How to botch

Motorola is splitting in two, shedding the largely unprofitable mobile phone division.

Think about this.

In the spring of 2005, the RAZR cost $599 with a contract. Think about this. When the iPhone dropped, it played music, movies, YouTube clips, synced with your computer, it did email and surfed the web, it had an amazing touch-screen interface and 8 GB of storage – and people ranted about how bloody expensive it was. The RAZR did…F-all. It had speakerphone, a color screen, Bluetooth, a trifling VGA camera, and people could NOT get enough of it. On the floor at PRINT ’05 in Chicago five months on, every single sales meatball was yakking away into a RAZR.

So how could Motorola botch this? Well, for one thing, they learned the wrong lesson from Apple. Pretty sells. This is a true fact. Three years later, I still occasionally find myself coveting the RAZR solely for the form factor, which is perfect for sticking in your back pocket before going out for the evening. However, the actual innards of the RAZR – its feature set, its interface, its underlying operating system – was basically the same “Triplets” set that first shipped on the T720…two years earlier. In fact, at the same time that Cingular was offering exclusive sales of the RAZR, you could buy a Moto V635 from abroad with the exact same features PLUS a megapixel camera, a memory card slot, EDGE higher-speed data, video capture, changeable metal covers AND completely unlocked and unbranded…for half the money.

The RAZR was sold on pure fashion. It eventually got the EDGE, the better camera, the video capture, it even added iTunes playback for a while. But for the most part, the biggest changes in the RAZR were…new colors. Black, red, three shades of pink, gold, purple, on and on and on.

All you really need to know, though, is this. Motorola phones based on Triplets use the volume buttons on the side to change the ringtone settings when the flip is shut. Press the volume either way and it goes into ring profile mode. Press the other side button and it steps through the various profiles: Silent, Loud, Vibe and Ring, etc etc. The only problem is that these buttons are raised for ease of use…which means if there’s anything else in your pocket, your backpack, your purse, whatever – if it bumps the left side of your phone, your ringer can get changed. Which means your phone might sit on silent for hours or days while you miss calls because it never rings or vibrates. Or it rings – loudly – right in the middle of the movie. Or the Bris. You really don’t want to startle the mohel when he’s got a sharp object down there.

And from the T720 release in 2002, it took FOUR YEARS for Motorola to ship a phone that let you lock out those buttons from accidental presses.

Some of the newer Moto phones – the W510 for instance – have recessed buttons that don’t bump as badly. Others have a software lockout (the 3G version of the RAZR does this). But it should never have taken four years for something so simple.

And that, boys and girls, is why Motorola is spinning off their most highly-visible division.

One Reply to “How to botch”

  1. First, dig the new site design (and I’m probably way late on even noticing it since I normally read you fed through LJ) .
    Second, I love my RAZR but what I really want to know is when the hell I’m gonna be able to get me an iPhone from T-Mobile! And that really pretty much sums up all that anyone needs to know about Motorola phones.

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