Moto X is a good exercise of listening to what people really want

Product management is all about making the right compromises, particularly if you are interested in hitting the masses.

Motorola Moto X
Motorola Moto X

Yesterday, Motorola took the wraps of the Moto X. We already knew a lot about the phone and there was a ton of hype leading up to the event. What we got was a really good mid-range phone. And that is a good thing.

Motorola is close to non-existent at this point in time. Having been purchased recently by Google, this could and should change, but it all depends on the products (and marketing, of course). The Moto X is a phone made for the masses and if they manage to position the price point well and get it in the right sales channels, they should have a winner.

Why do I think it is such a good phone? Because I think they have done a good job listening to consumers, or at least to me it feels like this is what people want (based on observing people around me and research that I do and read about).

  • People enjoy a large screen on their smartphone, but it needs to be manageable in one hand for many of the use cases. Going above 4,7″ makes the latter difficult.
  • You can only offer 4,7″ with good handling if you minimise the overall foot print of the phone, which they have done really well ().
  • 1080p screens are nice, but not a necessity for a good user experience. I am glad they went with 720p, as that should help the price point and the battery life.
  • Talking about battery life, they managed to squeeze a 2.200 mAh battery in there, that should give up to 24 hours of regular use. That is more than average, if it actually manages that.
  • In order to get that much juice in the phone, it had to be a bit thicker. Phones don’t need to be 6mm thin, as long as it sits well in the hand. 1cm and a nicely curved back allow for that.
  • People clearly like taking pictures. Making sure that you have an above average camera is good. Nokia’s Lumia 1020 has a fantastic camera, but admittedly, people don’t generally look for that much quality.

What really sets this phone apart though are two features that I am not sure people are looking for and whether it factors into a buying decision.

  • Customisability. The look and feel of the phone (and some accessories) can be customised. The truth is that it allows for a really nice and personalised phone. In focus groups we do often get people asking for that sort of thing, but for me the jury is out on whether it really is something people will be persuaded by in the moment of truth.
  • Touchless controls. You can ask the phone things with your voice via the Google Now app. Google Now is great, but I have two doubts around this. On the one hand, how often can you really talk to your phone and not look silly? I think that is only possible if you are alone, which in my case is less than 5% of my day. Also, I wonder how much the average person actually uses Google Now. Although I like the idea of Google Now, I really do believe that it will take time before people actually incorporate it in their life / work flow.

Having said that, they are two things that you can talk about in your communications/ads and that is important – just look at all the gimmicks that Samsung stuffs in their Galaxy S4 phone. People don’t even use half, but it shows off the phone nicely in shops and in ads. That is very important!

This brings me to my last point. They need to get this in front of people, which means operator deals, and it needs to be available soon at a competitive price. Particularly the latter is important, in light of a possible iPhone 5C coming out this autumn. At the same price, I can’t see many people choosing a Motorola phone over a an iPhone (assuming that Apple does a good job with the phone).

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