Goodbye $1,000 Phone, Hello Moto

Once at the cutting-edge of mobile technology, Motorola fell behind Apple, Samsung and others. Will their new affordable phones and investment in 5G technology launch them back to the top?


Goodbye $1,000 Phone, Hello Moto

Summer is drawing to a close, which, in the smartphone world, means that excitement for announcements from Apple, Samsung, and Google is building. How are the new elite flagship devices going to change the game and set trends for the industry? Will there be four cameras on the next iPhone? But amongst all the rumors and leaks, another phone manufacturer is making moves. A company whose name might not immediately spring to mind: Motorola.

A Brief History of Motorola

You might not think of Motorola as a company on the bleeding edge of technology, but that would be a recent development. Neil Armstrong delivered his famous, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” words from the moon on a Motorola transceiver in 1969. Four years later, the company demonstrated the first handheld portable telephone. For a period in the mid-2000s, the hottest gadget in the world was the Motorola RAZR, and a few years after that the Moto Droid brought the Android operating system to mass market.

Why aren’t we talking about the next Moto flagship in the same way we talk about the next iPhone? When the first iPhone came out in 2007, Motorola wasn’t prepared. They lost $4.3 billion in two years, and in 2011 the company was divided into two: Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone manufacturer; and Motorola Solutions, the enterprise-focused equipment provider. Motorola Mobility was sold to Google in 2012, and eventually bought by Lenovo in 2014.

Who Are These Phones For?

While Apple, Samsung, and Google have slowly pushed their prices upwards of $1000, Motorola flagships have remained in the $500 range, decidedly not competing on price either. Motorola has sold over-70 million Moto G series smartphones, its budget-but-not-lowest-end line of devices, since it launched in 2013. Motorola is crushing it in the biggest Latin American markets and they are the number one unlocked phone brand in the US.

The Future of Moto

You may have heard recently about Motorola’s newest MotoMod, a 5G-enabled modem which would allow the also-recently announced Z3 to connect to Verizon’s next-generation cell network, once it’s in place. This could be the shot for Motorola to be on the forefront of technology once again: in an interview with CNET, Motorola Mobility’s director of technical sales and operations said, “Our goal with 5G was to be industry-first.”

Other carriers are obviously eyeing 5G as well, saying they’ll have built-in 5G modems in their phones. This raises the question: How much does it matter to be first? Motorola is making a move to be the first on a new generation of wireless communication with a phone that’s half the price of offerings from Apple and Samsung, albeit with a clumsy, less-than-popular MotoMod accessory. If it pays off, are we going to see the Moto Z line routinely mentioned in the same conversations about the biggest phones of the year with the iPhone, Galaxy, and Pixel?