iPhone Life magazine

Motorola Schools Apple on What a Low-Cost Smartphone Should Be

The iPhone 5c was Apple's foray into low-cost smartphones. Prior to the iPhone 5c, Apple just kept selling the previous year's model at a discounted price. Some iPhones could even be acquired for free, but that required a two-year contract. A no-contract iPhone still meant shelling out hundreds of dollars. The iPhone 5c was meant to be a cost-reduced model without all of the iPhone 5s features like Touch ID. Still, when my neighbor bought an unlocked iPhone 5c this week, it cost her upward of $700.

iPhone 5c

Compare this with Motorola. The Google division, which is being sold to Lenovo, has been churning out solid, colorful Android phones at attractive pricing. Last year's Moto G has been available for $90 to $100 without a contract. A couple of days ago, Motorola announced the Moto E, at $129. These phones are not "burners" and only cut just a few corners to save costs. The Moto E builds on the Moto G, but addresses the most visible concerns by adding 4G LTE support and a microSD slot for expansion. End users will appreciate those enhancements. Since Motorola is still part of Google, it's natural that KitKat 4.4.2, the latest version of Android, is supported.

As an app developer, these low-cost but up-to-date Android devices make it easy to develop for. Independent developers can't afford to sign up for multiple cellular contracts just to get their hands on a smartphone. But $100 to $130 with no commitment is easy to swallow. I could buy two or three Android phones for the price of one iPod touch. Unlike the iPod touch, even without a contract, the Android phones can dial 911, which could be useful to kids. I've bought several Android phones and tablets just to play with, test my apps, and to give to my kids.  

iPod touch

This pricing model gives Android an advantage in the hearts and minds of developers. Make no mistake, I prefer the iOS ecosystem, interface, and app compatibility, and the App Store's revenue opportunities. But it would be nice to see a no-contract iPhone with comparable pricing.

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Todd Bernhard's picture

Todd Bernhard is founder of No Tie Software, an app developer specializing in Ringtones and Sound FX including AutoRingtone.

An iPhone is almost always attached to his hip, but over the years, Bernhard has owned an Apple Newton, a Motorola Marco, an HP 95LX, a Compaq iPaq, a Palm Treo, and a Nokia e62.

In addition to writing for iPhone Life, Mr. Bernhard has written for its sister publications, PocketPC Magazine and The HP Palmtop Paper.