Google Enjoys Moment of Moto X Success With Penny Offer

Motorola, seemingly cleaning house ahead of the closure of its Texas factory, sold out of the Moto X units allotted for a promotion in just hours.

Moto X smartphone

Motorola has finally experienced some enthusiastic success around its Moto X smartphones.

The phone maker—which Google is in the process of selling to Lenovo—is so confident that people who try out the Moto X will love it, that it announced an offer to build custom-ordered phones and ship them to users who can try them out for two weeks for just a penny. Those who like the phones and want to keep them will be charged the retail price; those who are unimpressed or have a change of heart can print a shipping label and send the phone back.

The deal went live just past midnight on the East Coast, and by 9 a.m., the phones were out of stock.

"We've sold all the Moto X phones we allotted for this promotion," said a note on the Motorola site.

By late afternoon, there was no evidence of the offer left on the site.

It's easy to imagine that the deal is an effort to clean house ahead of the Lenovo acquisition and before Google closes the Fort Worth, Texas, factory where the phones—as was announced with much fanfare, at launch—are produced.

Google opened the factory in May 2013, and months later—offering journalists a Sept. 10 tour as Apple was the same day introducing the iPhone 5S and 5C—expounded on the benefits of offering the first smartphone to be designed, engineered and assembled in the United States.

Motorola's offer, for example, that consumers could custom design phones and then have them in-hand in a matter of days, was only possible because the phones were made in the United States.

Dennis Woodside, then-CEO of Motorola, said during the September press event that the "wage differential"—what it could pay foreign workers, versus U.S. workers, was "coming down." Plus, "you get huge improvements in productivity by having your design team much closer to your manufacturing team," he added.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told journalists at the event, "We think this is a very, very safe bet. The reason is, the math works. We get much more flexible products, and the products themselves have been thoroughly well-reviewed."

Ultimately, Google—like so many other manufacturers trying to loosen the Apple-Samsung grasp on the U.S. smartphone market—was unable to sell many phones.

In January, Google announced it was unloading Motorola on Lenovo for $2.91 billion. Lenovo's CEO has said he expects he can make Motorola profitable within four to six quarters.

"What we found was that the North American market was exceptionally tough," Motorola President Rick Osterloh told The Wall Street Journal, according to a May 30 report.

Anyone utterly disappointed to have missed out on the 1-cent deal might consider Verizon's offer of the Moto X for free with a two-year service contract. It's also available contract-free from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless and U.S. Cellular.

On June 3, Google began rolling out Android 4.4.3 (KitKat) to Moto X devices on the T-Mobile network.