Motorola Aims Squarely at Apple iPhone With Moto X Handset

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2013-07-03

Motorola Aims Squarely at Apple iPhone With Moto X Handset

In the smartphone marketing game these days, there's no sport that's better than hitting the leader while it's stumbling. It's even more fun if that leader has already taken a couple of body blows and is trying to remain standing.

So it should be no surprise when I opened the July 3 issue of The Washington Post to find the very Apple-like ad on Page A20 touting the Motorola Moto X.

As Michelle Maisto explains in eWEEK, Motorola is announcing the new smartphone called the Moto X. This phone appears to be aimed at Apple's iPhone 5, and apparently is intended to give potential users something better and more personal than what they can get from Apple.

Motorola hasn't announced much about the Moto X, except to say in its sign-up page that the phone will be built in its Fort Worth, Texas, factory and that the company is hiring additional production workers for the plant, which will be operated by Motorola contractor Flextronics.

Details on the phone are limited as Motorola ramps up speculation in the process of building interest. But at least some details have been leaked by mystery tweeter @evleaks, who has a good track record. But it's unclear if the details on the Moto X are accurate or not.

Still, Motorola, now owned by Google, does say that this will be a phone that owners can design themselves. But the obvious next question is how much of the design can users influence and still stay within the bounds of what the FCC allows and what is reasonable for mass production.

But it's also worth noting that given the right platform that can leave room for a lot. If you want an example, just visit a car dealership and immerse yourself in the vast number of options you can get and still call it, say, a Ford Mustang.

So what will you be able to design in to your Moto X? I think it's a safe bet that you'll be able to choose a color, perhaps not any color, but one from a selection of choices just as you do when you buy a car. Beyond that it's unclear what Motorola means by design. Are they talking about decorative features? Will they let buyers choose their favorite carrier, or perhaps decide if they want an unlocked GSM phone like Apple does?

Right now Motorola has released few details. Rumors flying around the Internet indicate that the Moto X will be a Verizon Wireless device, but a company spokesperson declined to comment on speculation.

Motorola Aims Squarely at Apple iPhone With Moto X Handset

There are also rumors that the device would initially be offered in black and white, but that doesn't square with the "designed by you" concept.

The other leaks and speculation floating around indicate that this would be an Android device (no surprise there) running version 4.2.2 (again no surprise) with a dual-core processor, 720p screen and a 10-megapixel camera. There's nothing earth-shattering, in other words, but it's at least comparable to what Apple offers in the iPhone 5.

Unfortunately, most of what Motorola will deliver with the Moto X will remain speculation at least a little while longer. Most of the other information about the mostly secret Moto X came from Motorola itself when CEO Dennis Woodside revealed its existence at the All Things D event at the end of May. During that conference Motorola also revealed that the Moto X would be making heavy use of sensors as a way to anticipate users' needs.

As you look through what Motorola has revealed so far, it seems clear that the company, and parent Google, want the Moto X to be an assault on the iPhone's market share. Featuring sensors—something that the iPhone doesn't do well—is one such attempt. So is building the phone in the United States, considering the heat that Apple has taken for building phones in China. And of course, there's the part about designing the phone yourself—something that resonates with users who are weary of Apple's long-established approach of telling users what they want instead of asking them.

The real measure of success will depend on just how innovative Motorola is when it comes to actually delivering the Moto X. If the Moto X is just another Android phone that competes with Samsung, but offers little that's new, then all of this speculation—not to mention marketing dollars—will have been wasted. In fact, introducing just another Android phone may well have a backlash if potential buyers are disappointed by the reality when it arrives.

But Google has a good history of innovation. We can hope that Google gave Motorola the freedom and perhaps even a mandate to move away from the tried-and-true and into the world of innovative devices such as the Galaxy S 4 from Samsung, which is a decent phone despite the overdose of hype. Motorola seems to promise this in its publicity, and in the process takes a jab at Apple and its marketing when it says, "Designed by you, Assembled in the USA."

Rocket Fuel