Google reportedly plans to spend $500 million promoting its upcoming Moto X smartphone, according to The Wall Street Journal (paywall). That’s big money, to be sure, but can it help the device—or any device, for that matter—succeed in a crowded marketplace?
By comparison, AT&T reportedly spent $150 million to promote Nokia’s flagship Lumia 900 (on top of sums contributed by Nokia and Microsoft), which debuted last year to respectful reviews and moderate sales. Samsung, Motorola (before it became a Google subsidiary), and the various Android vendors have likewise expended untold millions of dollars in pushes for smartphones that ended up in history’s dustbin of dead tech after a cursory period on the bargain rack at your local phone emporium. In other words, money can’t guarantee a blockbuster.
The Moto X is the first Motorola smartphone designed under the watchful eye of Google. Based on some spy photos of Google chairman (and former CEO) Eric Schmidt using it at a meeting in Idaho this week, the device features a symmetrically curved backing (with a textured surface) and a rather large camera aperture. Given Google’s close oversight, it’s all but certain that the version of Android running on the device will be the latest, with tight integration across Google services and enviable polish. On the hardware side of things, given the Moto X’s status as a “hero” device, it’s likely that battery life and other features will also be top-of-the-line.
But there are more top-of-the-line smartphones out there than ever. Samsung, HTC, and Nokia have all produced hardware that is all graceful curves and solid-but-light hand-feel. Then there’s Apple, which has earned much praise over the years for its minimalist tablet and smartphone designs. Meanwhile, mobile operating systems are getting more sophisticated: long gone are the days when Android seemed like a relatively crude cousin to Apple’s iOS. Windows Phone, BlackBerry 10, the latest versions of Android, and the upcoming iOS 7 come packed with features and all sorts of nifty visuals.
In short, there’s more quality than ever in the smartphone ecosystem. That will make it hard for any device—even a superbly designed one packed with the latest and greatest hardware and software—to stand out amidst the field. Google’s reported $500 million could go a long way toward making the device stand out, but it needs to be spent in the right ways—in other words, on a marketing campaign that identifies the brand in consumers’ minds as a “must have.”