Motorola is closing a factory in Texas that employs 700 people to assemble its Moto X smartphones, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.
The plant will be shuttered before the end of the year, throwing the future of the customizable handset – and the direction of Motorola’s future flagship smartphones – into doubt. The decision was confirmed to TNW and comes four months after its $2.9 billion acquisition by Chinese manufacturer Lenovo.
According to the WSJ, Motorola will continue to produce the Moto X in China and Brazil, among other locations, but didn’t disclose whether this would include the Moto Maker devices currently handled in Texas.
When Motorola first hinted at the Moto X last summer, it said the Android smartphone would the first “designed, engineered and assembled in the USA.” It was a key part of the company’s marketing push and created a welcome narrative about bringing jobs and manufacturing back to the US.
While the device received high praise from the press, market research has suggested it wasn’t a massive success with the public. The smartphone touted unexceptional mid-to high-end components, but differentiated through Moto Maker – a website where customers could personalize the handset with different colours, materials, engravings and cases.
It was certainly novel, although the location of the Texas factory meant Moto Maker was confined to the US. Although the Moto X has subsequently been launched in other markets, Motorola has so far been unable to offer customers the same level of hardware customization.
Since Google sold Motorola, the company has launched the low-cost Moto E and a 4G-enabled version of its mid-range Moto G smartphone. It’s too early to judge how they’ve performed for Motorola, but the build quality, components and software experience represent excellent value for money.
Neither are supported by Moto Maker though, which would make it simpler for Motorola to abandon the service completely once it launches a successor to the Moto X later this year. If so, it will be an unfortunate end to an experiment that many hoped would prove the financial viability of US-based assembly.
For now though, it seems the Moto Maker service will continue as usual. Motorola didn’t disclose exactly when the factory will be shuttered – we’ll be sure to let you know when its doors finally close.