Meet Moto G: A sub-$200 phone with some premium features for the world

For the 500 million people around the globe expected to spend $200 or less on a phone in the next year, Motorola(s goog) has a compelling new option for them with the Moto G. The company unveiled the handset, which is largely based on the Moto X design, on Wednesday at an event in Brazil. Motorola will offer an 8 GB model of the Moto G for $179, while a 16 GB edition will cost just $20 more. Both are contract-free and SIM unlocked.

At this price, the Moto G won’t compete for dollars with higher end smartphones costing two or three times more. But it’s not meant to. “We’re setting our sights on the world and solving a problem for hundreds of millions of people,” said Motorola CEO, Dennis Woodside. So does that mean this is a low-cost phone with a corresponding poor experience? Not necessarily.


The Moto G looks much like the Moto X, complete with an edge-to-edge display, curved back and Corning Gorilla Glass. A waterproof nano-coating covers the device inside and out as well. The 4.5-inch display uses a 720p resolution screen, just like the Moto X, but because it’s smaller, the pixel density is even higher: 329 pixels per inch. A 5-megapixel rear camera and 1.3-megapixel front sensor are included, as is Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n.

Motorola chose Qualcomm’s(s qcom) Snapdragon 400 chip, a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, and 1 GB of RAM to balance performance and battery life. Motorola says the Moto G offers “all day battery” life as a result. While there are faster processors on the market, the Moto G performance should be acceptable for its target audience. The phone will ship with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but the company says it will upgrade the Moto G to Android 4.4 KitKat by January of 2014. Dual-SIM support is included in some regions and an FM radio is standard in the device.

moto g shell

Also like the Moto X, buyers can customize their Moto G.They won’t choose custom colors of the device itself, but instead can buy Motorola Shell cases in various color choices. As a bonus, Moto G buyers will get more Google Drive storage than Moto X owners, for a total of 65 GB of online storage.

The phone goes on sale today in Brazil and parts of Europe. It arrives in early January in the U.S., India, and the Middle East. Overall, Motorola says it will be sold in 30 countries with 60 partners.

Overall, I’m impressed with what Motorola is doing here.  The phone doesn’t support LTE networks — it tops out at 21 Mbps HSPA+ services — but that’s not a huge issue outside of countries without significant LTE network rollouts. For its intended audience, the Moto G looks — on paper — to be a fantastic option for the price. Comparable handsets in this price range typically don’t have the blend of features and functions offered by the Moto G. And there’s likely more growth opportunity in this market than that of the high-end, which could help boost Motorola phone sales significantly.