Visiting Motorola HQ: Back on track despite weak updates


Motorola is a pioneer of mobile communications and a manufacturer of many breakthrough products, such as the StarTAC mobile phone. In recent years, the company has not only lost a bit of its shine, but has also changed owners twice. Now, it finally wants to get back on the road to success. During a visit to Motorola’s Chicago headquarters, we were told how it plans to do so.

Loud rock music blares from loudspeakers in the large meeting room on the 19th floor of the Mart. Music is synonymous with Chicago, the city where the Mart is located. The “Mart” has a history: built in the 1920s and completed in the 1930s, it was the largest building in the world in its day. It fits in with Motorola, which is almost the same age, at 89 years old. Only the size of the company has suffered quite a bit in recent years. At its peak, the company had over 50,000 employees. Today, following the breakup of the group into Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions, there are over 900 at the headquarters of the smartphone unit in Chicago.

IMG 1473 The building on the right with the yellow dome is the Mart. / © AndroidPIT

Back to success with innovation and better marketing?

Motorola, now owned by the Chinese company Lenovo, has had an eventful history. Once celebrated as a pioneer of mobile communications and a driver of innovation, the crash of the brand came along with the success of smartphones. The time-honored company missed the boat by focusing too much on past successes, and evolving without keeping customer expectations in focus.

After a few thorny years, a takeover by Lenovo, and some unwieldy attempts to give the brand a new face, Motorola’s headquarters are back on track, ready to compete and regain market share.

And indeed, the statement the brand makes now is much clearer than it was two years ago. At that time, the plan was to put the name Motorola to sleep and turn the veteran brand into the upbeat and short “moto”. Apparently this was a mistake, and today Motorola is aware of its legacy again. Everywhere in the Chicago HQ, you see the full name “Motorola” and the “Batwing” – the famous Motorola logo – proudly adorns the walls. Sometimes it’s stamped into an aluminum wall, sometimes it’s sprayed on the wall as graffiti. But it’s always feels always modern, cool and contemporary.

IMG 1432 The Batwing is on display everywhere in the Chicago HQ. / © AndroidPIT

The sales figures of Motorola rise again significantly

Generally, in terms of marketing, Motorola is going in a more contemporary direction – that means loud, cheeky colors and being different. “We need to take risks” is the credo. With the Moto Mods, it has done exactly this, and quite well at that. Moto Mods are attachable modules that let you quickly expand the capabilities of the Motorola Z series smartphones by simply clicking them on. They are quite an innovation. “We want to get out of the commodity,” says Motorola product chief Jeff Snow.

The plan seems to be working. While customers were initially quite skeptical about the Mods, today they are the number one reason for buying with a customer satisfaction of 80-95%. Customer satisfaction also seems to affect the sales success, as the sales figures have increased by 37% compared to last year.

IMG 1430 A wallpaper that shows history: Motorola has made a lot of moves in the mobile market. / © AndroidPIT

How does the update policy fit into its promise of quality?

“We want to offer very good quality at a fair price,” says Jeff Snow. But how does that fit with the update policy, I wanted to know. On this point, Motorola is scolded again and again by the community. “We’re releasing a security update every month,” is the answer. And the software chief, Dave Yen, adds that the adjustments for Android O were very time-consuming. “We will be able to bring out updates much faster with this work. However, the chipset manufacturers also need a lot of time. Updates are really a complex topic.”

Motorola is back in a time when boredom is often spreading in the smartphone market. It seems that everything has already been seen and experienced. The only record setting in the market is in terms of the prices of top phones, rather than real innovations, whether from Google, Apple or Samsung. 

Things are only looking up for this established brand make a comeback and to shake up the smartphone market status quo. For the sake of users, you have to wish Motorola luck.

What do you think? Is Motorola back on the winning track?

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