Motorola Takes a Smart Cut to Success
By Adarsh Matham | Published: 25th May 2014 06:00 AM |
However rich a person is, the best mobile phone that he can buy right now in the world is the one I use now. The iPhone. This is often touted as the democratising ability of the iPhone and which is true, but only in the Western markets, where almost everyone can afford any premium phone that is subsidised by the phone carriers. Move down the line in a country like India or Brazil, and the iPhone can look as intimidating to a taxi driver as the made-in-Italy Lamborghini Veneno Roadster, one of the costliest cars in the world, looks to you and me.
Also, as ubiquitous as it seems, the personal computer is as alien to a very large part of the world’s population as that Lamborghini is to you and me. But the smartphones are not going to be like that. For the billions of people who never owned or used a personal computer in their lives, the smartphones are going to be their first computers. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report from the Swedish communications giant, there were 1.9 billion smartphone users at the end of last year which is expected to grow to 5.6 billion by the end of 2019. In a country like India, with a mobile phone penetration of 58 per cent, millions of people will jump on the smartphone bandwagon in the next few years. Most of those smartphone users will be buying handsets that cost less than `10,000 made by multinationals like Samsung, or by locally grown brands like Micromax which are just not good. With slow processors, bad screens and outdated operating systems, these handsets are a pain to use which in turn has an effect on how useful they become to their users to explore the joys of the Internet.
Motorola wants to change that with the recently launched Moto E. Costing a little under `7,000, it is a remarkable device. It looks and feels like the Moto G, the company’s highly successful mid-range smartphone which costs around `13,000. It has the same corning glass screen, the same interchangeable back covers, the same camera, the same RAM, and is similarly water resistant. It runs the latest version of Android and comes with a promise from Google to always be updated to the latest version. Even though to justify the lower price, the screen is a little smaller with less resolution, there is no flash, no front-facing camera, and the processor is a little less powerful, the Moto E beats every other smartphone in its class. Some tests have even shown that it is as usable and as powerful as Samsung’s last year’s flagship device the Galaxy S4, giving first-time buyers or those buyers at lower income levels a relatively pretty powerful computer.
But like all silver linings, there is a cloud lurking behind. The only way Motorola can afford to make a phone with those specifications and probably sell it at a loss is because it has Google with deep pockets behind it. Google may now be allowing this costly venture because it has hopes of monetising the user’s Internet usage. But soon Motorola will be owned by Lenovo which simply cannot afford loss-making phones unless Google decides to compensate the company for making the likes of Moto E. If it lives on or not, Moto E will be remembered forever as the phone that kickstarted the commoditisation of smartphone.
Matham is a tech geek. Follow him on Twitter @AdarshMatham