Another false start for Motorola?


Motorola’s pioneering entry into the mobile market was followed by a tale of mixed fortune and bad strategy. Jasper Jackson asks the B2B channel if the new range will turn the firm around

In 1973 Motorola made history when Dr Martin Cooper unveiled the world’s first commercially available mobile phone: the DynaTAC 8000x, at a price of close to £2,500.

By default, it was the global leader in the mobile market and maintained this position until 1998, when it was overtaken by Nokia which entered the market in 1987.

While Nokia, among other manufacturers, begun producing user-friendly and stylish devices, Motorola appeared to lack innovation and appeal. That was until 2004, when Motorola made the first of what would be many comebacks, with the launch of the still-iconic RAZR V3 flip phone.

Based almost entirely on its design, the phone stood out among its rivals, which at the time included the likes of the Nokia 6600, Sony Ericsson K700 and the Samsung D410.

The phone arguably had the same appeal as the iPhone today, with customers willing to spend about £500 for it SIM-free, or sign to high-value tariffs, up to £75 per month, to get the device for free.

The V3 went on to sell more than 130 million units, making it the third-biggest-selling model of all time – with only the lower-end Nokia 1100 and 3210 ahead of it.

But this is as good as it gets for the American firm, having failed to come close to repeating its success with all-too similar spin-offs and colour variants. These included the PEBL U6, SLVR L6, SLVR L7, RAZR V3i, RAZR V3x, RAZR V3xx and RAZR maxx V6. But despite clearly visible efforts on innovative design, Motorola failed to build on its success.

According to a list of 43 top-selling handsets, Motorola only features three other times, with the Motorola Q, which sold one million units, the Droid, selling 1.05 million and the MING A1200i, which sold three million. None of these devices was launched in the UK.

According to those we spoke to, the V3 was both its biggest achievement and its biggest downfall. The firm lived off its previous achievements too long, while the rest of the market moved forward.

But in late 2009, the company made its first real statement of intent to effectively relaunch itself in the UK, with the Milestone, which used the Android OS and its own MotoBLUR cover.

The company has also gone through a restructure to help reinvigorate the brand, under the leadership of its chairman and CEO Sanjay Jha. In January he separated its handset and set-top box division from the network infrastructure division, to become Motorola Mobility.

And the company has seen shoots of improvements, with Motorola Mobility registering some success in the first quarter of 2011, bringing global net losses down to £50 million from £130 million in the same quarter of 2010.

The Milestone 2 and the ‘life proof’ DEFY all launched with Android last year. A follow-up DEFY 2 is now imminent.

Good devices
Mobile News attended a number of events showcasing the devices, with the speaker each time insisting the manufacturer was back. Dealers both in the consumer and B2B space all claimed to be impressed with what they had seen.

Devices released this year such as the XOOM tablet, ATRIX and the Lapdock have all received positive reviews. But sales have reportedly been lower than anticipated – and the majority of B2B dealers we spoke to claim sales through their business have been minimal at best.

Reason given included high prices, lack of options and availability, pre-existing stigma and confusing market strategies.

But curiously, the build and quality of its range did not appear – with many suggesting its new range is the best it’s ever produced.

Here’s what they had to say.

Full article in Mobile News issue 494 (August 1, 2011).

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  1. I seriously cant remember the last time i bought a motorola device. i think it was when Orange had Off Peak tarriffs and its had an aerial !