Motorola targets feature phone upgraders with Moto E – Mobile World Live

Motorola targets feature phone upgraders with Moto E

13 MAY 2014

Motorola announced the latest addition to its portfolio, the low-cost Moto E, using the launch as an opportunity to – again – take a swipe at rivals such as Samsung.

It also announced an update to its MotoG device, unveiled last year and touted as “the best selling smartphone in the history of Motorola, and that all happened in five months”.

Steve Horowitz, SVP of software engineering at Motorola, continued: “Momentum really is everything in this space, and we feel like we’ve got a fair bit of it”.

Moto E is targeting feature phone customers for whom the £199/$337 price of a smartphone is prohibitive.

All things considered, it has an impressive feature set for its price. Available at £89 unlocked in the UK and $129 via Motorola’s website, it has a 4.3-inch screen with 256ppi, is powered by a 1.2GHz dualcore Qualcomm processor, and includes 4GB of storage with MicroSD slot.

As with the launch of Moto G, the company compared the device in a similar tier from a rival – in this case Samsung’s Galaxy Flame.

The rival device has a 3.5-inch screen at 165 pixels per inch and is powered by a single core 1.2GHz processor. And Motorola is claiming 52 per cent more battery capacity for Moto E, giving twice the available talk time.

The company also debuted a 4G version of the Moto G, which gains a MicroSD slot to provide additional storage – one of the primary criticisms of the earlier device.

“This really is almost everything you will get in a higher-end smartphone costing three times as much – there are no compromises with this product,” Horowitz said.

And when it is available – in the “coming weeks” – pricing will remain competitive, at £149 for the UK market or $219 via Motorola’s website.

Mass market money
Mark Randall, SVP of supply chain and operations for Motorola, told Mobile World Live that the company is “well on the way” on its return to profitability, following changes that saw it narrowing its focus both in terms of products and geographically.

“We’ve flushed all of the past away, we’ve had a lot of restructuring, we’ve outsourced our manufacturing, sold our home division. So we are well on the way to turning the company around in terms of profitability,” he said.

Underpinning this was a rationalising of the product portfolio, which saw Motorola slashing not only the number of devices it offered, but also the number of hardware platforms and suppliers it was working with.

Randall continued: “When your product portfolio looks very different, with different products in different places, your chances of making money are very, very slim. It’s hard to make money in this industry anyway, but if you have a very non-focused strategy, then you’re not going to make money.”

But the restructure also created some challenges for the company, for example in markets where it has had a limited presence in recent years.

“We are making a good comeback in Europe. I think the thing about Europe was that for a long time, we hadn’t decided if we were in Europe or out of Europe. It was a very weird relationship we had with the European consumer, we lost some trust by not really committing to Europe. Now we are committed,” Randall said.

And the reduced volume of Motorola’s shipments also weakened its position in negotiations with suppliers, although its new found success – plus the potential uptick related to its planned acquisition by Lenovo – means that things are changing.

Randall, who has also held supply chain roles with Amazon and Nokia, observed: “When you are negotiating component prices and you are number one in the world, and you have 43 per cent market segment share, fundamentally you are going to get better prices. Component suppliers are always looking for guys that are on a positive trajectory, and one of the key things said today is that we have positive momentum, and when you have positive momentum, component suppliers want to do business with you.”

Software strategy
As before, Moto E continues Motorola’s strategy of offering devices using the base form of Android, without heavy customisation. This means that it is easier for the company to update devices once a new version of the Google OS is released, as well as reducing its software development costs.

“Nobody wants a phone that is outdated in six months. We are focused on a foundation of pure Android, no skins, no bloatware, nothing that gets in the way of the performance or the consumer experience,” Horowitz said.

“If you look at KitKat adoption across the entirety of the Android ecosystem, you’re looking at 8.5 per cent adoption for an operating system that was launched six months ago. It’s taken that long, and you’re still not at 10 per cent adoption,” he continued.

“If you look at Motorola, our flagship products, Moto G and Moto X, we have nearly 90 per cent of our customers running KitKat today.”

Randall said that this strategy was being pursued, even at the expense of potential operator tie-ups. “We believe in this very pure Android strategy, so we don’t load a lot of carrier bloatware. In some cases, we’ll walk away from a carrier deal because we’re just going to refuse to put a lot of the different software that they want to put on the device, because otherwise we won’t be able to keep our upgrade commitments,” he said.

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Steve Costello

Steve works across all of Mobile World Live’s channels and played a lead role in the launch and ongoing success of our apps and devices services. He has been a journalist...More

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