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Moto X: Designed to go mano y mano with Apple’s iPhone 5S

The Moto X is designed to go mano y mano with Apple’s iPhone 5S.  While Google Android phones now outsell Apple iPhone’s by a ratio of 6:1 worldwide, in the United States, it is more like 5:4. I don’t think it is a secret that the Moto X, or Motorola’s X Phone, really only has one job: To expand Android’s market share in the United States by trying to convert existing iPhone users into the Android fold. The Moto X is priced a bit too high to be the first smartphone for the remaining feature phone users. In the same way, it won’t be seen as a good choice by budget conscious Android owners.  The Moto X is spec’ed a bit too low to attract the Android power user.

Moto X Colors

In that sense, it does not matter how well the Moto X will appeal to the traditional Android user base, or how well it stacks up to the quad core Android smartphones. The real test for success of the Moto X is how attractive the package looks to Apple iPhone 4 and 4S users, whose contracts are about to expire over the next few months.

While almost all smartphones these days are manufactured in China, the Apple iPhone still has red, white and blue written all over it. Apple is a US company after all. The Moto X ups the ante in this regard. Not only is Motorola a US company, but the Moto X is actually assembled in the USA. It is probably not a coincidence that Motorola made concessions for AT&T, which is the strongest carrier for Apple’s iPhone. Moto X is taking its red, white and blue attack straight to the iPhone’s home base.

Exactly, how well the Moto X will stack up against the new iPhone remains to be seen. We will have to wait another three weeks for Apple to launch its latest iPhone. If, as expected, the Apple iPhone 5S is an incremental upgrade of the iPhone 5, the Moto X should be competitive.

I think though that Motorola failed on storage. Since the internal storage of the Moto X cannot be expanded via a MicroSD card, Motorola should have offered 32GB and 64GB of storage instead. Fifty gigabytes of Google Drive will not look too appealing to people on volume based data plans. If Apple’s next flagship smartphone offers a 32GB model at US$199 on contract, the Moto X will look more and more like a mid-level offering sold at a high price.

The other area where Motorola could have done better is the 10MP camera. It will impress iPhone 4 users but not the iPhone 4S users it is targeted at. Once the iPhone 5S is launched, expect to see legions of reviews comparing the Moto X camera with that of the new Apple offering.

The large 4.7-inch display should be enough to offset storage and camera issues for a fair number of users. The ability to customize colors will also appeal to many, but given that a lot of users place their phone in protective cases, the color of the back cover seems rather irrelevant. The Moto X also has a bunch of nifty features, like always-on Google Now or the ability to peek at notifications. But I get this feeling that Motorola has dropped the ball in terms of making the Moto X launch a big success.

The Moto X should have been available as soon as it was announced. With the phone now hitting the market, it will take at least two weeks to see how the Moto X will do in terms of sales. The reason: The Moto X is not launching simultaneously on all carriers simultaneously. This is particularly disappointing for a North America only phone. Unlocked, no-contract phones are not yet available. Shipping of customized phones will take longer than expected. Advertised customization features like wood back covers and engraving are not available at launch. On top of all this it does not help that the next Apple iPhone is expected to be launched on September 10, 2013. All these give potential buyers reasons to delay their purchase. This is no way to build momentum and announce a strong launch.

Motorola has done a good job with the Moto X. Getting a 4.7-inch display in a 65 mm wide frame is a big thing. Still, a few tweaks to the hardware specifications, better timing on the launch timetable and maybe cutting the profit margin, and Motorola could have knocked this one out of the park. As it stands right now, it is a just good start.