Motorola ties smartphone push to social networking

TechOnline India - September 10, 2009

Hoping to play catch up in the rapidly evolving smartphone market, Motorola unveiled the company's first Android-based handset and proprietary software designed to emphasize social networking applications.

SAN FRANCISCO—Looking to play catch up in the rapidly evolving smartphone market, Motorola Inc. Thursday (Sept. 10) unveiled the company's first Android-based handset and a proprietary service designed to emphasize social networking applications.

The service, Motoblur, syncs contacts, posts, messages, photos and other items from multiple sources including email accounts and social networking services like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and automatically delivers them to the smartphone's home screen, according to Motorola.

"We really believe that Motoblur is going to be a differentiator for us," said Motorola Co-CEO Sanjay Jha, in introducing the product at the GigaOM Mobilize '09 conference here.

Motrola's new 3G handset will be known as Cliq in the U.S. and Dext elsewhere in the world, Jha said. It will be available in the U.S. later this fall exclusively through T-Mobile, and in other parts of the world sometime in the fourth quarter.

Motorola's Cliq smartphone was unveilved Thursday.
Cliq features a 3.1-inch HVGA touch-screen display, a 5-megapixel auto focus camera with video capture and playback at 24 frames per second, a 3.5-mm headset jack, a music player with pre-loaded Amazon MP3 store application, Shazam, iMeem Mobile, and a pre-installed 2GB microSD memory card with support for up to 32 GB of removable memory, according to Motorola.

After a string of successful products including the popular Razr, Motorola has slipped in recent years. The firm now ranks fourth in the world among handset manufacturers, trailing Nokia, Samsung and LG Electronics. In smartphones, Motorola has been outshone by Apple, Palm, Research in Motion, Samsung and others. Jha acknowledged Thursday that the company was in need of compelling new phones.

"It finally looks like Motorola is putting out more competitive devices, which for a while has been a problem," said Allan Nogee, a principal analyst at InStat, of the Cliq introduction.

Tina Teng, senior analyst for wireless communications at market research firm iSuppli Corp., said while Motorola has had a pretty successful smartphone available in China, the firm has lagged behind competitors in the North American market. Teng noted that the success of the Cliq depends not only on the performance and capabilities of the device itself, but also the community developing applications for Android.

"For smartphones, the competition is not in the hardware itself, but the applications," Teng said. "I would expect Motorola added on their own applications, which can be totally different from what we have seen in G1."

The G1, made by HTC Corp., was the first Android-based handset introduced in the U.S. last year.

Nogee said Motorola's entry into the Android-based smartphone market is certainly late, and that the company has foundered for a few years, losing significant market share. But he added that cell phone users are pretty fickle and likely to buy one brand of phone one time and another the next. {pagebreak}Jha emphasized Motoblur's capabilities to back up data. If a device is lost, he said, the data on it can be wiped clean through the Internet, but will still exist on Motorola servers to be transferred to a new devices.

Sanjay Jha, Motorola Co-CEO, speaking at the GigaOM Mobilize '09 conference in San Francisco.
Teng said Motoblur appears similar to Nokia's Ovi, a service that also advertises the ability to synch, back-up and access information. Teng said Motoblur's business model, and the way it works with T-Mobile, were unclear.

Teng said Motrola is placing emphasis on Cliq's ease-of-management capabilities. She noted that Jha mentioned it supports ActiveSynch, which she called a "big plus" for business users.

"I think they are betting on the growing segment of consumer users for smartphones," Teng said. She added that she hoped it was possible for users to customize the home screen layout so they could have separate interfaces for their personal and professional lives. "Then they can market this device for both users," Teng said.

"I wouldn't rule [Motorola] out," Nogee said. "They certainly have a lot of experience."

Later in the event Thursday, Jha said he believes that five to seven years from now people will view smartphones as their primary computers. "If it doesn't fit in your pocket, I don't think it's going to be a relevant choice from a consumer point of view," Jha said.

The Cliq features a Qwerty keyboard and operates in WCDMA, GSM, HDSPA, EDGE, GPSR and GPS bands. The device enables six hours of continuous talk time and standby time of more than 13 days, according to Motorola.

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