Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

SAN FRANCISCO — Motorola Mobility, the handset maker owned by Google, is still trying to find its niche in the smartphone market.

Sales of Motorola’s high-end smartphone, the Moto X, have been slow. Now the company is targeting the low end of the market with a less expensive phone, but with a major limitation — the phone won’t be released in China, the biggest market for low-end phones.

The lower-priced phone, Moto G, was announced by the company Wednesday. It costs at least $180 without a contract, and Motorola thinks it will appeal to people in places like Brazil, Chile and Peru, where there are more than 500 million potential customers.

Much of its appeal for those customers would be Google’s Internet services that are embedded in the phone. But in China, the government blocks some Google services, including Play, Google’s official online store, making Motorola’s new smartphone far less smart there.

“Our ability to compete there is a bit constrained,” Dennis Woodside, Motorola’s chief executive, said in an interview. “Moto G won’t be offered in China, initially at least.”

Still, Motorola believes that the phone will appeal to enough people outside of China to be a success. Unlike many cheap smartphones on the market, the Moto G will have a big high-resolution screen and run the latest Android software to support the latest apps on the market. It has a 4.5-inch screen, which puts it between the smaller iPhone 5S and the larger Galaxy S4 from Samsung Electronics.

The low-end smartphone is an effort by Motorola to return to growth by reaching as many people as possible, according to Woodside.

“Google’s mission is to organize all the world’s information and make it universally accessible,” he said. “For Motorola, one of the things we’re trying to do is create a very-high-quality mobile Internet experience over time for hundreds of millions of people.”

Motorola says it will sell the Moto G at a profit. The device will go on sale Wednesday in Brazil and parts of Europe, and then in January in other parts of the world including India and Southeast Asia. The phone will also go on sale in January in the United States, where the company thinks the device could appeal to people who cannot afford a fancy smartphone, particularly children.