Sunday, May 18, 2014

Motorola and the Race to the Bottom

Motorola has been adjusting course for a while now and since August of 2013 we have seen them start to regain the admiration of the tech community that they used to take for granted. Motorola has a long history that includes numerous firsts in the telecommunications industry and until recently has been an American company. Motorola's mobile phone division was purchased by Google a few years ago and we are just starting to see the products that were fully designed under the eye of Google. The Moto X launched last August to great reviews in the tech community even though the tech specs were considered to be last generation. The Moto X won over the community through its great build quality, large 4.7" Super AMOLED screen in a small chassis (only slightly bigger than an iPhone 5), snappy performance, active display, touchless controls and Moto assist features. Motorola was able to take the stock Android experience and make it theirs simply by adding a few value added apps to the phone, something that Android lovers have been asking manufacturers to do for years. They did all of this and asked for the standard flagship price, around $600 however it was not long before the price dropped significantly and now it is not hard to find the Moto X for $300-$350 brand new and off contract. This is a great price for a great phone no matter how you look at it. The Moto X was the first new phone in a long time that was made by Motorola that made the tech industry take note, however it can be argued that this flagship was not the most innovative device Motorola has launched in the last year. 

In November Motorola announced the Moto G, a lower cost sibling to the Moto X that maintained much of the design language that people loved about the Moto X but cut costs in many places to deliver what many consider to be the best low cost phone around. The Moto G has a lower end 4.5" LCD panel, a lower end camera, a much bulkier case and a removable backplate to allow changes in colour. What people like about the Moto G is that even though it cut costs it is still running on a quad core Snapdragon 400 SoC which makes it quite snappy, along with the enhancements that Motorola has made to the Android experience there is little lag in the device. The Moto G costs about $180 dollars, unlocked and without a contract which is pretty incredible when you consider that Samsung is still selling the Galaxy SIII Mini for $199 off contract. In February Motorola's VP of Product Management stated that the Moto G was Motorola's best selling smartphone ever and that they still make a profit of off each device sold. This is a testament to the fact that the lower end smartphone market is currently underserved, and that there is lots of money to be made in that market if smartphone manufacturers can nail the combination of price and quality. With the Moto G Motorola was hoping to get into the lower end of the market and it appears they have been able to do so. So what do they do next? They go even lower. 

Last week Motorola announced two devices, a refresh to the Moto G that added an SD card slot and LTE for $219, and the brand new Moto E that will retail for $129. This phone still has the same design language as its more expensive siblings but cuts the costs even further to attack the prepaid market. The phone has a slightly smaller 4.3"qHD display, a Snapdragon 200 SoC clocked at 1.2 GHz, 5MP Camera without flash and 1GB of Ram. That is not a bad phone for the price when you consider the other phones in the price range, such as the Nokia Lumia 520 and the Blackberry Curve 9320. Even a flip phone will cost about $50-$60 and will not give you anywhere near the experience of a low end smartphone. Motorola has been attempting to go after the low and mid range market that they other large manufacturers seem to be forgetting. They are bringing more innovation to the low end of the market than we have seen in along time, and it seems to be paying off so far. 

I have a friend who was looking for a low cost phone to replace his Blackberry and I suggested the Moto G, he loves it, he can't believe how good the phone is. He is not someone who particularly cares about the features of a phone, just wants it to work well and be cheap, the Moto G is the perfect phone for him and it has already changed how he uses his device. The Moto G is now my go to suggestion for people that want something extremely cheap, and it is a debate between the Moto X and the Nexus 5 when I talk about higher end devices. 

Check out Android Central for some great video of the Moto E.