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TheStreet Open House

Moto X: And the Price Wasn't Even Right

Stocks in this article: GOOGTMUSAAPLWMTQCOM

The Motorola X launches with Android 4.2.2, which Samsung offered back in April on its current flagship device, the Galaxy S4. Any promise to upgrade it to Android 4.3 by a certain timeframe, or at all for that matter? Not that I can find anywhere on Motorola's Web site.

This is particularly painful because of the meaningful improvements we have seen in the devices that have been upgraded from Android 4.2.2 to 4.3. Did they do this just to show that Motorola gets deliberate second-class treatment by Google? Or was Motorola too slow/incompetent to implement what Samsung, LG and Asus are already offering?

Had Google wanted to take the Motorola opportunity to shake up the wireless industry, it would have circumvented all the traditional operator channels and offered the Moto X strictly from its own Web site and other independent distributors for $299 or $349, just like the LG Nexus 4. It would have told consumers to pick up a pay-as-you-go SIM card from T-Mobile or Wal-Mart (WMT) for $30 per device, or $100 for four lines.

Speaking of the LG Nexus 4, the Moto X actually has almost identical specs: Similar Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon CPU, similar 4.7-inch 720p screen, no removable battery or expandable storage.

The LG Nexus 4 came out last October, so perhaps LG should sue Motorola for some sort of infringement? Well, that would be ambitious given that the year-old Nexus 4 already offers Android 4.3 whereas the Moto X isn't yet in stores but will launch on Android 4.2.2. The Moto X is no threat to the LG Nexus 4.

Sarcasm aside, it does remain true that the Moto X is a perfectly fine mainstream Android, slightly above the mid-range in the marketplace. There is nothing wrong with it -- that the right price couldn't have cured.

It's easy to have sympathy for Google's dilemma here. On the one hand, it would be great if Motorola could be the dominant king of smartphones.

The problem is that it isn't. It's badly behind the other companies, most notably Samsung.

Therein resides Google's dilemma: It's got bigger fish to fry than prodding Motorola to excellence. Google's main priority right now -- after managing a 2014-2015 transition from Android to Chrome OS (Chromephone) -- is to ensure that Samsung doesn't wander off the reservation.

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