Google Launches Low-Cost Moto G Phone in Time for Holiday Buyers

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Earlier this month Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) launched its low-priced Moto G smartphone at an event in Brazil and the phone was scheduled to launch in the U.S. early next year. On Tuesday, either because the device is selling very well — or perhaps not very well — the company jumped its scheduled U.S. launch to — today.

An unlocked 8-GByte version of the phone will cost $179 without a contract, and is available on the website. For a 16-GByte version the price goes up to $199. The company is selling a GSM model that will work on the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile US Inc. (NYSE: TMUS) networks. A CDMA version for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), and other networks will be available in January according to a blog post at the Motorola web site.

The Moto G is already available for sale in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru, UK, Germany, France, and Canada, and Google expects the low-cost phone to be available in 30 countries by early next year.

Google has targeted the Android-based device for customers in emerging nations who want to purchase a (relatively) inexpensive smartphone. In Brazil, for example, an Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 5S costs nearly $1,600 once all the duties and taxes are added to the base cost of the phone. Even at $649 for an unlocked version in the U.S., an iPhone 5S is beyond the reach of many potential buyers. That’s the target market for the phone in the U.S. and other developed countries.

The catch, at least in the U.S., is that smartphone penetration is nearly 70% which makes finding someone without a smartphone a tricky proposition. Right now the Moto G is available at the $179 price only at the Motorola website although there is a listing for the phone at Amazon for $290 shipping from Canada.