Nov 15, 2013 ยท 2 minutes

Smartphones don't cost nearly as much as they should. Americans have grown so accustomed to purchasing subsidized devices from their wireless carriers that they won't even consider paying the full price for a product despite the fact that doing so would save them thousands of dollars in the long run. Even though companies like Google are releasing products that cost much less than the $650 many other devices cost without a contract, the subsidized price still tricks consumers into thinking that they're better off purchasing a smartphone through their wireless carrier.

The Moto G, a mid-tier smartphone that will cost just $180 without a contract, might be able to change that. The device isn't as compelling as its more expensive counterpart, the slow-selling Moto X, but it might just be enough to convince consumers that they don't have to choose between paying $650 for an off-contract smartphone and paying thousands of dollars more than that after purchasing a carrier-subsidized device.

That isn't to say that the device isn't without its share of problems. It's thicker and heavier than many of its counterparts; it won't be available in China, the world's largest smartphone market; and it isn't as cheap as other Android devices, some of which cost as little as $100. Anyone who cares more about having the latest and greatest smartphone will probably choose a different device, as will those who care more about saving money than about having access to the latest version of Android or the device's many-colored casing.

But the Moto G isn't about appealing to either of those people. It's about selling smartphones to shoppers who want a decent smartphone for a reasonable price, and the device should fit into that niche. It's no coincidence that Motorola includes the phrase "exceptional price" after every other important thing about the device on its promotional page: this device is about balancing power and price instead of favoring one over the other. That's what could allow it to show American consumers that the choice isn't between buying a decent smartphone at an indecent price or buying a cheap, crummy device.

This isn't a device that costs less than its off-contract counterparts but more than their subsidized versions. It's cheaper than most smartphones purchased with a two-year contract, and it's just over half the price of the Nexus 5, Google's latest attempt to make a cheap, off-contract smartphone. (Google proper's latest attempt, anyway; Motorola is owned by the company.) It doesn't feature a cramped, low-resolution display like other cheap smartphones made for emerging markets.

Perhaps the "G" stands for Goldilocks. The device isn't too cheap, which would manifest in its hardware quality; it isn't too expensive, which would make little sense given its status as a mid-tier smartphone meant to complement the costlier Moto X. It's got just enough style and capabilities to appeal to mainstream consumers while hitting just the right price to prove that subsidized smartphones aren't always cheaper than their contract-free counterparts, especially once the service fees kick in.

[Image via Motorola]