Dubious RAZR Resurrection Sheds Light On Absurd Cell Phone Churn

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News Posted: Thu, Oct 20 2011 4:43 PM
Motorola has struggled to regain its previous lead in the smartphone industry for years and the company has apparently grown desperate enough to tap device nostalgia for a product barely seven years old. The new Droid RAZR is an interesting product—it's the only cell phone we're aware of that incorporates Kevlar into its structure—but analysts aren't certain the move is going to help Motorola's sales.

"Just because it's called Razr doesn't mean it's the next Razr," said Alkesh Shah, an analyst at Evercore Partners in New York. "I don't think any one phone will be a game changer for Motorola."

Shah is probably right, though not necessarily for any reason that's the fault of Motorola. Everyone agrees that Motorola held on to the RAZR for far too long, then compounded the error by slashing prices to dump inventory. The resulting glut killed the company's margins. Despite this, Motorola made a killing on RAZR over the first two years of the phone's life. Today, only Apple products remain premium options for anywhere near that long.



These days, a new phone is lucky to remain at the top of the heap for months before being deprecated in favor of something new. The Droid Bionic, at six weeks old, has just been superseded by the RAZR, which ships with dual 1.2GHz processors (opposed to the Bionic's 1GHz) and weighs less. The Galaxy Nexus made its debut this week—a week after the Galaxy Stratosphere. Granted, it will be a few weeks before the RAZR ships, but the pace of new introductions is nearly frantic (and it hurts consumers). Not only is it difficult to know which Android phone to purchase, the rapid-fire launch pace means vendors have little incentive to spend much time debugging their products.

The short "premium" lifetime of a given phone means companies like Motorola know they'll make a significant chunk of their profits on early sales before they have to start discounting and offering specials. From the company's perspective, it's more cost-effective to focus on the new devices they plan to ship in three months rather than fixing flaws in shipping products. That's not meant to imply companies don't care about solving customer problems—but it's not where the money is.

Ice Cream Sandwich's own debut is a perfect example of the problem. Motorola is planning to ship the RAZR (running Android 2.3.5) in November. The Galaxy Nexus will ship in the same time frame, running ICS. Motorola has responded by telling the press that an ICS update would arrive at "the start of 2012." Forgive us if we're pessimistic on this one, but it took Motorola nine months to begin upgrading Xoom tablets to 4G—and that was for a feature promised on the box. The company isn't advertising the RAZR as running ICS, and isn't under any legal requirement to provide it.

The RAZR may improve Motorola's position and smartphone market share, but given the pace of phone launches, the real question is: "What's next?" It's small wonder some people turn to iPhones—Apple's products tend to remain at the top of the pack for at least 12 months and the company only offers three phones.

We're all for choice and Apple products admittedly only cater to people who want a specific phone style and are willing to put up with a virtual keyboard. Speaking as a techie, however, the prospect of shopping for an Android phone is rather daunting. Oftentimes, figuring out the best phone for your needs involves digging into the various errata and issues to make certain there's not a deal-breaking flaw.
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AKwyn replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 6:09 PM

I have to disagree. I mean the Droid has been doing really, really well for them; so well in fact that the name Droid has been synonymous with Motorola, even though it originated from Star Wars.

While it is true that Motorola could use a bit more improving on the Smartphone side, Motorola is as strong as ever; and even though being under Google gives me the shivers, it does guarantee that the phones they release will be good. In any case, the Droid RAZR looks good and here's to hoping that both brandnames are willing to make this phone a big seller.

 

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pandre27 replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 6:28 PM

Just out of curiosity.. is the term DROID a Verizon thing or a Motorola thing?.. "HTC Droid incredible" is just one instance of a non Motorola DROID phone..

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Or they coulda named it StarTAC!

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AKwyn replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 7:47 PM

pandre27:
Just out of curiosity.. is the term DROID a Verizon thing or a Motorola thing?.. "HTC Droid incredible" is just one instance of a non Motorola DROID phone..

It's a Verizon thing. Overseas the Droids go under totally different names; hell the original Droid went under the name "Milestone".

