Thursday, June 15, 2006

Going Down, Mr Zander?

Just a little starter post from me, which demonstrates the perils of being exceedingly lazy: had I not agreed to wait (about 3 months in the end) for Thelf to set this blog up, I could have beaten the many other bloggers out there in shorting Moto's stock...

But for what it's worth, last week I was given a reminder of why Motorola's recent sales increases are on a very shaky foundation, namely the multiple rebadgings of the RAZR: waiting in a phone shop to pick up a couple of test handsets, I overheard a woman discussing with a salesman which phone she should buy. She'd narrowed the choice down to a Samsung E350 or some horrible identikit mini LG clamshell; I advised her to go with the Samsung, as I'd always found LGs awful to use.
Not entirely convinced, she asked which phone I would pick out of any available. One of the new Sony-Ericssons I immediately replied, at which point she laughed and said she'd had a bad experience with an SE and would never go back. It transpired she was talking about the T610 - remember that handset, the very popular fashion phone everyone seemed to have which was hideously underpowered and a dog to use? Sound familiar?

The RAZR is already becoming a chav phone, moving down market faster than Charlotte as a name for your newborn, and come upgrade time I don't see many people sticking with that lovely Moto UI. It's slow, ugly (overuse of garish gradient fills, nasty icons...), awkwardly laid out, and based on a platform that came out in early 2004... and yet they're still flogging it like the proverbial dead horse. The new UI is taking an age to come out and hardly looks like a quantum leap forward either.

Should a masochistic consumer wish to stay with Moto, what are their options? Well, we have the RAZR 3x (a RAZR... but fat! 2cm thick in fact! With the same horrible UI, the same horrible keypad, worse battery life... erm wait, is this an upgrade?) Or... the PEBL (nice flip mechanism, case sure to appeal to the lucrative rubber fetish market, and... er...) ...or maybe a D&G gold RAZR (subdued, tasteful)... or a pink RAZR (for girls, cos its pink, innit)? How about the ROKR, a beautiful fusion of the design and UI skills of Motorola working to a tight dealine and some heavily crippled software from Apple that is too heavy for the processor (clearly a marriage made in heaven)? Or... wait, do they make any other phones?

Moto may hold onto the global #2 slot, but it will be because of their dirt cheap emerging market phones and not anything higher up the market; the RAZR will increasingly become a millstone dragging them down. Their key hope whilst hanging in there: that #3 Samsung's hideously fragmented design divisions will keep pulling in different directions, meaning for every ten follow ups to an iconic success like the D500 they get nine pointless retreads and maybe one worthy heir...


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