Not so fast Moto

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Past few days, a blaze of publicity has surrounded Motorola. Even otherwise conservative Russell Beattie penned an ode to the new improved Motorola. Well, looks like all it not that great. I was browsing through a press release from IDC and paused for a minute when I saw this:

Although the success of a rejuvenated product line helped Motorola achieve a 52.4% year-on-year increase in shipments, the number 2 vendor still experienced a sequential drop of 4.7% during the second quarter of 2004. With number 3 Samsung close behind and gaining, the success of Motorola’s new business and consumer-focused mobile phones are critical to its continued success in the market.

Motorola executives have said that they want to become the largest phone company again. I am not too sure if they can. Having use some of their phones, which I admit are quite clever, I still feel that company lacks the most important gene – ability to understand the consumer usage patterns and how to make an easy intuitive interface. I have been using the v600 which I admit is a great phone, but when I start doing stuff like sending text messages etc, the whole thing appears a lot more complex that Samsung’s UI. Just as an aside, here are some highlights from IDC vendor performance breakdown and my predictions as to what is going to happen in the next six months.

  • Nokia – Nokia has 27.7%of the global handset market, but things have not been easy. In the second quarter, the company posted a year-on-year increase of 11.8% and a sequential growth of 1.6%. It will continue to give up market share to Motorola and Samsung, and will face margin pressure in months to come.
  • Samsung – Despite fierce competition in the U.S. market, Samsung posted impressive 76.0% year-on-year growth worldwide and a corresponding 1.3% increase in market share to 13.9%. I expect them to take the #2 spot, nudging Motorola down to #3.
  • Siemens – After a dramatic sequential drop of 18.8%, Siemens experienced a corresponding market share decrease of 1.7%. Its #4 position as the number 4 vendor worldwide in jeopardy. Expect it to fall to #6 spot soon.
  • Sony Ericsson – Thanks to a strong shipment increase of 55.0% year-on-year and 18.2% sequentially, Sony Ericsson raised its market share 0.8% from the previous quarter to 6.4%, tying Siemens for the number 4 spot in the market. With a number of innovative new products scheduled for release in the latter half of the year, Sony Ericsson’s will push Siemens down to fifth spot.
  • LG Electronics – With market-leading year-on-year growth of 87.0% and sequential growth of 13.6%, LG increased its market share 0.6% to 6.1% of the worldwide mobile phone market. Separated from Sony Ericsson by just over 500 thousand units through the first half of 2004, LG is within striking distance of its perennial competitor.

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Kuk Yi

I currently own a nice higher-end Motorola cell phone. It’Äôs got a sleek clamshell design and an embedded camera (who doesn’Äôt these days?). It’Äôs got a very nice LCD display and retails fro $379.99. I was lucky to get it for $299.99 due to a corporate discount. It looks cool ’Äì it’Äôs got a nice design and I enjoy using it as a paper-weight on occasion because it’Äôs so pleasing to look at. And I hate it. That’Äôs right, I hate my beautiful, expensive, feature-rich phone. Why?

It’Äôs the damn details.

First of all, the most annoying thing about the phone is the sensitivity of the outside ’Äúbuttons.’Äù I don’Äôt understand why anyone would design the external buttons to be so damn sensitive. Let me give you an example. I put the phone in my pants pocket and walk to grab a cup of coffee. Unfortunately for me, I happened to have a small set of keys in there as well. So what happens? I’Äôm walking back to my cube with coffee in hand and my pants suddenly start to ’Äúbeep.’Äù I stop over at a table, fish out the phone, and sure enough ’Äì it’Äôs because of the external buttons (it somehow got touched)’Ķ I actually have to be careful fishing it out of my pocket or, at times, holding it, because I’Äôm afraid that I’Äôll accidentally trigger one of those damned buttons.

The 2nd annoying thing about the phone is that there is no 1 touch Vibrate Mode enabler. For example, if I wanted to enable it to vibrate mode (I do have meetings, you know), I would have to work the external buttons (that’Äôs the fastest way) at least 2 times while beeping through the process. Now imagine, you’Äôre in the middle of a meeting (you probably have meetings, too) and forgot to put your phone on vibrate mode. Would you want to beep AT LEAST 2 loud times in order to put the phone into Vibrate Mode? There have been a number of times when I actually had to leave the room (pretending that I had to use the restroom) just to enable the vibrate mode on my phone and it’Äôs really annoying ’Äì am I serving the phone or is the phone serving me?

The 3rd annoying thing about my current phone is the fact that it’Äôs too smooth. That’Äôs right too smooth. The back part of the phone is so smooth that it’Äôs actually difficult to hold on to it without a conscious effort. Yeah, I know it isn’Äôt a big deal and there may be some people who think that it’Äôs pretty cool but I’Äôm not one of them. I don’Äôt want to have to strangle the phone in order to hold on to it.

I could get into the user interface, but that in itself would take another similar rant. The bottom line for me is that Motorola is spending too much time on making their phones ’Äúcool’Äù and not enough time making it useful for consumers.

This, to me, is why Samsung is doing so well. They’Äôve managed to combine both ’Äúcool’Äù and practical functionality (i.e. things that make it easier for consumers to use their phones). And you can see it from their user interface all the way down to the ’Äúsensitivity’Äù level of their external buttons.

Another thing, try dropping a Motorola and a Samsung and figure out which one can take more of the beating’Ķ Just a hint ’Äì it isn’Äôt the M’Ķ phone.

You would think that Motorola would have serious usage studies of consumers AND that they would actually try and figure out why their competitors are doing so well by actually trying out their products. If the execs over at Motorola had 2 phones, 1 a Motorola and the other a Samsung phone, and they tried them out for a week, I guarantee you they’Äôd throw away their Motorola’Äôs. It is just insane how they can’Äôt get it.

They need to get the details down AND they need to try and understand what’Äôs important to consumers’Ķ

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