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Motorola Looks to Defend Its Tweener Position With New Moto X, Moto G

Positioning itself as both innovator and breaker of price barriers, Motorola has a host of new products.

Ina Fried

While some see the midrange of the smartphone market disappearing, Motorola argues it is Apple and Samsung that should be worried.

“The days of the $600-$700 smartphone are numbered,” Motorola President Rick Osterloh told Re/code on Thursday. “People are realizing they don’t need to pay that much money.”

That may not be true in the U.S., where people are already camping out for an iPhone that hasn’t even been announced. But the strategy has worked well for Motorola in many parts of the world. The sub-$200 Moto G has become Motorola’s best-selling smartphone ever and is the primary reason the company has the No. 2 market share in Brazil and No. 4 in India. Even in the United Kingdom, the company has been able to grab roughly six percent of the market, up from nearly zero.

With a new generation of products shown off on Thursday, Motorola hopes to preserve those gains. The company formally launched its Moto 360 smartwatch and debuted the next generation of its Moto X and Moto G phones.

The new Moto G, which goes on sale Friday, adds a larger five-inch screen along with improved audio and camera, while maintaining its $179 price. The revamped Moto X grows to a 5.2-inch display, while also boasting improved camera features, a faster processor and new customization options. It will be available later this month for $99 with a two-year contract or for $499 unlocked and without a contract.

The Moto 360 watch, which was announced back in March and shown off at Google I/O over the summer, will hit the market on Friday for $249, selling at, and the Google Play store. It will also find its way in the coming weeks to some Best Buy stores as well as the shelves of other carrier and retail stores.

Even with some solid improvements, Motorola could find its smartphone position tough to preserve, with a host of Chinese brands, including Huawei and ZTE staking out similar turf. And, of course, it’s not just its products that make Motorola something of a tweener. The company itself is in an intermediate state, in the process of being sold to Lenovo by current owner Google.

Aiming to show itself as a significant innovator, Motorola on Thursday spent hours taking legions of journalists through its Chicago headquarters. It offered detailed briefings on each of the new products and their origins as well as a tour of the company’s research labs at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago.

Motorola also showed its commitment to devices that accompany the smartphone. In addition to the Moto 360 watch, the company demoed an external battery that doubles as a lost-phone finder, as well as the Moto Hint, a futuristic voice-activated Bluetooth headset that will go on sale later this year for $149.

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