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

German electronics firm expanding in Hungary

April 22, 2014 9:46 am ET

German electronics manufacturer Provertha GmbH has announced plans to set up a new plastic galvanizing plant at the Kapuvár Industrial Park, in...    More

Image

3D Systems developing faster printers to support Google's new phone project

April 11, 2014 9:12 am ET

3D Systems Corp. is part of a new phone concept for Google Motorola which will allow phone buyers to mix and match different elements of...    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 – North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

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

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events