Motorola unveiled the heavily-anticipated Moto X Thursday, the company's first smartphone developed since being acquired by Google last year. And unlike other smartphones on the market, the Moto X's allure is mostly its looks rather than its technology.
Customers will be able to personalize their Moto X by choosing from 22 phone backs (four of which are actual wood), seven accent colors, a white or black face plate, a white or black wall charger and 16 or 32 gigabytes of memory. In addition, customers will be able to put a personalized 25-character message on the back of the phone. Four days later, the phone will be shipped directly to their homes.
The design-centric phone will be marketed more like a fashion accessory than a piece of technology, according to Motorola's VP-global brand and product marketing Brian Wallace.
"Your watch, your shoes, your shirt are all an expression of who you are," Mr. Wallace said in a recent interview. "Everyone I work with, everyone I meet, all my friends and family, will always see my smartphone. It's an extension of who I am, but it's currently the most impersonal thing I own."
Won't outspend Apple, Samsung
The device will be advertised in fall editions of fashion magazines and heavily promoted on Pinterest, he said. Motorola is also planning outdoor and in-store displays that change colors based upon what a consumer is wearing. If a person wearing yellow walks in front of a Moto X display, for instance, the display will show how a yellow Moto X will complement his or her outfit. Mr. Wallace said he hopes to eventually have the device featured in Fashion Week events.
Motorola thinks this level of customization is a compelling enough proposition to steal market share from Apple and Samsung, despite spending less on marketing.
"We're not going to be outspending Apple and Samsung, not by a long shot. And honestly, that's okay. This isn't about money, it's not about budgets. This is about trying to outsmart and have a unique value proposition that will resonate with consumers," Mr. Wallace said.
Apple and Samsung spent more than $333 million and $407 million, respectively, on advertising their smartphones in the U.S. in 2012, according to Kantar measured media.
Music will be another point of emphasis in the phone's marketing, Mr. Wallace said.
"The genre that we think speaks most to people who are going to gravitate to our solutions is electronic and DJ," Mr. Wallace said.
Mr. Wallace said the company is seeking endorsement deals with prominent electronic dance music artists, but declined to specify which ones. As part of this theme, the Moto X launch party on Thursday night will feature popular Chicagoland native DJ Kaskade.
The company has also inked a deal with music accessories company Sol Republic to make headphones that match 16 of the available Moto X colors. There will also be colored earbuds that correspond to the Moto X colors.
The phone will be available on wireless carrier shelves August 23, according to people familiar with the situation. All four of the major carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon -- will carry the phone at that time.
However, the customizable colors will be exclusive to AT&T at first. The other three carriers will carry Moto Xs in stock black and white until early November. At that point, the three other carriers will allow customers to choose from all the color options.
Because of the initial exclusive arrangement, AT&T is expected to display the Moto X prominently in its retail stores.
The 16 GB Moto X will cost $199 with a two-year contract, while the 32 GB will cost $249. Motorola declined to say what the phone will cost without a contract. Similarly-priced phones typically cost $599 without a carrier contract.
Customizing the phone will not take place in carrier stores. Rather, customers will design their phones via an online portal called MotoMaker. Customers can either purchase their phones there, or buy a redemption code in stores and design them at home.
Motorola recently relocated its assembly process to Fort Worth, Texas, which allows it to deliver the phones four days after customers complete their design. The process would have taken "weeks" under Motorola's old assembly process, according to Lior Ron, chief VP-product management at Motorola.
Motorola is touting a "Designed and Assembled in the USA" tagline, a not-so-subtle knock on Korea-based Samsung and Apple's heavily-criticized supply chain practices.
It wouldn't be the first time Mr. Wallace has engineered a campaign against Apple. When he was VP-strategic marketing at Samsung, he helped develop the company's popular fanboy ads that poked fun of people who lined up to buy new iPhones. Google poached him in late 2012.
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