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Motorola: rising from the dead

Just a while ago, everybody had written off Motorola. The brand was in doldrums - sales had dropped to nothing and phones were failing with unfailing regularity. Then came the Moto X. Rajiv Makhni charts the re-emergence of one of the most-recognised brand in the world.

brunch Updated: Jun 06, 2014 17:53 IST
Rajiv Makhni

It's an odd but very pleasant emotion to see Motorola where it is today. One of the most iconic names in the mobile phone industry and easily one of the most recognised brand names in the world, Motorola was a total write-off just a short while back. Sales had dropped to nothing, new phones were failing with alarming regularity, they had pulled out of almost all markets worldwide and almost every analyst and supposed tech journalist (including me) had written their obituary in glowing terms.

The X and G cometh
Then came the Moto X. An interesting phone that didn't set the market on fire but did announce that Motorola wouldn't just turn over and play dead. First custom-built phone, some innovation in features, some American-level patriotism and emotional blackmail mixed in, and the X was a mediocre hit! This was followed by the Moto G. A mid-level priced phone with top-level specs - the phone took the Indian market by storm.

Only available online from Flipkart (thus obliterating distributor/retailer margins plus costs of running shops and stores), the G was a dream come true for most Indians who aspire to buy a flagship-level phone but don't have the mega bucks required. The G literally hit the G Spot, targeting the most erogenous zone of the Indian mobile phone market. But Motorola wasn't done yet! It was about to turn the entire market upside down.

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Moto E is aimed at consumers making the step up from a feature phone to a smartphone. (AFP)

E for excitement
While most news, conversations and headlines are made by flagship smartphones like the iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z, the total sales percentage of these make up for a very minuscule share of the market.

The king of the Indian smartphone market is the Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 bracket. The name of the game here is to bring in high-spec phones at rock-bottom prices. But, this game is played predominantly by Indian brands like Micromax, Karbonn and Spice. When a multinational iconic brand plays the same game and plays it better, it's time for a revolution! That's what the coming of the Moto E has been heralded as. Before I dwell further as to what this is going to do to market dynamics, let's take a quick look at what is causing all this excitement and euphoria.

The Moto E
Hold the Moto E in your hand and solid construction and quality exudes. Design cues are imported in from the Moto G, but with an even more pronounced curved back. It weighs 142 grams with a 4.3-inch 950×540 display. More importantly, this phone is splash-proof, dust-proof and scratch-proof. Shockingly, it has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, unheard of at this price point. And, no other smartphone priced below `10,000 has it. It also has the latest Android 4.4.2, which is an almost stock Android UI. One shortcoming of the Moto E is its camera. A 5.0-megapixel back camera with a fixed focus, no LED flash and no front-facing camera at all. A 1.2GHz dual-core processor is paired with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of onboard storage. You can add upto 32GB with a memory card. The 1980mAh battery will easily give you a full day's worth of usage. All of this for about Rs 6,000 or so.

Breaking the rules
This category and price bracket was ruled by Indian brands with a complete monopoly. The coming of the Moto E has literally set the cat amongst the pigeons and broken every rule in this market. Companies like Micromax and Karbonn have built their empires with a single-point philosophy - to match the specs of the big brand names but sell at less than half the price. What will happen now when a top brand with amazing name recognition is selling BELOW them with a much superior product? This is like a nightmare and a horror movie all rolled into one. To emphasise the point, take a look at the head-to-head shootout between the Moto E and the other top phones in this price bracket. It's pretty much a no-competition zone now.

And now
The coming of this all-new Motorola will lead to some very extraordinary things happening in the Indian market. New-level top-end specs, price aggression to the point of being ridiculous, new innovations, a battle for supremacy and price cuts across all categories of phones. And, just to spice up things even more, rumours of a new Moto C are rampant. A top-of-the-line smartphone for Rs 4,499. Lagta hai, mobile market mein bhi 'achche din aane waale hain'!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, June 8
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