Why the Moto X Google Play edition doesn’t make much sense right now

by: Chris SmithAugust 9, 2013

Moto X

Motorola announced a few days ago the highly anticipated Moto X handset, and revealed that a Google Play edition of the device will be available in due time, directly from its Google Play Store. But is that really a good thing?

At first, one could think that it makes perfect sense for Google to have a Nexus-like Moto X in the Play Store, but that may not necessarily be the case.

The Google Play editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One are great devices for those people that want to explore stock Android on two of this year’s flagship handsets and receive timely updates when new Android versions get released.

But there are also trade offs, as some software features found on the Galaxy S4 or the HTC One will not be available on Google Play edition handsets. After all, everything is replaced with stock elements from Android. There’s no Blinkfeed or HTC Zoe for the HTC One, and there aren’t Samsung apps on the Galaxy S4 model.

Replacing Moto X smart features?

With that in mind, it would be logical to assume that a Moto X that would run stock Android would also lose some of its perks including customization support, camera features, contextual features and the always-on Google Now-powered voice-based intelligence (see our full review of the Moto X here).

Moto X hands on

Think about it, a Moto X Google Play edition would get to run Android 4.3 Jelly Bean faster than the regular models. But is it worth giving up on all the other smart features that make the Moto X unique in order to have a Google Play edition experience? Wouldn’t all the hardware that supports those interesting software features go to waste if Google were to choose to launch a Moto X Google Play edition without Moto X software features?

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be fair from Google to keep those features in place on a Moto X Google Play edition that comes without carrier bloatware and has the latest Android version on board, would it?

Let’s not forget that Google is still saying that it’s not favoring Motorola, its own subsidiary, when it comes to Android and Android devices. But releasing a Moto X Google Play edition with Android 4.3 on board and with all the Moto X smart features in place would mean that Google would somewhat be favoring Motorola after all. Not to mention that the handset would not run stock Android anymore.

Finally, the Moto X actually runs a close-to-stock Android version already. Not counting carrier bloatware, one could conclude that a Google Play edition version of the handset is not really required.

Moto X

While we are speculating on the future Moto X Google Play edition version at this point, it looks like Leo Laporte does have some information on the device.

Laporte said in episode 210 of his “This Week in Google” show, that the Moto X version that will be sold in the Google Play store will not be a “stock” Android version, as the handset will still run its default software, sans carrier bloatware. Apparently Guy Kawasaki told him as much.

As we said above, that wouldn’t be exactly fair, In such a case, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the unlocked Moto X sold via Motorola’s online store, or via a special online store set up for the Moto X and future devices from the family?

Dropping the price?

The Moto X has a full price of $575 or $625, depending on memory capacity, with some retailers already listing the 16GB version at $699.99. That would mean that Google would also have to sell the Moto X for full price, probably of around $575 for the 16GB version, wouldn’t it?

Word on the street is that carriers pay around $350 for the handset, which would mean that price drops could be in order at some point, especially for a Google Play edition version.


Dropping the price for a Google Play edition of the phone would (again) look like Google is favoring Moto X over the HTC One or Galaxy S4 when it comes to Google Play Store sales, and that’s definitely not something it wants to do, does it?

On the other hand, keeping a high price in place for a Moto X with pure Android on board wouldn’t be a great deal either in a scenario in which Google would drop the smart features of the phone.

The Moto X is an interesting device only as long as these new software features are available to the user. Without the always-on commands, the Active Display or new camera – to name just a few – the Moto X really is a middle-of-the-pack device, with the HTC One or the Galaxy S4 looking like better alternatives for Google Play Store action for the same price.

Finally, keeping a high price for a Moto X Google Play edition that has all the default Moto X features on board sounds more logical for Google, but then we’re back to square one – we have a Google Play edition of a device that’s not exactly running stock Android.

Wrap up

With all that in mind, we can’t but wonder whether it’s a good idea for Google to sell the phone directly from its Google Play Store as long as it wants to still keep in place the appearance that it’s not favoring Motorola in any way (on features and/or price).

In the future, once Google fully embraces its subsidiary, it won’t matter what Motorola-made hardware is or isn’t sold from the Google Play Store.

Moto X

For consumers though, having the option to buy a cheap, unlocked Moto X Google Play edition with all its software features in place would be a great alternative, no matter whether seeing such a device in the Google Play Store makes sense or not.

  • MasterMuffin

    Wouldn’t make any sense.

    • Luka Mlinar


  • Replicant Jason Booth

    Yeah I think this is a bad decision. The price point is too high for such a mid-ranged device regardless of all the unique bells and whistles.

  • Andras Juhasz

    With time, we will see. Don’t forget that the new Nexus device will feature Android 5.0 (Key Lime Pie) and in this version Google can include support for specific low-power chips, as well as similar functions that can be found in Moto X.

  • ChuckG73

    I agree. The Moto x is a Google Play Edition already with added benefits.

