Moto X Factory Tour: the First Smartphone Assembled in the US
Posted September 10, 2013 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor and Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
Motorola’s so proud of its new Moto X factory in Forth Worth, Texas that they arranged a press event to show it off. Big news it is: the Moto X is the first smartphone that’s assembled in the US. Granted, the parts such as motherboards, displays and speakers are sourced from around the world (including the usual suspect, China), but those parts are shipped to Flextronics’ new factory where 2,500 workers turn them into shiny Android smartphones. The 450, 000 square foot factory is a repurposed Nokia facility and it’s near Alliance Airport, a large commercial freight airport, making it an ideal location.
Motorola, now a Google company, says that the plant is making 100,000 Moto X phones each week. The stock black woven and white woven models as well as the colorful custom ordered Moto Maker versions are put together here. Workers are on 12 hour shifts to meet demand, but will drop to more palatable 8 hours shifts as soon as they stockpile enough phones. We wondered how Americans, who are no longer accustomed to factory style work, would fare here, and I’d say they looked both productive and happy. After seeing grim images of the Foxcon factory in China, I’d envisioned dreary drudgery and glassy eyes, but that’s certainly not the case here. Surprisingly, Motorola has said that assembling the Moto X here in the US adds no more than $5 to the cost of manufacturing the phone. Clearly they’re saving on shipping costs for Moto Maker custom models that ship out to US addresses across the country. It would be much more expensive if each custom phone shipped individually from China.
The factory floor isn’t completely used, so there’s room to grow. That said, the workstations and assembly areas are vast, and each station has a monitor that runs videos that serve as training/reminders should a worker need to brush up an a step. Moto Maker custom orders start as a bill of goods and the worker picks out the appropriate back, front (white or black) and trim parts, as well as storage module. The phones are nano-coated here for water resistance and they go through a test to check for water resistance. A machine tests the final phone for basic functionality and to ensure the proper colors and options are in place.
Texas governor Rick Perry, Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, Flextronics CEO Mike McNarmara and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt were on hand for speeches at the end, and the highlight came when Google/Motorola presented Perry with a Moto X in Texas A&M colors to replace his iPhone. Though no doubt staged, it was entertaining to see Perry toss his iPhone across the stage onto the floor and grab his new Moto X. He flicked his wrist twice to launch the camera app and took a photo of the audience using the Android phone.