Google, Motorola reveal Moto X, first smartphone to be assembled in the U.S.

Motorola and Google, which acquired the cellphone manufacturer last year, revealed the Moto X on Thursday. It is a new phone that will go on sale sometime in the next few months, and Google hopes the model will allow it to compete with models from Apple and Samsung:

Google’s Android operating system already powers millions of smartphones made by Samsung, HTC and other competitors across the world. But following a push to build more of its own gadgets, Google closed a deal to buy the struggling smartphone maker Motorola in 2012 and is betting that it can snatch a bigger piece of the market.

Standing out in the crowded mobile market is crucial for Google, which must prove that its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola was worth the investment, analysts said. In the United States, Motorola phone sales trail those of Apple and Samsung, and the company will have to work hard to regain its reputation as a top smartphone brand, said Stephen Baker, a mobile analyst for the NPD Group.

Motorola, Baker said, has chosen its moment well. While Apple and Samsung still dominate the U.S. market, accounting for about 70 percent of all smartphones, Baker said that both companies have seen sales plateau in recent months as the demand for top-of-the-line smartphones hits a saturation point. That lull, he said, leaves Motorola a key opening to pick up market share.

“The benefit of being pretty far behind the leaders is they have a lot less to lose and can take chances,” Baker said.

Hayley Tsukayama

The Moto X will be the first smartphone assembled in the United States, allowing buyers to order customized phones delivered to their door in four days:

The company will offer 18 different back covers ranging in color from “spearmint” to “cabernet,” a choice of black or white fronts and seven different metallic accents for details like the volume button. That makes for 252 possible style variations of the phone.

In the fall, Google plans to offer four variants of wood for the back cover.

Even though the concept of the smartphone was pioneered here and many phones have been designed in the U.S., the vast majority of phones are assembled in Asia.

With labor costs rising in China, some electronics manufacturers are looking to move manufacturing back to the U.S. Apple is moving production of its Mac Pro desktop computers to the U.S. this year.

The Fort Worth factory will let Google stamp the phone as “Made in the U.S.,” but assembly is just the last step in the manufacturing process, and accounts for relatively little of the cost of a smartphone. The cost largely lies in the chips, battery and display, most of which come from Asian factories. For instance, research firm iSuppli estimates that the components of Samsung’s latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S4, cost $229, while the assembly costs $8.

Google sees other value in a U.S. factory.

“Over time, by having the engineers closer to the factory floor, we’ll be able to innovate faster and develop products that actually are quite interesting down the road,” said Dennis Woodside, head of Google’s Motorola division.

Associated Press

The phone will be released first with AT&T:

As for the technical specifications, the phone will ship with Android 4.2.2 and has 2 GB of RAM. The Moto X sports a 4.7-inch screen, 10 MP rear-facing camera, 2 MP front-facing camera and has the capability to shoot 1080p HD video. The phone does have the new camera interface that lets users call up their camera app by shaking their wrist twice and tapping anywhere on the screen to take a picture. This is the same camera software that Motorola unveiled last week for its new line of Droid phones.

The phone also includes advanced voice control options that users can activate by saying “OK Google Now” at any time.

While the phone only has two options for memory, users also get 50 GB of free storage for two years through Google Drive.

The phone will be available first on AT&T and will cost either $199.99 or $249.99 with a two-year agreement, depending on how much memory you want for the phone. Sprint, U.S. Cellular, Verizon and T-Mobile will all carry the phone later.

Hayley Tsukayama

For complete technical specifications, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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