Sales of Motorola's high-end Moto X smartphone have been lackluster. The cheaper Moto G device targets cost-conscious users in fast-growing developing markets such as Brazil

SHARE 91 51 6 COMMENTMORE

Google's struggling Motorola division unveiled an ultra-cheap smartphone Wednesday, the latest attempt by the Internet search giant to get as many people as possible surfing the mobile Web through its Android operating system.

The Moto G costs $179 for the 8-gigagbyte model and $199 for 16-GB in the U.S., without a two-year contract. That compares with more than $500 for Apple's new iPhone 5c without a contract.

The Moto G has a 4.5-inch HD display, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, front and rear cameras for photos and video, and comes with two years of 50-GB remote storage through Google's cloud computing service Google Drive.

The new device runs on Google's Android 4.3 Jellybean operating system, but it will get an upgrade to the latest Android 4.4 KitKat OS at the start of 2014. KitKat has been designed to run on lower-end smartphones, part of Google's plan to try to get as many mobile devices in developing markets as possible running on the same operating system.

Motorola unveiled Moto G at an event in Brazil, one of the largest and fastest-growing developing markets. It goes on sale this week in Brazil and parts of Europe and will be available in coming weeks in other parts of Latin America, Europe, Canada and parts of Asia.

By early January, the devices will be available in the U.S., India, the Middle East and more of Asia. Moto G will be in more than 30 countries with 60 partners by 2014, the company said.

"This device is likely intended for emerging markets where users want low-cost smartphones, but I think it could also be successful in major markets like the U.S. for those same cost-conscious-consumers," technology industry analyst Jeff Kagan said.

This may put more pressure on Apple, which has so far avoided creating cheaper phones for developing markets. Instead, the company sells older versions of its high-end iPhones for less money.

One of Google's main goals for 2014 is to sign up another 1 billion Android users. The company announced its 1 billionth activation earlier this year.

"The last few years have been about selling the top-of-the-line smartphones," Kagan said. "The next few years should be about selling a lower-cost version and welcoming in vast new numbers of subscribers."

Motorola's high-end Moto X smartphone was released in August, and just 500,000 units were sold during the third quarter, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. That compares with millions of phones sold in the period by Samsung and Apple.

Meanwhile, Motorola's financial performance continues to wane. The division's revenue slumped by $600 million between the third quarter of this year and the year-ago period.

SHARE 91 51 6 COMMENTMORE