Google risks wrath of Android developers and manufacturers as it seeks to push its services, says Steve McCaskill
The Moto G is the first smartphone to be announced by Motorola Mobility under the Google banner to be shipped outside the US, and the launch of the handset finally offered some insight into what the search giant plans to do with its expensive acquisition.
It is widely believed that Google bought the smartphone manufacturer for £8 billion in order to gain access to its vast patent portfolio, which was valued at around £3.5 billion, but Google has failed to convert this intellectual property into an advantage over its rivals after several litigation failures.
However it now appears that Google is looking to use Motorola hardware to increase adoption of its services – at the expense of other Android manufacturers and developers.
At £135 without a contract, the Moto G is an extremely attractive low-cost smartphone given its feature set, and is likely to upset a number of Android manufacturers targeting the mid-range. Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside even criticised the Samsung Galaxy Fame during the presentation, saying it used “yesterday’s” technology.
After undercutting its rivals so severely, the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG are sure to be worried that Google is giving Motorola an unfair advantage in the Android ecosystem.
The Nexus programme, which sees companies compete to create Google-branded hardware that showcase the Android platform, has often been presented as an argument that Google is not prioritising Motorola – but how can these smartphones compete with the super-cheap Moto G, which runs a “pure version” of Android?
Punit Soni, vice president of software product management at Motorola Mobility, said during the presentation that the Moto G would not feature a customised version of Android, something that would give it an advantage.
He said manufacturers had a “confused relationship” with Android as they built on top of it, adding custom skins that “detracted” from the user experience, and applications and app stores that competed with Google services.
“The result is that you have devices with non-intuitive interfaces with apps that make the phone slower than it needs to be,” he said, saying they harmed the Google experience.
But the ability to customise the platform, use different applications and purchase software from different app stores is considered to be one of the major attractions of the Android platform over the likes of iOS and Windows Phone.
Pushing Google services
Although Motorola Mobility is a Google subsidiary, to hear someone from the company criticise specific features such as HTC Sense and imply that other handsets suffered from fragmentation is unlikely to inspire confidence among Android manufacturers.
But why risk upsetting partners in a similar fashion to what Microsoft did with the announcement of Surface RT? Simple – to get cheap hardware in the hands of millions of people who will use Google services.
Woodside said half a billion people will purchase a smartphone in 2014, and Motorola wants to secure a large portion of that market, especially in developing countries. The fact that Brazil is being specifically targeted and that Motorola is producing a dual-SIM variant of the Moto G makes that clear.
The Motorola CEO also boasted how the ‘touchless’ controls of the Moto X was growing the number of people using Google voice search, indicating that the firm’s priority is to get people using Google services.
Of course, this has always been the aim of Android, but it is clear that Google wants greater control over which apps and services users have access to and how they are presented.
Are you a Google expert? Take our quiz!