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Motorola unveils budget smartphone, aimed at world

Wed, 11/13/2013 - 11:22am
ANICK JESDANUN, AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Motorola says it wants to equip the world with the latest smartphone technology, at less than a third the price.

The new Moto G phone starts at $179 in the U.S. without a contract requirement. That compares with $600 or more that people must pay for phones without traditional two-year service agreements.

Motorola, which is owned by Google Inc., said Wednesday that it will target an estimated 500 million people worldwide who can't afford phones costing more than $200. In the past, the company said, those consumers were limited to phones with technology that's at least a year old and thus unable to run the latest apps and services.

The company is targeting not just emerging markets, but budget-conscious consumers in the U.S. Although people can often get phones with contract at the lower price, service fees are higher because they include the cost of subsidizing those phones. And many people don't have good enough credit to qualify and are limited to so-called pre-paid plans, which aren't eligible for the subsidized prices.

With the Moto G, Motorola is trying to offer a device that is closer to what leading high-end phones currently offer.

The phone's 4.5-inch screen, measured diagonally, is capable of high-definition video, but only at 720p, not at the better, 1020p standard found in leading phones. The resolution is 329 pixels per inch, which is comparable to the 326 pixels in the latest, 4-inch iPhones but short of the 441 pixels in Samsung's 5-inch Galaxy S4.

The $179 price is for a phone with 8 gigabytes of storage, not the 16 gigabytes typical with high-end phones. A 16-gigabyte version is available for $199.

The phone also has a recent processor from Qualcomm and runs a recent version of Google's operating system, Android 4.3, also known as Jelly Bean. The newest version, 4.4 or Kit Kat, is promised by January. Kit Kat was designed to work well with older phones and the latest devices alike.

The phone starts selling in Brazil and parts of Europe on Wednesday. It will be available in Canada, parts of Asia and the rest of Europe and Latin America over the next few weeks. It is expected in the U.S., India, the Middle East and additional markets in Asia in January. Motorola didn't announce any plans for Africa.

Moto G will have a removable back to allow for customization. Motorola's flagship Moto X also allows customization, but it must be ordered in advance and can't be changed.

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