Motorola is now selling a cheap smartphone in the U.S. more than a month ahead of schedule – and just in time for “Black Friday” shoppers. 

The company says it was able to produce the Moto G phones faster than expected. The U.S. launch was initially planned for January. But it went on sale Tuesday.

The phone starts at $179 without a contract requirement. That compares with $600 or more that people must typically pay for high-end phones without traditional two-year service agreements.

With the Moto G, Motorola is trying to offer a device that is closer to what’s currently available on leading high-end phones, although it won’t work on the faster 4G LTE networks.

The version out Tuesday will work only with GSM networks, the type used by AT&T, T-Mobile and most carriers around the world. It won’t work with Verizon and Sprint, which have CDMA networks. Verizon says it will offer the CDMA version early next year. There’s no immediate word on Sprint’s plans.

The phone will be sold in more than 30 countries and aims to pack enough power, screen resolution and features to make it a real alternative at an affordable price, said Motorola Chief Executive Officer Dennis Woodside in announcing the phone earlier this month.

“When we looked at the smartphone market, we actually think the industry has really failed 5 billion people,” Woodside said in an interview. “With Moto G, you’re going to have consumers who have not had a smartphone before.”

Motorola is seeking to win back market share lost as buyers opted for sleek, heavily marketed handsets from Apple and Samsung Electronics. Motorola’s third-quarter revenue fell 34 percent, even as the company began selling Moto X, the first smartphone introduced since its acquisition by Google last year. It accounted for just 1.7 percent of global smartphone shipments in that period, according to Strategy Analytics.

The mobile-phone industry is projected to expand 5.2 percent in 2014 after 3.7 percent growth in 2013, according to researcher Gartner Inc. The increase is being driven by middle- market and lower-priced smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system, Gartner said.

“The opportunity for high-average-selling-price” smartphones is ending, Gartner said in a report last month. “Growth is expected to come from mid-tier smartphones in mature markets and low-end Android smartphones in emerging markets.”

The phone’s 4.5-inch screen, measured diagonally, is capable of high-definition video, but only at 720p, not at the better, 1020p standard found in leading phones. The resolution is 329 pixels per inch, which is comparable to the 326 pixels in the latest, 4-inch iPhones but short of the 441 pixels in Samsung’s 5-inch Galaxy S4.

The $179 price is for a phone with 8 gigabytes of storage, not the 16 gigabytes typical with high-end phones. A 16-gigabyte version is available for $199. The rear camera can take images at 5 megapixels, which is less than leading phones.

In the U.S., Motorola is targeting so-called prepaid accounts. Under those plans, customers pay for devices up front, but are not tied to two-year service agreements. Credit-challenged customers who don’t qualify for traditional plans often sign up for prepaid accounts.

Moto G won’t get Google’s latest Android operating system, Kit Kat, until early next year.

The phone launched two weeks ago. It’s currently available in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Britain, Germany, France and Canada.