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Motorola Says It’s Time to Ditch the Feature Phone, Intros $129 Moto E

Oh, there's also a new Moto G model.


If you don’t have a smartphone yet, Motorola would like to change that.

Following the success of the Moto G, Motorola today introduced an even more affordable entry-level smartphone called the Moto E. It will be available this month for an unlocked price of $129, with the potential to be cheaper with carrier subsidies and other deals. (At the time of this writing, no U.S. carrier has yet announced plans to offer the phone.)

At $50 less than the Moto G, there are some trade-offs. For example, the Moto E has a smaller 4.3-inch qHD screen and a slower dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Also, though the handset has a five-megapixel rear camera, it lacks a front-facing camera.

Still, it’s running the latest version of the Android operating system (KitKat 4.4.2), with guaranteed software upgrades. The screen features Corning Gorilla Glass for extra protection, and the device has a water-resistant nano-coating. In certain markets, the 3G-only Moto E will even have dual-SIM capabilities and/or a built-in digital TV tuner.

Unlike the Moto G, the Moto E will only be offered in one four-gigabyte model, but the phone does include a microSD card slot. Customers will also be able to personalize their devices with changeable covers in different colors and designs, which will range from $14.99 to $19.99.

In designing the Moto E, Motorola said it saw a huge opportunity to go after a segment of the population that is using feature phones, which still account for 70 percent of all mobile shipments around the world, according to its research. This is particularly true in emerging markets like India and Latin America.

“Looking at our data, the average cost for a smartphone in the last 12 months has been $337, which is still ridiculously high and way out of reach for many of the consumers that want to get on the device,” said Mark Randall, vice president of supply chain and operations at Motorola, in an interview with Re/code. “The Moto E is really about extending smartphones to that segment of the population who want to get on the mobile Internet and enjoy the same things that we do on our devices but just haven’t been able to do it.”

Motorola plans to sell the device in many of the same markets as the Moto G, including the U.S., U.K., Brazil and India.

In addition to the Moto E, Motorola also announced another version of the Moto G with 4G LTE and expandable memory — two of the features most requested by customers. It will be available by the end of May for $219 unlocked.

Despite being on the market for only five months, Motorola said, the Moto G is the best-selling handset in the company’s history. The company also reported a 61 percent year-over-year increase in handset volume in Q1, with 6.5 million devices shipped worldwide. Motorola is taking the momentum of its handset sales, along with its upcoming merger with Lenovo, as a positive sign of things to come.

“I think the market has wanted a real third competitor for a long time,” said Randall. “It’s pretty unhealthy having two guys [Apple and Samsung] being so dominant with no one really challenging, so I think that’s a really exciting opportunity for us.”

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