Motorola wants to bring out a $50 smartphone


Motorola has undergone one of the fastest identity transformations we’ve ever seen in a mobile company — perhaps even faster than T-Mobile under new CEO John Legere. Since the moment they were acquired by Google, Motorola Mobility worked quickly to push through their final research and development pipelines and obligations and move on to becoming a simpler company.

Motorola Logo

The Moto X and Verizon’s DROID lines were the first products of said transformation. While the solid hardware, and simple — yet value-packed — software in those launches were great, Motorola had the desire to insert themselves in the emerging devices market.

The first move made in that trek came with the Moto G, the $180 smartphone that’s actually being offered by US carriers for as little as $100, but Motorola says they want to do something even more remarkable than that. Speaking with Trusted Reviews, CEO Dennis Woodside revealed that the company believes there’s a market out there that are looking for smartphones even cheaper than the Moto G.

“We’re going to look at that and just delivering on that value promise is super important,” Woodside said. “I mean why can’t these devices be $50? There’s no reason that can’t happen so we’re going to push that.” While some might take that as absolute confirmation that Motorola is, in fact, bringing out a $50 smartphone, it’s imperative to take a step back and analyze those words.

Working toward something, planning on something, and doing something are three entirely different things in the world of business — especially in mobile business. While we’re not saying Motorola’s proposition is impossible, it’s certainly tough to think about what they could do to bring a smartphone for $50 without taking some tough losses.



These devices would have to be pretty barebones and dated in terms of technology if Motorola wants to protect their bottom line. We wouldn’t be surprised to see pleasantries we take for granted like GPS, Bluetooth and cameras completely cut out of the equation.

That said, we won’t doubt Motorola as they were able to stuff a 4.5-inch 720p display, a quad-core processor and a 5 megapixel camera inside the aforementioned Moto G.. Whatever the case may be, we’re interested in seeing what kind of smartphone one could buy for half a Benjamin. Let’s hope Motorola can make it happen in the near future.

Quentyn Kennemer
The "Google Phone" sounded too awesome to pass up, so I bought a G1. The rest is history. And yes, I know my name isn't Wilson.

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  1. The LG Ally gets new life…..

  2. I love the new Motorola.

  3. You’re missing the point of what he’s saying. They wouldn’t be stripping features/parts out of phones. By mass producing a product that people want & delivering it straight to them without a middleman, they can bring costs WAY down. That’s the point.

    The only reason phones cost $600+ is because we’ve been conditioned to accept that as the price point. Google is in a unique position because they don’t make the bulk of their money (or much of it at all) through selling phones. They don’t need Moto to have the same profit margins as Samsung or Apple does. They can afford to give us the value.

    A $50 Moto phone would be great for consumers, but it could kill off competition fast.

    1. Sadly, this is probably what the US needs. This will create a lot of job opportunities. This is also thinking without any conspiracy theories in mind.

  4. I could imagine leaving out Bluetooth, but GPS is pretty core to the smartphone experience. And having a camera is normally just a given.

    It’s nice to see Motorola thinking in new directions. But, I’m wondering if a ~$100 phone isn’t a more practical price point.

    1. The camera is true. GPS? Eh…? IDK… I guess you can take that out. You can still get a location without it. Just becomes almost… impractical.

    2. With the number of people that pair their phones with their vehicle and that wear bluetooth headsets, I can’t see leaving bluetooth out.

  5. Android 4.1 Jellybean ( as the OS costs nothing )
    Dual core 1.2ghz mediatek processor
    512mb of ram
    4.0″ 800×480 resolution
    4gb of storage
    Micro SD card slot
    3mp rear camera

    That’s what I think they could do without making a profit, the Vodafone smart mini has worse specs then this and costs the same. I wouldn’t bother buying it if it was worse then that

    1. the OS itself may be free, but if im not mistaken, one must pay Microsoft licensing fees in order to sell the device because the OS uses some if their patents.

      1. @disqus_rqQUATRiMR:disqus: Why not Kitkat 4.4? Lower resource requirements than 4.1
        @malcmilli:disqus: Android is not the same as Windows, where did he even mention that os?

        1. he didnt mention windows… and neither did I. So like i was trying to say, Microsoft makes money off of android sales because if i dont have my facts twisted, the implementation of android OS onto a smartphone somewhere down the line infringes on a few of microsofts patents. So HTC, Samsung, etc each pay Microsoft small licensing fees for each Android handset they sell.

          1. I remember that. MS was making more money from the licences then they were from their own phones at one point.

          2. FOrgot about that article, lol
            Goes to show, create s service, and license, easy money :P

        2. He didn’t mention it. But Google supposedly violated some M$ patents awhile back in Android and now every Android handset sold also earns M$ money.

