The WSJ is reporting (via Techmeme) that Google is planning to allow Motorola to spend up to half a billion dollars to promote its forthcoming flagship smartphone, the Moto X. This would mean Motorola would spend more on promoting one handset than either Samsung or Apple spent in total last year across all their mobile devices.

Google is expected to allow its Motorola hardware unit to spend several hundred million dollars—and possibly upward of $500 million—to market the highly-anticipated device in the U.S. and some overseas markets, including in Europe, said people familiar with the matter.

All four major U.S. wireless carriers—AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp., and T-Mobile—are expected to make the device available to their customers this fall, in part because of Motorola’s marketing plans … 

To put the number into context, Apple last year spent a total of $333m marketing the iPhone, iPad and iPad Mini, while Samsung spent $401m all-in across its extensive range of smartphones, phablets and tablets.

Google clearly means business with its Motorola acquisition: with that kind of spend, there aren’t going to be many people on the planet unaware of the Moto X when it launches this fall (though some pundits are still predicting a summer release). Motorola so far has only around 1 percent of the global smartphone market; Google clearly aims to change that.

The Moto X is expected to major on customization options, with a rumored choice of 25+ colors (including mix-and-match of bezel and backplate colors), with at least some of them said to offer cushioning and perhaps water-resistance (though probably not to the extent of Samsung’s S4 Active).

Another widely-expected feature is context awareness, such as detecting when the user is driving and recognizing the movement of raising the phone to take a photo, automatically launching the camera app.

As you’d expect from Google, the handset is expected to launch with something close to stock Android.

There’s as yet no word on pricing, with everything from free to $199 suggested on contract, and $299 to $599 without.

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