 

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 8:44 PM

And I'll have to disagree with you here, Taylor. Droid is indeed a Verizon thing, as you noted, not Motorola. Joel was referring to the "Razr" branding as Motorola's attempt to tap into old brand recognition for a sales boost. I actually tend to differ with Joel here. It's a smart move by Mot but by the same token, a sign of the times in the industry. Motorola is trying desperately to differentiate here because the market is so over-saturated with Android options now. A new phone is showing up to the market every month it seems. This is a good problem to have for folks like us here at HotHardware but it's a bit daunting for consumers.

And all the while Apple sits back and rakes in millions of iPhone 4S sales, while the Android minions scrap for a sliver of the market.

Interesting times indeed. Something has to give and it's possible Google might be on to something with their acquisition.... or not. Who knows? :)

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bry2k2 replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 10:04 PM

Apple rakes in millions because there are millions who do not know what they want in a product and simply bow to them because they do not have the knowledge to discern the difference, apple is for the simple minded person who doesn't do much with their product (mostly because you can't because apple will not allow you fully release the power and potential of said product), while millions of android users enjoy an open OS and are allowed to do whatever they want with their phones in the goal of creating an even better product then they already have without fear of being harrased by the manufacturer or carrier.

Apple is in for a rough time ahead as Android continues to gain ground and speed, continually reinventing and releasing better and better products, while Apple strings its customers along with half assed upgrades, standing rows and rows behind bleeding edge.

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 10:18 PM

Can't disagree with your note on the openess of Android winning market share, that's for sure. Though I think you're underestimating Apple a bit in the process. I own an Android phone for some of the very reasons you suggest but it's hard to argue with Apple's numbers and their customer satisfaction ratings as well.

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realneil replied on Thu, Oct 20 2011 11:19 PM

There's a new Razr? But I'm not done with the one I have yet!

Also, they're still popular with a lot of Bikers because they fit between your helmet and ear. (being so thin)

@bry2k2,  Calling millions of people simple minded because they use Apple products says a boatload about you. You're so skewed towards Android that if Android takes a hard left turn, you'll break your nose.

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I have to agree that all of the Android choices and fast release schedules make it really difficult for the consumer. I've been in the market for a new phone on big red and Tuesday morning I was all about the razr and literally hours later I couldn't and still can''t decide between the razr and galaxy nexus. Neither of them are really what I was hoping for. I like ther razr better but I was hoping for better specs and for it to be designed for ics. And in the back of my mind I just wonder what the next ics phone is going to be. I'm hesitant to buy anything because like you said next month there will be a better phone out there. I don't think using the razr name will give them any advantage whatsoever. I think consumers today are more worried about specs, look, and os rather than the phones name......unless it's apple.

Now you're just mashing it!

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Joel H replied on Fri, Oct 21 2011 12:17 PM

I bought an iPhone 3G two years ago because my old phone caught fire, I needed a replacement immediately, AT&T was selling them for $99, and because I didn't have time to sort through a bunch of reviews on all the various phones AT&T threw at me.

Think about that a second. I'm a die-hard PC user (who has owned and used a Mac). I'm *not* enamored of OS X or Apple design. So why am I likely to buy an iPhone 4S? (I'm still using the 3G, btw).

Because it's one phone. I don't have to go grab AT&T's prices, then search a bunch of reviews to see if I really want a Bionic, a RAZR, an Atrix (though I'd have been really tempted by the Atrix if the dock had been cheaper), or a Galaxy II. I don't have to debate between waiting for ICS (new, better features, possibly buggy at release) or grabbing Android 2.3.5 (older, more stable).

I'll admit that the benchmarks showing the iPhone 4S outperforming everything but an iPad 2 are a big draw, but when you get right down to it, I don't want to have to sort through all the marketing BS. There are plenty of things I dislike about the iPhone (most of them related to iTunes), but I can live with them.

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realneil replied on Fri, Oct 21 2011 12:40 PM

Joel H:
There are plenty of things I dislike about the iPhone (most of them related to iTunes), but I can live with them.

Yeah, iTunes,...what a crock that is,....It's the one bad thing about the iPad that my daughter bought for me. Now that I have iOS5 I don't really need iTunes and I uninstalled it already. (that took 40 minutes of screwing around too)

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Joel H replied on Fri, Oct 21 2011 12:48 PM

iOS5 allows for syncing from other software?

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realneil replied on Fri, Oct 21 2011 5:41 PM

On my iPad, it syncs through the wireless setup. No PC is required now.

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