Motorola + Google = The New Android Mogul? A Critical Look At Motorola Mobility

October 4, 2011
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If anyone were to ask me – which company took Android to the next level – it would be Motorola.

Why? It’s simple, really. Without Motorola creating the original Motorola Droid, Android would not be where it is today.

Verizon played a strong part in providing the intial marketing boost, but it was Motorola that made the “OG” Droid. All manufacturers owe it to Motorola for spearheading Android forward.

Since then, Android has gained a strong following in the U.S., and soon after, it became a global Apple market-share-grabbing phenomenon.

The Android Activation video says it all:

 

The Mind-Capturing “iDon’t” Campaign

In October 2009, Verizon and Motorola kicked off the iconic “iDon’t Campaign” that took Apple by surprise. It was followed up with the “Droid Does website” and the rest of it is history. The campaign was a wake-up call for Apple, and was the right introduction that Android needed at that point in time.

AT&T was Apple’s cash cow at that time. However, the strong DROID push by Verizon forced Apple to compromise and even open up the AT&T exclusivity to other carriers.

Each and every Motorola Android phone released through Verizon made a strong impact on the consumers’ mindset. That was how good their marketing was. I would dare say–almost as good as Apple’s.

Motorola Can’t Rely On Advertising Forever

I come from an advertising background, and Motorola, in my opinion, has one of the best advertising teams on the planet – and I’m not even talking about USA. I’m in Malaysia, which is in South East Asia.

I still remember several iconic campaigns from Motorola – namely the Motorola Pebl, Motorola Razr, and Motorola Slvr. That was about 4 years ago. Since then, Android has shifted Motorola from a money-losing company towards profitability.

When the Pebl, Razr, and Slvr were introduced, people rushed for them. Surprisingly, you can still buy them quite affordably today in local stores here today.

The recent Motorola DROID Bionic hype also created waves in the marketplace. The interest level of the device could be said to match the interest level of the Samsung Galaxy S II.

Despite being a “better” LTE version of Android, the DROID Bionic did not fare as well in most reviews. Samsung matured fast, and produced the Samsung Galaxy S II, which gave every Android manufacturer out there something to be worried about.

There was a huge delay in the release of the Droid Bionic, and I think that contributed to higher consumer expectations – which Motorola failed to meet.

Motorola Is Still BLUR


In a bid to become more competitive, Motorola created MOTOBLUR, an Android UI replacement meant to revolutionise their product. MOTOBLUR failed to live up to its hype, with more consumers opting for the HTC Sense UI instead.

Subsequently, Motorola decided to “tone down” MOTOBLUR for a less-intrusive execution, but that didn’t stop Motorola from being continually criticized for their UI skin. Just use Google and search up “Motoblur is horrible,” and you’ll know what I mean. I am not a fan of MOTOBLUR, and if given a choice, will opt for a pure Google experience on a Motorola Android anytime.

Motorola + Google – Is That Even A Good Idea?

Earlier this year, Motorola decided to separate their mobile business and rebrand it as Motorola Mobility. I believe Google has been knocking on Motorola’s door for a long time. I also believe that the reason for the separation was to make it more fitting for Google to acquire.

But, is it really that good of an idea?

With the acquisition, Google stands to gain more than 17,000 patents to help defend Android. Despite Google’s generosity in offering some of these patents to HTC for their fight against Apple, manufacturers are clearly still skeptical about Android becoming a closed platform – a la iOS.

Consequently, Taiwanese and Korean phone manufacturers have given mixed reaction towards this acquisition. Read this too.

I don’t see how Google will take the Apple route, at least not at the moment. They might, if manufacturers start adopting other platforms more aggressively.

Think Different, Motorola!

In the past, Motorola sold their products as a premium. A quick look at history will show us that Motorola’s product line targets mainly the high end market; possibly higher than Apple does. As a repercussion, it was unlikely that they would be able to keep the Motorola XOOM’s price at the iPad’s level.

The higher XOOM price wasn’t well received. I would call the pricing crazy, since they were still testing the waters for the first official Android tablet in the market. It wasn’t even ready and finished. Consumers had to send in their tablets later just for the LTE upgrades.

Whether it was a deliberate or circumstantial move on Motorola’s part, it’s hard to say – but the effects are clear: consumers hated the idea. Unlocking and relocking the bootloader just for the LTE updates also made a clear point to the customer – we do not like you messing with our product.

Since then, they did revise their bootloader policy to become more developer friendly. This is a big win for developers, since they mostly originate in the USA.

Motorola, The Jack Of All Trades


Samsung builds one of the best screens in the industry. Their Super AMOLED Plus has become the benchmark that every manufacturer is aiming to beat.

HTC, on the other hand, stands proud with solid aluminum unibody phones. This gave them an edge in terms of durability and class which made polycarbonate phones feel like “cheap plastic.”

Sony is a leader with their Cybershot lens. The Xperia arc is known as having one of the best cameras in the industry; even Apple is buying Sony’s cameras for their iPhone 5.

But, Motorola?

Where do they stand? What makes them different from other mobile manufacturers? If you ask an Asian guy like me, I will draw a blank. Motorola meant nothing to me, and until Motorola can find their blue ocean, they will remain irrelevant to consumers (like me).

5 Ways Motorola Can Move Forward:

1. Build a better product

This is the first thing that Motorola has to do. The Motorola Bionic is an amazing device, but if the SGS2 released many months before is still overshadowing it, there is something wrong somewhere. Until Motorola decides to take bigger risks, they will always be falling short of their competitors.

2. Advertising + Blue Ocean Strategy

As I said before, Motorola is the Jack of all Trades in my books. I can’t see in what way they might be better than the competitor. I believe I’m not the only one who might have this problem. Motorola might be a leader in security (which Android truly needs against malware), but this is neither outstanding nor apparent. Motorola has to play by their strengths, and they really haven’t. Their advertising is powerful, but it has created a desire that might not translate to loyalty.

3. Be independent of Google

Motorola will be part of Google down the road. You can’t erase the skepticism from other manufacturers nor expect favouritism from Google, but with the right strategy, they can improve the way their organization works now.

4. Go back to your roots – be the leader

Motorola has been around since the early days of mobile technology. To see this giant where they are today can be quite depressing. But they need to find themselves again. Under the leadership of Sanjay Jha, they did right by focusing only on the Android platform, and subsequently, were able to turn their account books from red to black. That isn’t enough. They have a wide portfolio of patents (which now, or soon, will belong to Google), and they just have to go the distance to achieve another era of glory. There is little use to talk about your big patent portfolio when none of your products can be a market leader. For Motorola to up their game, they have to lead again.

5. Iconic Moto Designs

Image is important. That is how Apple sells. Motorola has this capability, but it didn’t seem to work well with their Android line. Imagine an Android phone that looks as amazing as the Razr or the Pebl or the Slvr. What if Android looked futuristic, without compromising on weak batteries and vulnerable securities? Motorola can deliver on this, but they haven’t.

In sum, we are all rooting for Android, and we are rooting for Motorola. With their vast experience in building excellent products – both durable and visually appealing, they have to make but a few minor changes to the way they do business to reclaim their rightful place on the podium. How about you? Do you have a Motorola device? How has your experience been so far? Do you have any suggestions or complaints for them?

The opinions expressed here are solely that of Randy Khoo, and not that of Android Authority.

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