Motorola pulls back curtain on Moto X design effort

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: September 9, 2013 2:50 pm ET
Updated: September 9, 2013 3:01 pm ET

Image By: IHS Moto X

Related to this story

Topics Electronics, Design, Telecommunications
Companies & Associations Industrial Designers Society of America

CHICAGO — Jim Wicks was on his way back from vacation at a quiet lakeside cabin in 2011 when he got a call alerting him that his employer, Motorola Inc., was about to make some news.

The next morning, Google Inc. announced it was buying Motorola's cell phone group, Motorola Mobility. During the nine months it took to complete the deal, Motorola Mobility shed both production and product lines, but the result of the refocused and streamlined operation has just come out on the market and is already making waves.

Not only does the Moto X offer increased voice operations — with the phone actually "learning" the user's voice to respond more quickly to demands — it is being made in the U.S., marking a shift in a consumer electronics market previously geared toward manufacturing in Asia.

Wicks, senior vice president of consumer experience design, said during the Industrial Designers Society of America's annual conference in Chicago Aug. 22-24 that Motorola determined it wanted to build the new phone in the U.S. early in the development process.

The company knew that the Moto X would be a big symbol for the company under Google, he said. The change in ownership meant that Motorola would change from producing 60 to 70 new products per year down to six. The smaller development team would also work closer together.

During development talks for the Moto X, everyone from designers to engineers to the head of supply chain management were all in one room, able to quickly get input on new ideas and what would be possible.

"We started talking about how cool it would be to shift manufacturing to the U.S.," Wicks said.

Making that change was not only cool, but made it possible for the Moto X to offer something new to the market beyond software improvements.

Buyers can go online to select from 18 different colors and textures for the plastic back of the phone. There are two options for the front — black or white — and seven different accent colors. There is also a wood grain option.

"There are different materials, different colors," Wicks said. "Why do we have to choose? Why not make that choice something the consumer can do?"

Altogether, there are 504 different permutations of the colors, textures and material combinations available, he said.

Having assembly in Fort Worth, Texas — with manufacturing partner Flextronics International Ltd. — makes that variety possible while maintaining a four-day delivery to the customer's front door, noted IHS Inc. in an Aug. 28 report on the phone.

"Motorola has been generating a great deal of publicity regarding the Moto X's production in Texas," said Wayne Lam, senior analyst for wireless communications at IHS in a press release about the consulting group's teardown. "However, beyond the public relations boon, the domestic manufacturing allows Motorola to rapidly assemble custom versions of the phone for customers in the United States."

IHS estimates domestic manufacturing only adds $3.50 to $4 to the total production costs of $226 for the Moto X. That compares to $207 total costs for Apple's iPhone 5 and $237 for Samsung's Galaxy S4, both assembled in Asia.

The Moto X's design and manufacturing story involved more than simply setting up shop in Texas, Wicks added. The companies had to develop many new processing techniques to make it, which including a method to insert mold around the glass face.

Previous attempts at insert molding failed because finished phone would not stand up to drop tests and other quality requirements, he said.

The Fort Worth location also has led to another atypical opportunity compared to Asia, he noted. In the weeks leading up to the Moto X's launch date on Aug. 22, 50 of Motorola's development team volunteered to go to Texas to work on the assembly line, which gives them even more exposure to local manufacturing's possibilities.


Comments

Motorola pulls back curtain on Moto X design effort

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: September 9, 2013 2:50 pm ET
Updated: September 9, 2013 3:01 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Plastics help designers bring home the gold

July 22, 2014 2:15 pm ET

Products with polymer content received multiple gold recognitions in the 2014 International Design Excellence Awards.    More

Image

Design group Hexagon buys Vero Software to upgrade CAM capabilities

July 22, 2014 9:51 am ET

Stockholm-based Hexagon AB, a design technology company, has announced its acquisition of Vero Software, a leader in computer aided...    More

Image

New startup uses film for a 'virtual venetian blind' in smart windows

July 21, 2014 12:50 pm ET

Flexible ITO Solutions, which goes by FITOS, has an informal development agreement with a smart window manufacturer that could use the technology to...    More

Image

Samsung suspends China molder accused in child labor investigation

July 16, 2014 2:27 pm ET

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has suspended its business with a South Korean-owned molder in China in the midst of child labor allegations.    More

Image

Pact Group bringing forward new packaging, looking at acquisitions

July 15, 2014 11:07 am ET

Australian packaging company Pact Group Ltd.'s high density polyethylene milk bottle design is on its way to amassing a trophy cabinet full of awards.    More

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events