CES 2012: Motorola Strategy Moves To Fewer, More-Differentiated Android Phones

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Motorola Mobility will reduce the “incremental innovation” that can be found in the company’s Android portfolio, according to CEO Sanjay Jha

Motorola will make fewer – but more differentiated – Android devices going forward, according to company CEO Sanjay Jha. In an interview with The Verge, Jha said that, driven by a desire to make better use of marketing dollars, the company “wants to make fewer phones”.

Jha also defended the creation of branded user interfaces over the mobile operating system, by Motorola and its competitors. “Verizon and AT&T don’t want seven stock [Android Ice Cream Sandwich] devices on their shelves,” he said. There is no viable profit, Jha added, in devices that are not differentiated.

Smart move

The move seems a smart one, given that the mobile industry has created a competition out of pitting the one new smartphone that Apple introduces every year – one phone that it has untold numbers of brilliant minds working to perfect and beautify – against the piles of Android-running phones released each year, with Razr-sharp robotic and bionic names that too easily blend together.

Fewer, more distinguishable phones – the device equivalent of a few good friends instead of a room of acquaintances – might be a game-changer for Motorola, which since its feature-phone heyday has struggled to keep up with the Android successes of Samsung and HTC.

Jha’s comments come as Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, speaking at an event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, denied that Android was suffering from fragmentation, calling the ways that OEMs have customised the open-source platform “differentiation”.

Fragmentation – an issue in which some Android devices cannot use applications designed for different versions of the OS – reportedly is frustrating consumers and developers and costing carriers, on the whole, an estimated $2 billion annually in customer support services and returns, according to a November report from research firm WDS Mobile

Schmidt, while not backing away from his comment, said that getting Android users all up to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich would solve the matter.

At CES, Motorola also announced the expansion of its Android-running Droid family to now include the Droid Razr in purple and the Droid Razr Maxx – a “marathon runner” of a phone that can reportedly run 21 hours on a single charge, according to company officials. Motorola executives recently also announced two Droid Xyboard tablets, and said at the show that Droid Razr and Razr Maxx run Gingerbread, or Android 2.3.5, but will be upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Motorola, while lacking in vowels, clearly is not wanting for new devices. While Jha reportedly defended the Droid Bionic and Droid Razr to The Verge, saying the Bionic had even been delayed, they potentially represent what Motorola may cut back on – devices that could fit what Jha calls “incremental innovation”.

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