Ina Fried

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Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside on How the $179 Moto G Can Change the Low-End Smartphone Game

At first sight, Motorola’s new Moto G looks a lot like the Moto X. The biggest difference is one you can’t see: The price.

The Moto G is designed to sell for $179 or less without a contract, hundreds of dollars below the unsubsidized cost of the Moto X, not to mention the Galaxy S4 or Apple’s iPhone.

“The industry had really abandoned five billion people on the planet who were never going to pay $600 for a phone,” Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside said in an interview last week, showing off the device. “This is at literally a quarter the cost of the iPhone.”

Sure, there are Android phones that sell even cheaper, but they typically run older versions of Android, are incapable of running the latest apps, and often lack such things as a front-facing camera.

“There are products that are $70,” Woodside said. “They are just not very good. … We think there is an opportunity to show people there’s a better way.”

Obviously, Motorola had to cut a few things to hit even its price. The screen is smaller than the Moto X, and uses a less-expensive display technology. It also drops the always-on voice recognition, along with support for LTE networks and the active display that constantly pulses with the time and other notifications.

But the Moto G does pack a gigabyte of memory and 8GB of storage, and is running a quad-core Qualcomm chip. Even rarer among ultra-low-end phones, it packs a modern version of Android (4.3 for now, with a KitKat upgrade due soon).

Woodside suggested during his D11 appearance in June that the company saw an opportunity to offer a modern, powerful Android phone for much less than most rivals were doing.

While declining to forecast how many Moto G phones the company might sell, Woodside said that, this year, some 500 million people that will be in the market for a phone at that price point.

“It’s a big opportunity for us,” Woodside said. “We think we’ve come up with something that is going to appeal to lots of people.”

Most of those 500 million people live outside the U.S., largely in emerging markets. In Brazil, for example, where Motorola is debuting the phone, the average yearly income is $11,000. That means that the iPhone and other high-end phones are really out of reach.

“Outside the U.S., it’s a great aspirational device,” Woodside said.

However, Woodside also sees opportunities in the prepaid market; Motorola expects to start selling the Moto G in the U.S. starting in January.

Some European and Latin American countries will get the Moto G almost immediately, with the device launching in 30 countries.”Motorola hasn’t been in a lot of those markets for a long time.”

Woodside didn’t give much indication of where else the company is headed with future products, but suggested that there may be an opportunity to go even lower-end.

“There are a lot of letters that come before G in the alphabet,” he said.

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