Update: Moto G starts at $179 unlocked, to give low-cost buyers 'a better choice'

Features include sharp 4.5-in. display and quad-core processor

Google's Motorola unit unveiled the Moto G smartphone today priced at $179 unlocked, less than half the price of most high-end unlocked smartphones on the market like the iPhone 5S.

The Moto G smartphone.
The Moto G smartphone.

The Moto G will have 8GB of storage, will have no contract and no SIM lock, meaning it can be taken to various U.S carriers to set up service more easily. The 16GB version will sell unlocked for $199, Motorola officials announced in a global event that was webcast. The devices will be sold on the Motorola website.

Moto G goes on sale today in Brazil and parts of Europe. It launches in early January in the U.S. and will be available in 30 countries later next year.

"We believe with Moto G we've given people around the world a better choice," said Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, noting that 500 million people globally are expected to invest in cheaper smartphones, at prices of around $200, in the next year.

"Full access to the Internet is a right and not a privilege," said Charlie Tritschler, Moto G product manager.

The Moto G will have a 4.5-in. display, at 1280x720 pixels, and 329 pixels per inch, making it the sharpest- looking display in its price class, Tritschler said. It will also run a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor and include a 2070 mAh battery that provides all-day power. It will run Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), but can be upgraded to Android 4.4 (KitKat) in January.

The phone runs only in GSM and CDMA networks, not LTE, but will work over HSPA+, which can reach download speeds of 21 Mbps.

The phone also has 5-megapixel rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front camera.

Much of the Moto G is modeled after the Moto X smartphone, which sells on U.S. carriers for $100 with a two-year contract. The Moto X first appeared nearly three months ago on AT&T for $200 with a contract.

Woodside claimed the reception of the Moto X was "absolutely fantastic ... People love it." However, analysts said sales of the Moto X have been disappointing, especially for the first phone from Motorola under Google ownership. Strategy Analytics said 500,000 Moto X phones were sold in the third quarter, while Samsung's Galaxy S 4 sold more than 10 million units within a month of its April release.

"The low-priced Moto G finally provides Motorola a competitive offering in emerging regions like China, where Motorola isn't even a top 10 player," noted analyst Patrick Moorhead at Moor Insights & Strategy. "The new phone helps Motorola better compete with local players like Lenovo, Huawei, Coolpad, ZTE, Xiaomi and Oppo."

Motorola's strategy of a high quality, low-cost phone like the Moto G will work, added Ramon Llamas, an analyst at research firm IDC.

"Motorola is demonstrating that low-cost phones don't have to be low quality," he said. "Users in emerging markets -- which are the initial markets for the Moto G -- like affordability, but they also like devices that don't look, feel or operate cheap. At $179, I think the Moto G is going to give the mid-range market a run for the money."

The Moto G will put on notice vendors of Nokia's Lumia 520 and 620 line, LG's mid-range F phones and low-end Samsung Galaxy devices, he said.

Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst, said the emergence of the Moto G fits into a larger scheme at Google. "Between the Moto G and the Nexus 5, Google is trying to get KitKat to the masses, which is very smart," she said.

Having both phones on KitKat will "make more of an impact, considering how carriers are changing their data plans [to no contract] when you bring your own device," Milanesi added. "Not only will it help Google to limit Android fragmentation, but it will assure that the installed base of users will be empowered by the new OS to take advantage of any services or apps that Google might be planning."

Motorola Mobility introduced the Moto G smartphone with a 4.5-in. screen and a $179 price tag.

This article, Moto G starts at $179 unlocked, to give low-cost buyers 'a better choice', was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

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