Smart and steal - The New Indian Express

Smart and steal

Published: 24th November 2013 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 23rd November 2013 07:43 PM

The most important phone launch of the year, proclaim the headlines. This year people queued for days for the launch of the iPhone 5S. Samsung had a big street party in Times Square to launch its Galaxy S4. Sony had swimsuit-clad models doing gymnastics inside a pool for the launch of the Xperia Z1. The iPhone 5S, the Galaxy S4 and the Xperia Z1 may be very good phones that their companies like to call game-changers. But the real game-changer has been unveiled last week in a low key, very short event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when Motorola unveiled the Moto G.

Moto G is a game-changer not just because it is affordable, or because it will be available to buy all over the world, or because it is the phone with which Motorola, which has lately been selling only in US, will get back into the global markets. The Moto G is a game-changer because it is the first smartphone in the world which is affordable (at $179/around `12,000) which also happens to be a very good phone that promises to give its users a good user experience.

Moto G is also the first indication that the comparatively nascent smartphone market is ready to get into the second gear, or in the words of Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, ‘to serve the half a billion in the world who next year will buy a smartphone for under $200’.

Today’s smartphone market is very neatly divided into the haves and the have-nots. At the top-end are the flagships like iPhone 5S and HTC One which only the top earning 30-40 per cent of the population can afford. The rest of the market is filled with affordable phones running Android which are made either by global players like Samsung or by Indian players like Micromax. This affordability in phones, whomsoever it may come from, often means that the customer has to go for a lot of trade-offs. With often inferior screens, slow processors, unusable user interfaces, these affordable phones often are no better than feature phones that they so often replace.

Moto G changes that because, for a phone so affordable, it has some very good specifications and is excellently built. By taking away those trade-offs of the other affordable phones, the Moto G brings a good smartphone experience to the next 40 per cent of the population for the first time in smartphone history.

By making the next billion people afford smartphones, Motorola is hoping that those billion people will get online and use the Internet more. This hope is also the secret behind the affordability of the Moto G as Motorola is now owned by Google and can afford to give away phones for little to no profit.

Taking a leaf out of Amazon’s playbook, the Moto G, the flagship Moto X that is sold in US, and to a certain extent the Nexus 5 are all Google’s attempts at selling hardware at little to no profit in contrast with hardware manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, Nokia and Apple, which rely on the margins they make per every phone sold.

Like Amazon, which sells its Kindle Fire tablets at a loss in the hope that the consumers buy content which will compensate for the margins, Google is hoping that making more people use the Internet is key to its success. As analyst Benedict Evans keeps pointing out, ‘Google is about reach, not about selling devices’. With Moto G, it is hoping that it will stretch that reach by leaps and bounds.

The writer is a tech geek. Email:

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