.

Noting the old tech of such phones, used to keep prices down, Woodside said: We believe half a billion people deserve better. Despite what is still older technology, the Moto G -- which looks a lot like the recently introduced Moto X externally -- is said to rival the Galaxy S4 and other top-end superphones, or so Woodside said.

The Moto G sports a 4.5-inch display with 720p 329 PPI resolution, making it a Retina display capable phone (though Apple has trademarked that term). It carries a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2 GHz processor with 1GB of RAM -- specifications similar to last year's Galaxy S III -- yet still outperforms the iPhone 5s (again, says Woodside) and has “all-day” battery life.

"All day" means about 14 hours of 3G talk time on 3G, while the 5s provides only 10. However, there's no way to test LTE battery life on the device: It does not support LTE.

That may be a deal-killer for some, as a non-LTE device will chug on both Verizon Wireless' and Sprint's networks. However, in the target emerging markets, LTE is still uncommon, so in those regions, this may not be an issue at all.

More details: the Moto G will ship with Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), with a guaranteed upgrade coming to Android 4.4, or KitKat (no later than January of 2014). That date is interesting, as the device doesn't launch in the U.S. until early next year.

How does the device run optimally with last year's hardware? Instead of adding a bunch of features on top of Android, Motorola focused on optimization. They also eschewed skins such as Touchwiz. Motorola claims that the Moto G outperforms Samsung's Galaxy S4 in boot time, browser launch, return home, making calls and more. That is hard to believe, but reviews will show us the truth.

The Moto G went on sale Wednesday in Brazil and parts of Europe, and will launch in the coming weeks in the rest of Europe, Canada, and more. The U.S. price for the 8GB version, unlocked and contract-free, is the aforementioned $179. Just as good, if not better news: The 16GB version is $199.

Sadly, there is no microSD card support.

These prices may enable Google and Motorola to siphon away a chunk of the low-cost smartphone market share that other other Android OEMs own. It may even stave off Microsoft's attempts to transition feature phone owners to Windows Phone via its acquisition of Nokia.

A video report is available below.

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