At first mention of Motorola's X Phone, it's difficult not to ask a follow-up question. "What's special about it?" "Will it be available on my carrier?" "It's not a Galaxy...why would I want it?" Thus, it has become crystal clear that Motorola (and every smartphone running Android for that matter) has its work cut out in ensuring their devices receive adequate air time to let consumers know about their product.
There have been clear contenders at each feature set which are further complicated by Android UI (HTC Sense, TouchWiz), and then diced by hardware specifications like screen size and build materials.
But it's been Samsung who has led the Android army to its worldwide market share advantage. To put it simply, Samsung's bottomless budget has put their devices in the forefront of the Android smartphone army for a few years, and they're showing no signs of letting up no matter how similar the Galaxy S 4 was to its predecessor. For better or worse, all of Samsung's praise is deserved, too, because they have have consistently improved the hardware and software of their smartphones all the while retaining its two (read: obvious) competitive advantages: expandable storage and removable batteries. The consumer who desires hardware options has been cornered by Samsung's smartphones.
In short, any new Android smartphone expecting to sell needs to be able to gather a portion of consumer mind share and associate it with a certain product's advantages. Thankfully, there are plenty of flagship smartphones to choose from, but there are key areas where the X Phone by Motorola can differentiate: carrier support, publicity, and pricing.
If there's one takeaway from the 2013 onslaught of smartphones beckoning your hard earned Benjamins, it's that carriers want you committed to their network. But unlike a device which is widely accepted (the iPhone line, or Galaxy brand), the Motorola X Phone needs to position itself at the frontline with black and white advantages - there can be no gray area.
Likewise, it's important Google, Motorola, and the carrier(s) offer the X Phone support on all levels at the frontline. If the X Phone is a direct competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S 4, put it next to it in stores. If it's sold free on-contract, put it with the other devices that are more expensive.
Carrier support is likely the single most important factor to Google, Motorola's mama. Like any successful device sold on contract in The States, carriers need to see how a smartphone's features will attract new customers and retain their current faithful crop. But Google will likely want a good bit of control over software updates, and it's likely Motorola's established name will help convince carriers they know what they're doing in terms of speeding up the update process. This should please consumers in the end and could easily be marketed by the carrier, too.
Depending on how the X Phone is marketed will determine if it requires more carrier support in stores, or support over the air. Both will help, but the marketing campaign needs to be focused.
Google should use what it learned from the LG Nexus 4's reception to make sure they keep the momentum going. If the Motorola X Phone is to be considered a flagship smartphone of 2013, it needs to be obvious. Consumers only get the chance to recognize a value proposition if it's right in their face, and this is what Google and Motorola need to do. Run TV spots which compare features with pricing on and off contract. If it's free with a two-year commitment, tell us...which leads me to the next variable in a Motorola X Phone launch.
You're not going to get too far in 2013 without a good bit of advertising. Whether it be carrier support and posters at the frontline, or publicity on the Tube, air time is key in the mobile arena of today. People need to know why the X Phone is relevant. No longer is it enough to bake in the latest hardware specifications and hope consumers notice. Mind share must be appropriately attained and managed by the device's attributes.
Motorola once had an army of support with the DROID branding thanks to carrier support. Add in carrier support (like Verizon in the past and even today with the HTC DROID DNA), and they've got potential. Of course, it's easier said than done, but we mustn't forget Motorola once did this with the DROID brand before anyone was buying Galaxies.
Google and Motorola need to manage their device's reception to the "T." If there was any time for Motorola to dot their "i's," it's now.
Advertising for the Motorola X Phone needs to be simple. Whether based on on-contract price tag, or off, or at the hardware's characteristics as compared to rivaling devices, Motorola needs to let it be known why the X Phone is valuable for them, and important to us.
If the X Phone is made out of scratch-resistant polycarbonate, make a commercial. If it has new features of Android 4.3 (or Android 5.0), show us in a TV spot. It doesn't need to be confusing, either. Apple is notorious for marketing obviously obvious ads for their noise-cancelling microphones and displays. Often times the simplest marketing tactics are the best, don't overdo it, either.
Whether or not Google's hand will be dealt in the business segment of the Motorola X Phone has yet to be called out, but it's not too far-fetched to suggest pricing is any flagship smartphone's Achilles Heel and should also be in played out in a commercial, too.
Google has made it a point to associate quality with value - their Nexus devices prove this - but it has yet to be determined if this is what the X Phone business unit will do to get the ball rolling. Though it's never a bad idea to undercut competitors by reducing profit margins and delivering a lower price to the consumer, the manufacturer has much to consider before they stamp their MSRP on a product (read: brand image and investor confidence).
Budget devices are often associated as having some "fine print." The HTC First at $449.99 off-contract is a solid mid-level device, but carries a caveat: Facebook Home's launcher comes preinstalled. Even the widely accepted LG Nexus 4 suffers from a lack of 4G LTE which may be hindering it from even more sales in areas that are flooded with AT&T, or T-Mobile's 4G LTE.
We've seen Apple attack the "budget tablet market" with a middle-of-the-road priced iPad Mini. What it has done is cannibalize sales of their full-size iPad's, but Apple is still getting paid. Likewise, the first device from the partnership between Google and Motorola doesn't really need to be as cheap as the Nexus line of devices because it has flexibility in that it's new. It has no in-house competition since it's the first Motorola device with Google's hand at play, and needs to set a tone that associates the X Phone a niche market.
Much of the on-contract/off-contract pricing debacle can be determined by the marketing ploy Motorola decides to execute. If the device markets features, a higher price could hold water. Likewise, pricing is a risky business tactic in that it requires more commitment from a place OEMs always take a risk going to: consumer's wallets. If Motorola wants to play it safe, low to mid-level pricing would be their best bet.
It's safe to say that a subsidized price point would be safer at the lower tier seeing that the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 both have a firm grasp at the $200+ market. But if the device does indeed pack flagship hardware to turn heads, keeping that subsidized price point low would make the X Phone shine bright like a diamond. At or below the $100 mark with a two-year commitment would likely get consumers thinking, especially if the device is directly compared with smartphones demanding twice the dough.
Price point will come right down to how the X Phone is marketed, but if the device is as exciting as tech sites have reported, Motorola and Google have a wide margin to capitalize in, and I'm hoping for an announcement at Google I/O.
What do you think the Motorola X Phone needs to do to be successful? A launch on all carriers? Low pricing and top-tier specifications? A premium build? Hit the comments below and let me know!
Image via Androidandme.