Google tries to reverse Motorola's fortunes with low-cost Moto G

|By:, SA News Editor

The Moto G, a 4.5" Android (GOOG +0.9%) phone with a 720p display and 8GB-16GB of storage, will have an unsubsidized starting price of just $179. The product is aimed squarely at a burgeoning low-end smartphone market that has helped fuel Android's tremendous - IDC estimates 212M Android phones were shipped in Q3, and that the OS' smartphone share was 81% - and which has been dominated by Samsung and various Chinese/white-label vendors.

Motorola Mobility chief Dennis Woodside realizes that, while much cheaper than an iPhone 5S or Galaxy S4, the G won't be the cheapest Android phone out there. He argues the device's mid-range specs will help it sell well in emerging markets. "There are products that are $70 ... They are just not very good."

The G features Qualcomm's (QCOM +1.2%) middle-of-the-road Snapdragon 400 baseband/app processor (quad-core, 1.2GHz.), 1GB of RAM, newly-released Android 4.3 (KitKat), and a promised 14 hours of talk time. On the other hand, it doesn't have a 4G modem. It's launching in 30 countries, including some Motorola hasn't been in for years.

The phone comes amid disappointing sales of the high-end and well-hyped Moto X, which Motorola sought to differentiate via support for extensive hardware customization. It also follows a Q3 in which Motorola saw a 34% Y/Y sales drop, and a $248M op. loss.

Meanwhile, Samsung (SSNLF, SSNGY) is boasting it expects to have a 50% African smartphone share this year, and is aiming to double its smartphone sales to the continent in 2014.