With Moto G, Google's Motorola takes aim at emerging markets

The Motorola Moto G packs a 4.5-inch HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and a bargain-basement price. 

The Moto G, from Google's Motorola, will be available in a range of colors.

Google's Motorola Mobility has unveiled a new smart phone aimed at budget-minded consumers. 

The 8GB Moto G, which will be rolled out this week in Brazil and some parts of Europe – a wider launch is expected over the next couple months – is set to be offered unlocked for the equivalent of $179. (The 16GB model will sell for $199.) For that price, you'll get a colorful aesthetic inspired by the Moto X, a 4.5-inch HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and the Android 4.3 operating system. 

"[P]rice-conscious consumers who don’t want to pay $600 or more for high-end smartphones have been left with two bad options," Motorola reps wrote in a blog post today. "The first is to buy cheap, new smartphones made with second-rate technology that don’t do justice to modern apps and experiences like navigation, video chat and games. The second is to buy 'low cost' versions of premium products that were released two or three years ago and are already obsolete. We think there should be a better option." 

So how does the Motorola G handle?

Well, in a hands-on test over at PC Pro, Jonathan Bray finds the design "pleasant enough" and the performance a "mixed bag," with less-than-spectacular speed. 

"This isn’t a phone to set the world on fire, but we do like the direction Motorola is taking with the Moto G," Mr. Bray writes. "For the money, it offers an awful lot of hardware – especially that lovely display and the waterproofing – the design is appealing, and software is mercifully clean. It looks as if Android finally has something to rival Nokia’s excellent Windows Phone-based budget Lumias – and we think they’re going to sell a boat load." 

In related news, Motorola, which had been hoping for a breakthrough hit with its Moto X phone, saw only 500,000 Moto X units shipped in the third quarter of this year, according to Strategy Analytics (hat tip WSJ). That's far, far behind the numbers put up by Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone smart phones during the same time period. 

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