Moto X comes up short with a high price and no Android 4.3

Still, the new smartphones custom features could help Motorola and Google (see video below)

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It also seems strange, several analysts said, that Motorola didn't load up Moto X with Android 4.3, the latest OS version recently announced, rather than the 4.2.2 version it ships with. An update can come quickly enough, but the fact it's not included at shipping may indicate a Google Nexus smartphone with 4.3 is on the way, Milanesi said.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, had another possible theory for why Google and Motorola stuck with 4.2.2. "It's possible...that Motorola and Google bent over backwards to avoid the impression that Motorola was getting special treatment from the parent company and that early releases and technical assistance that Google sometimes provides to partners were ruled out in this case," he said.

Various manufacturers of Android smartphones reportedly were upset by Google's 2012 purchase of Motorola because of the possibility that Motorola would get favored treatment from Google.

"Not having the most current OS is a disappointment, but most buyers don't care," Gottheil added. "It's likely that Motorola had to freeze the OS to bring the product out on time and to build the inventory they hope they need."

Overall, Gottheil said that Motorola has "done a pretty good job of pulling together an attractive and moderately differentiated package" with Moto X. "Motorola has to restore itself to relevance in the handset world.... With so much activity in smartphones, led by some of the most aggressive companies in the world, it's very hard to differentiate."

Using Moto Maker for customizable cases is clearly a "blatant pander to the youth market, but that doesn't mean it won't work," Gottheil said. "Custom cases may appeal only to a small segment of the market, but it's different and it's visible."

And sharing features with Droids makes sense, Gottheil added. "Moto X is the flagship for an entire product line, and for Motorola to succeed, Droid has to succeed," he said.

While recognizing the overlap with Droid smartphones, IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said the first Motorola phone under Google is "really important and ranks an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10."

"Moto X is probably not the be-all and end-all, but it's a great mid-range device and shows us blueprints for future products -- perhaps a phablet or a mini version," Llamas added.

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said he was surprised at the $199 price. "I would have thought they'd be more aggressive on price and try to undermine competitors with compelling but affordable pricing -- maybe $150 or $99, which would have been a complete home run," he said. "But there are realities about the cost of goods."

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