Motorola killed mid-range phones with the Moto G

Mid-range smartphones have always been an odd segment of the mobile landscape. The hardware they offer is never top-notch, their designs can look like bloated mutations of sleeker flagship models, and despite more affordable prices than those higher tier handsets, mid-rangers just haven’t been a great value for your dollar.

And then today we get this new Motorola – the Moto G. It doesn’t completely hit the ball out of the park with its hardware, but there are a few stand-out components. The Moto-X-inspired design is liable to get the G confused for the X itself, and those custom backplates offer a refreshing amount of personalization.

But that price… woo, that price! Those few little digits instantly transform the Moto G from a solid mid-ranger to something fearsome – at least, it should be, to any other companies thinking they can keep on selling mid-range phones like they used to.

What am I talking about? Look at exactly what you get from Motorola with the Moto G: 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400, 4.5-inch 720p display, 1GB of RAM, 5MP main camera, and either 8GB or 16GB storage. All that for $180/$200. OFF contract.

Let’s stack that up against some mid-range competition: the Galaxy S 4 Mini and HTC One Mini.

one-mini-black-fullEverybody’s running 400s – the GS4M has one at 1.7GHz, while the HOM is at 1.4GHz. But those two are dual-core versions of the chip, while Motorola’s got a quad-core component (thanks for simplifying SoCs with this year’s numbering scheme, Qualcomm! Bang-up job). Samsung’s got some extra RAM at 1.5GB, but the HOM is still at 1GB.

Samsung has itself a bit of a leg up with an 8MP camera, and the GS4M is quite a bit lighter than either the HOM or Moto G, but the phone also only has a qHD display, while even the HOM gets a 720p component.

All told, the GS4M might have a small edge on these other two, but I think it’s fair to say that all three devices belong in the same wheelhouse. At least, that’s what the specs suggest. Pricing, on the other hand…

A Galaxy S 4 Mini will set you back about $375 – and this is a phone that’s already several months old. That’s also for only 8GB storage (though microSD expansion is an option).

And the HTC One Mini? Haw! The GS4M looks like a steal in comparison, as you’ll be paying well over $400 – if not close to $500 – for one of these babies.

Are both the Galaxy S 4 Mini and HTC One Mini arguably higher quality handsets than the Moto G? I’ll buy that – the GS4M’s low weight and the HOM’s metal construction are definitely premium features. But are they worth just SO much more?

Samsung Galaxy S4 mini ReviewThat’s where this mid-range dream is falling apart. If the other guys cost 20%, 30%, even 50% more than the Moto G, I’d still call them competitive. But when these OEMs are asking you to pay double or MORE? It’s crazy.

Frankly, the only way manufacturers of other mid-rangers are going to compete with the Moto G (sort of slashing their own prices to match) is by doing their darnedest to keep the phone out of stores, away from carriers, and absent from the minds of the smartphone-buying public.

But wait a moment; Nexus phones are stupid cheap, and they haven’t decimated the smartphone market. What are you on about?

The Moto G has a trump card that phones like the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 don’t: it’s still going to be cheap internationally. While the eminently affordable Nexus pricing didn’t quite carry over to markets across the sea, all signs point to the Moto G still commanding a very low price (though maybe not as low as in the US) abroad.

Sliding the start of the mid-range scale back to $200 could have far-reaching implications in the smartphone sphere. Better hardware becomes more affordable to more users. Pressure increases on higher-end devices to keep costs in check. And lower-end models are likely to start getting comparatively better hardware, as they can’t as easily get by on their low prices alone.

Honestly, I don’t know what more I could have asked from Motorola. All I can do now is sit back and hope that consumers respond to the handset in the way that logic suggests they should. This could be the start of a brave new world here, and I’m curious to see if the Moto G inspires any other OEMs to follow suit with similar smartphones of their own.

We are all up ons today’s Moto G launch. Get the details on the phone’s announcement, read some more about just how redonk a deal this handset is, and see what the phone has us thinking about last year’s Nexus 4.

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About The Author
Stephen Schenck
Stephen has been writing about electronics since 2008, which only serves to frustrate him that he waited so long to combine his love of gadgets and his degree in writing. In his spare time, he collects console and arcade game hardware, is a motorcycle enthusiast, and enjoys trapping blue crabs. Stephen's first mobile device was a 624 MHz Dell Axim X30, which he's convinced is still a viable platform. Stephen longs for a market where phones are sold independently of service, and bandwidth is cheap and plentiful; he's not holding his breath. In the meantime, he devours smartphone news and tries to sort out the juicy bits Read more about Stephen Schenck!