Google, Motorola Announce ‘Made in USA’ Moto X Phone

Customizability and "Made in USA" biggest selling points
August 1, 2013 Updated: August 1, 2013

With Internet rumors flying think and fast in the days preceding its release, one could be excused for thinking that the Moto X phone would herald the second coming of Motorola, which seems to have lost its way in recent years after coming out with the first cell phone in the 1980s.

For indeed, excitement started when Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside announced at the D11 conference that the phones would be made in the USA, specificially Fort Worth, Texas. Motorola took out full-page ads in large newspapers on July 3rd, a day before Independence Day in the U.S., touting an upcoming “Made in the USA” smart phone. Leaked photos from Twitter user evleaks, a photo scoop from an Italian magazine showing Google’s ex-CEO Eric Schmidt sporting what seemed like a Moto X and other rumors led to excitement and hype for the phone reaching a fever pitch in the days prior to its release–which was today.

But for all the hype that the Moto X built up, initial reports from tech media indicate that the Moto X is just a bit … meh.

Don’t get me wrong, the Moto X does seem like a nice smart phone. But one needs to look a bit deeper.

The Good

The biggest thing the Moto X has going for it is its heavy customizability. Its not just the back plate you can customize: using Motorola’s Moto Maker website, you can even change “edges and even the color of the volume and power buttons and the ring around the camera”, according to ABC News. There are reportedly up to 2,000 combinations of colors and styles you could apply to the Moto X.

Then, the Moto X will be mostly assembled in the USA. Motorola is reported to have invested as much as $25 million refurbishing a Nokia factory in Ft. Worth, Texas, where the Moto X is now being assembled. It represents the first smartphones actually assembled in the USA in several years (maybe even over a decade.)

The actual device also confirms most of the rumors out there about its hardware: it comes with a 4.7 inch AMOLED display, a 10-megapixel camera with 1080p HD recording, 24 hours of battery life and Android 4.2.2.

The core of the phone, its X8 processor chipset, was already unveiled during a  Droid event that Motorola co-hosted with Verizon two weeks ago. That chipset, which contains a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU and multiple GPUs, allows the phone to respond to voice commands and other input from its myriad of sensors. But the chip–along with voice commands, a “shake to use” camera feature, and motion-sensitive display–were all laid out in the Verizon event, and were not a surprise announcement.

The device is expected to be available for purchase late August or early September, so its not too long of a wait for anyone eager to buy the phone.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the Moto X launch has been a bit of an anti-climax, especially given that expectations were riding high on it.

Hardware specs? Its a pretty mid-range phone. A gorgeous looking one, but still a mid-range phone. The Galaxy S4 and the HTC One have this beat (not by a long margin, but they are still ahead.)

Customization? That’s really one of its biggest selling features – but its only available when you buy direct from Motorola … or AT&T. No customization when purchased from Verizon or other service providers.

And then there is the price point. What is Motorola doing pricing the base model at $199 on-contract (that’s the one that comes with 16 GB memory, the 32 GB one is $299)? That makes it the same price as two current Android flagship phones: Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and HTC’s One. And of course, the iPhone 5 as well. Will customers pay the price parity for a “Made in the USA” phone?

Time will tell.

Our Take

So what’s the executive summary on this device? Overall, the Moto X isn’t too bad of an smartphone, and it shows renewed Motorola confidence now that its backed by a parent with deeper pockets.

In terms of overturning the smartphone landscape–as some predicted it would–its not quite there. But it could well be the first of a long series of experiments by Motorola to come. And its at least an effort from a beleaguered phone giant at re-inventing itself and taking one more shot at a market now dominated by Samsung and Apple.

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