  • It would make perfect sense. Some people want fast updates without carrier bullshit delays. Some people want unlocked phones and unlocked bootloaders. These are things the Moto X on AT&T or Verizon for example would be plagued with.

    The SGS4 and HO GPE phones lack their gimmicky software features too such as camera software and pausing a screen while looking away.

    As for the always on microphone, that sounds hardware and kernel specific. These are things such that could easily be included in a GPE. Example: Beast Audio.

    • freedomspopular

      Beast Audio? Hm, I think you’re onto something there ;-)

    • Randy Nelson

      Wouldn’t make any sense. I rather the Moto X features.

  • theiowakid

    Its already been said by Guy Kawasaki and more at Moto, that the Moto X sold on the play store will be the same one sold by carriers. Im calling it now, $349 for 16GB $399 for 32GB sold in very early Q4. MotoMaker will be an option but no free delivery, as well as not in 4 days.

    • Cole Raney

      Still wouldn’t. Be as good as the nexus 4.

      • MeCampbell30

        The fact that it would have LTE and could be used on any carrier would automatically make it better than the Nexus 4.

        • Cole Raney

          No, it wouldn’t.

  • EvenInTheDarkestHour

    Because of what it is, unless Google changes what has become accepted as a GPE phone, no OM mods that change the stock Android experience, this phone would lose all of the tweaks that make it at all palatable. Unless they just want a face saving method of delivering the phone at a better value, the $350 Moto charges the carriers for the device. Just my opinion, down vote me (of course, without a counter point) as you will…

  • patA

    So strip MotoX and sell the GPE for $99 or less — I’m in because it beats the carrier OS update bottleneck.

  • taz89

    I dont get why you think it would not be fair for Google to allow the moto x play edition to keep its hardware specific features like always on Google now etc..the play edition of the HTC one and s4 are not totally stock and also have some hardware specific features like the ir blaster, smart window and beats still available..so I don’t see anything wrong with moto x play edition being able to keep always on google now or the notification, its not like Samsung and HTC were not allowed to bring some of there features over.

    • abazigal

      What’s there to be fair about? Other companies are using android free of charge, what position are they to complain if Google shows favouritism to its own subsidiary?

  • Howard Z

    I think a Google play edition will probably come with an unlocked bootloader which is necessary to run custom recovery which is necessary to run aosp like cyanogenmod

  • E. Tasche

    Isn’t the ‘word on the street’ that the Play edition X would have all the exact same software it currently has? And didn’t that come from the same source that suggested the proper price point of $350?

  • jimbo

    why would the play moto x not have the nifty new google features if its made by google, google, and google? who says it will just be pure stock android? And isn’t it obvious that those nifty features on the moto x are just being TESTed on the moto x and will eventually be integrated into android? I don’t know, the points seem kinda meh…

  • Justin Flynn

    Makes zero sense strip the moto x of any of its features, it literally has about 2 defining features and strip them away and it just makes it another slab phone. Boring!

    • MeCampbell30

      Unless you could offer it for half the price. Those two features aren’t worth $300.

      • Justin Flynn

        having these “play edition” phones makes me understand what Google are doing with the platform much less. For not much less money they are taking away the only defining features of those phones, gah, me no understandy.

  • Zed Ahmad

    Here’s my take on things regarding Google and their smartphone/smartphone manufacturer of choice for the Android platform: who gives a shit?

    The way I see it, the S4, the HTC One and the Nexus 4 are just products. The Moto X is no exception. LG created the Nexus 4. Asus created the Nexus 7. Samsung created the Galaxy Nexus. I think it’s very clear that Google pays little to no mind to which smartphone manufacturer it should “favour”, and rather looks into creating the best product that they can create, as very well they should.

    If Google decides that the Moto X can be sold for a more aggressive price point, without carrier bloatware, directly through the play store, while retaining the software necessary to make use of the unique hardware, why should something as petty and irrelevant as their outward or official “favour” of smartphone manufacturer stop them from doing so? You mention that they would definitely not want to make it seem as they are pushing the Moto X more so than the Galaxy S4 or HTC One, why not?

    The S4 and the One are premium devices. The Moto X is, to put it one way, a gimmicky and cleverly designed device that is not up to the same standard in terms of hardware.

    Why should it be sold at a similar price point, or be prevented from being pushed as hard or harder than these premium handsets who already have companies with wildly successful sales of their own backing them to begin with?

    The Moto X needs the push, and smartphone users who are tired of being bullied by their providers and the overpriced smartphone market into signing up for ridiculous contracts and ridiculous monthly fees to attain a relatively affordable, decent handset will continually need a Nexus-4-like saviour with current hardware.

    So again I ask you – why not allow the Moto X to be that phone?

  • Stephen Dix

    Leo said on TWIG that he had it in writing from Guy Kawasaki that while Moto would not create a GPE experience phone, the Moto X would be sold in the the Google Play store. So, best of both worlds.