moto-g-hands-on-11

Yesterday we had a chance to sit down with Motorola to talk about and play with the brand new Moto G. To most smartphone enthusiasts, it very much sounds like a run-of-the-mill smartphone. It’s not the next Galaxy device, and it’s not a flagship that’s going to drive people in hordes to purchase, but it’s one of the most important smartphone launches that I can think of, mainly because it offers true value at a reasonable price.

Google, Motorola Mobility’s parent company, knows there’s a huge market in getting the rest of the world connected. In developed markets, we all have connected devices, whether it’s a computer, a smartphone or a tablet. According to October figures from the ITU, there are still about 4.4 billion people on the planet that aren’t connected to the Internet. That’s an insane figure, and it’s why Google is trying new initiatives, like Project Loon, to provide Internet where it otherwise isn’t available. The Moto G is a similar effort, though in a different way.

Yes, there are devices for emerging markets that are already available at a low cost. Nokia’s Lumia 520 is the most popular Windows Phone, for example. Its Asha phones are also targeted at developing markets. China is loaded with low-cost devices from OEMs such as Coolpad, ZTE, Huawei and other local brands. BlackBerry is still popular in India. In my meeting with Motorola, however, I learned that the company still has a well-known brand name in Latin America, one of its target markets for the Moto G, and it hopes to use its new phone as a catalyst to bring more people online at a lower cost all around the globe. In fact, it knows that China is already dominated by so many local brands that it won’t even try to go after that market with the Moto G. Smart move. But, take a look at some of the least connected countries at the end of 2012, according to recent statistics from the ITU. This is a huge opportunity for any smartphone maker:

itu-least-connected

The company made a good point yesterday when it said that, yes, there are lower-end devices from Samsung and other competitors that are often available in these markets. Though they are indeed so very low end that they often run older software and don’t provide the experience we get in developed markets. The Moto G changes that up: it actually offers really decent hardware, a great display, and Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. The company is also promising to provide Android 4.4 KitKat in January. That’s not the case of most low-end Android smartphones. They often seem to be “pumped and dumped” into emerging markets only to be left to die. Why should that ever be the case?

In the U.S., the Moto G can serve an entirely different audience. At $179, the device is a perfect “extra” phone. If your device drops and shatters and you’re on a contract, for example, you don’t have to worry about dropping the full-cost of a new smartphone to replace it. You’ll still get a top-notch Android experience. Better yet, the Moto G can serve as a great device to hang on to for travels. When you head to Europe, pack a Moto G, pick up a SIM card abroad, and you can avoid high-cost roaming fees from your U.S. carrier.

I applaud Motorola for sticking its nose out into an arena that’s often dangerous for any brand. If you price your device too low, the typical consumer reaction is that it’s a low cost phone so it “must be bad.” That’s not really the case with the Moto G at all. Sure, it lacks LTE, perhaps its biggest drawback, but in my time with the unit there wasn’t anything really low-quality about it at all. Better yet, Motorola assured me it’s making a profit off of sales of the phone, though didn’t disclose what sort of percentage off of each sale is profit.

As the rest of the world gets connected, I think it’s super important that we provide consumers with the best software experience possible. That allows access to the same apps we have in developed markets, which means better applications for education, business, news and social sharing. The Moto G helps set the bar high, and I hope other manufacturers follow suit.