Moto me, don't Moto meh

I am apprehensive about Googorola's choice to launch Moto X with AT&T -- the carrier that failed with HTC First (Facebook phone), like Verizon Wireless with Microsoft Kin, which were targeted at similar audiences. My concern: Death in childbirth. A device so different, in terms of responsiveness, must be experienced by many people fast to build excitement and demand.

In business and marketing perception is everything. Negative perception, or lack of any at all, can kill Moto X. Motorola's top priority should be fast sales and building social media buzz around touchless and personalization benefits. I don't see either coming from the exclusives given to AT&T.

Googorola should look at the failure of the HTC Facebook and Microsoft phones, both seeking to be more consumer-friendly. Customization exclusive to the carrier is big mistake, even if temporary. AT&T's record is dismal with flashy handsets that offer benefits not immediately grasped by typical, casual buyers. Googorola should cast as wide a distribution net as possible to catch the most number of people wanting to personalize their phones. Fast. Fast. Fast.

Moto X could be a huge failure, if execution isn't perfect. The Facebook and Microsoft phones show the way to disaster. Consumers couldn't grasp newfangled benefits, and look what happened. There is too much about Moto X's mid-range, mass-market, not-like-anything-else appeal that is so similar to these other devices.

First Impressions

I don't have Moto X. Motorola graciously provided BetaNews with a review unit, and colleague Brian Fagioli has that one and reviewed it. A second isn't available, which is perfectly reasonable.

So my only experience is the AT&T store, yesterday. The sales display impresses. There is a demo phone, iPad with flashy sales info and selection of back covers so buyers can see exactly what they get if choosing to personalize. Cards for the 16GB and 32GB models are there. Grab, pay and go to the Moto Maker site to personal and order the phone.

Everything was there, but something was missing. Buyers. All the marketing and personalization options target younger consumers -- the iPhone set -- but I saw none gawking over the Moto X display.

Instead, a 40-something gentlemen approached me, excited to buy his phone; he just waited his turn to be served. Two things: The man clearly is a gadget geek, and he is an existing Motorola customer (upgrading from Atrix) -- exactly not the type of customer Googorola targets.

I was surprisingly less excited by Moto X than anticipated. The screen is way oversaturated for my tastes, and I don't like the feel in my hand -- AT&T's security device on the back probably numbs the experience. Google Now impresses, but many of the voice commands and search capabilities are already available on other Androids, they're just touch taps away, instead of immediately there.

The point: I expected to be wowed but was more meh. By contrast, HTC One sent my blood pressure soaring on sight and still does.

Change Tactics

I want to be more excited by Moto X. I really do. But I fear my assessment is right: Like the early TiVo, most people won't get the touchless concept without really using the device. Anyone who tried to explain the DVR -- called Personal Video Recorder, back in those days -- should understand; you rarely could get anyone to understand the benefits by explanation. People had to experience it.

AT&T's in-store presentation is pretty good, but static. Buyers can see the benefits of personalization but not those related to how they use the phone. I know some of those benefits, and I still left underwhelmed. Still, if an AT&T subscriber, I probably would have ordered already, simply because I know touchless is the future of all device interaction. But I'm on T-Mobile, and there's no Moto X for me.

AT&T better change sales tactics so they're appropriate to the device. Everything about Moto X interaction is active. Sales should be, too. There should be someone walking around, giving live demos. Let people ask questions, while holding Moto X. Anyone in sales should know: Get the product in potential buyers' hands, so they feel a sense of ownership. But here they also can feel relationship, because Moto X responds to their voice.

Demo the damn phone by drawing a crowd of people cooing over voice interaction. Buzz will spread. Vine videos, Tweets, Instagrams and Facebook posts will flourish, and nourish the marketing pipeline. This phone needs buzz to succeed, particularly among the younger consumer set that is the target market.

Moto me, don't Moto meh.

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