    2. Why use 4.1 though, isn’t 4.4 supposed to run better on older hardware? Cheap shouldn’t mean outdated, part of what makes the Moto G such good value is that it’s OS is ahead of most flagships.

    3. Throw in LTE, and I’m first in line. All I need is a phone to dial and receive calls, and a hotspot for my tablet(s).

      1. on a side note- I would really love if lte-voice and ip voice finally hit the mainstream, phone calls should be crystal clear and not dropping in and out and hard to hear other people like they can be now.

        seriously i just want to make clear stable calls with what used to be a telephone.

    4. I thought it was Kit-Kat that used the least amount of RAM? Is that what you mean?

    5. In ~2014 it needs LTE.

      1. You guys do realize he’s talking $50 UNSUBSIDIZED, right?

  6. They can easily drive the price down by stripping out features like Front and Rear cameras, smaller screens (4.5~) and even the removal of GPS. These devices would be great for businesses.

    The company I work for currently issues Galaxy S4’s to users (previously iPhone 5’s and Blackberrys) and the users really only use them to make calls and read email. That is. They can browse sure but the devices are pretty locked down to the point where its overkill to have such a powerful phone in the first place. Something like the Moto X/G would have been more appropriate and cost effective considering the use.

    I have a Note 3 myself and I can only recall using the camera twice. It’s not just something I need personally.

    1. Ya i know several businesses like that. They give their employees Iphone’s or high-end Androiud phones but the things are completely locked down so are only used for calling, texting and e-mail.
      A Moto G would be loads cheaper and would do the job just as good.

  7. ad supported a la kindle fire (which amazon values at $15 currently, although phones are used way more than tablets so this could easily be worth double that), rear camera only or no cameras at all, no bluetooth. dual core processor, still has gps, still has acceleramoter increase thickness of phone (older bigger cheaper components), half gig ram kitkat(needs the the lower component requirements), small battery

    seems easily doable given $180 moto g

    remember there are still people who buy dumbphones in u.s. and internationally there are lots of cheap competitors…

  8. Project ARA:
    For 50 dollars you have “a” screen and can make calls.

    Pay more for GPS, BT, Wifi, Better screen, More RAM, more storage, camera module, NFC, Proximity meter, etc

    1. BT is now required by law (for hands free) AFAIK.

      1. While using a handsfree is required in some cities/states, it’s not required in all by any means. Also since you can also use wired headsets (yes they still exist, and actually work a lot better than a whole lot of cheap bluetooth headsets) just as easily as bluetooth it definitely isn’t required.

        handsfree doesn’t = wireless connectivity.

        The only requirements I know of cellphones having are FCC requirements, and e911 positioning capability (which I believe requires only cell tower triangulation assisted gps and necessarily satellite gps)

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  10. Thought they already had $50 phones, the X and the G.

    1. Haha, YOU’RE SO WITTY!!! Seriously, YOU should be a standup comedian! /s

      1. I don’t think he got that this is unsubsidized.

  11. Here is my speculation about a device like that:

    display: 4″ 480 x 800 IPS LCD
    1.2 gHz dual core Snapdragon
    512 mb – 1 gb RAM
    Android 4.4.2
    GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900
    UMTS: 850, 900, 1700, 1900
    5mp rear facing camera
    Camcorder 1280 x 720 @ 720p
    <2000 mAh battery

    So pretty much an LG Lucid

  12. i could walk a store and buy an android phone from a prepaid like virgin mobile for less then $50 so it’s totally doable

  13. Another possiblity is common design and longer model life span. If all their models share a common design, then components can be added/removed on a modular basis. Most of the guts would be the same across all models which allows for economies of scale. They then add memory, better processor, etc for the more expensive models.

    Next there’s the idea of longer product lifespan. It’s the “keeping up with the Jones” attitude that’s keeping phone prices inflated. OEMs are on very fast R&D cycles to keep putting out newer models. That costs money. If a single model line could stay on the market for a full two years, they’d save money. I think that’s part of the plan with the Moto X. They’ve put real effort into optimizing the software so it doesn’t require the latest & greatest processor to get similar performance.

  14. $50 phones are coming! $50 phones are coming!

    It’s not that far fetched. By this year the parts in the Moto G will already be cheaper. Just drop a bit on the screen and you should be able to hit the price point. I don’t think you have to drop essential parts like GPS or cameras. You may just have a really bad camera inside tho. Aren’t there other manufacturers already hitting the $100 price point? Granted they’re using the crap Mediatek.

    Motorola please don’t use Mediatek…

    1. This phone realistically isn’t probably destined for a place in the US, but in developing markets, where Chinese smartphones with MediaTek SoCs are doing very well..

      Moto has to compete effectively with them, so I don’t see anything wrong in them using a MediaTek SoC. They will gain customers that they wouldn’t have got otherwise.

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