Apple may be having its time in the sun with the new iPhone 4S, but Motorola is wasting no time in trying to steal some of the sunshine. This Tuesday, Motorola introduced the Droid Razr, the second-generation version of the most popular phone the company has ever sold.
“We wanted to create a true object of desire,” Motorola Mobility chairman and CEO Sanjay Jha said at a Tuesday press conference. “Not only is it a marvel of modern engineering, it is beautiful.”
Like its predecessor was in its day and age, Motorola says the new Razr is the world’s thinnest smartphone. The Droid Razr measures 7.1mm at its thinnest point, and weighs in at just 127 grams, keeping bulkiness as low as possible. In comparison, the iPhone 4S is 9.3mm thick and 140 grams. The Droid Razr will run on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, and should be available for pre-order later this month.
When the original Razr launched in late 2004, Motorola was flagging in marketshare and suffering a reputation for stale mobile product design. Rival handset maker Nokia held a secure lead among manufacturers in the cell phone space, and as Scott Anthony wrote in a 2005 piece for Strategy and Innovation, “Emerging Korean competitors Samsung and LG had the lock on cool.”
The original Razr changed consumer opinion about Motorola nearly overnight. That phone’s slim, clamshell design was entirely unique (if not wowing), and customers flocked to the thin aesthetic that made all alternatives look chunky. Motorola went on to sell more than 130 million Razrs — by far the most successful mobile product in the company’s history.
Motorola hopes for a repeat win with the next-gen Razr, which combines the thin, sleek look of the first model with the powerful tech specs of today’s top gear.
The new Razr packs a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, as well as 16GB of on-board storage with another 16GB care of an included microSD card. You’ll also find an 8-megapixel back-facing camera that is capable of capturing 1080p HD video, and a front-facing camera for video chat. All of this hardware hooks into Google’s Android 2.3 operating system, aka Gingerbread.
It all makes for a robust internal package, and the Razr should be tough on the outside as well. Jha says the phone is built atop a stainless steel core, and is sturdy enough to “withstand the famous back pocket test.” Indeed, the Razr is wrapped in woven kevlar fabric — you know, the same material they use for bullet-proof vests — and shielded in Corning’s Gorilla Glass, a scratch-resistant material found in a number of high-end smartphones.
Nice specs, features and packaging? Yes. But is the new Razr a rock star product of iPhonian proportions? This remains to be seen. The Razr’s main competitor, of course, is Apple’s recently launched iPhone 4S. Despite an initially disappointed reaction from the media, the 4S moved extremely well in its first days of release, selling a unprecedented 4 million units within three days.
Some analysts say that while the stakes are high for Motorola, the market for Android and iPhone customers is still big enough for two players.
“I see the market dividing somewhat between the techy crowd that likes Android and the more fashionable crowd that likes iPhone,” said Gartner analyst Phillip Redman in an interview. “In a few years, though, as penetration increases, the demand for innovation and differentiation will only increase too.”
That means Motorola will have to keep up with the fast pace of tech innovation, especially when Apple is putting out products like the much-ballyhooed digital, voice-activated assistant, Siri.
Much like Apple’s new iOS 5 and Siri roll-outs, the Razr comes with a host of software perks to sweeten the deal. The MotoCast app allows users to share content — including pictures, video and streaming music files – between computers and smartphones over a Wi-Fi connection. Essentially, MotoCast adopts the basic scheme of cloud-based computing, but replaces server farms with your desktop or notebook.
Motorola also wants to appeal to the corporate crowd with a suite of business-ready features, including corporate e-mail access, calendar and contacts sync, and the ability to view and edit Microsoft Office documents. It’s a move into BlackBerry territory, and a challenge to RIM, a company long known for its enterprise-friendly devices.
“We believe the enterprise is important because it is getting consumerized,” said Jha. “The Droid Razr isn’t an enterprise device; it’s a consumer device with enterprise features.”
The iPhone isn’t the only Apple device in Motorola’s crosshairs. With its sights set squarely on Apple’s iPod business, Motorola also unveiled Motoactv, a new wearable fitness-tracking music player. Motoactv allows users to track personal workout statistics, while also serving as an MP3 player.
Sold in a wrist watch form factor, the device comes with a 1.6-inch, full-touch color screen and FM radio, and is resistant to sweat, water and scratching. It’s compact at 46 x 46mm, and weighs only 35 grams. Syncing the device with your PC uploads all of your exercise data to an online profile, allowing you to track your workout progress over an extended period.
Motoactv comes in 8GB and 16GB versions, and essentially combines Apple’s iPod nano and the Fitbit product into one device. Apple also worked in conjunction with Nike to offer its own music player cum fitness device — dubbed Nike+ — which requires users to place a sensor in their shoes to track exercise time, distance and calories burned.
While Apple sold more than 20 million iPhones last quarter, the product’s massive growth in sales came at the expense of the iPod, which was the only Apple device line to see a decline in sales.
That decline could be Motorola’s window of opportunity into cannibalizing Apple’s music player business, with the added benefit of marketing the device as a fitness tracking tool.
Motoactv also comes with connectivity benefits that span across multiple Motorola devices. For example, the device syncs wirelessly with the Razr smartphone, letting you know when you receive calls and text messages via notification icons.
“We can create intuitive hardware matched with intelligent software that will forever change the way you work out,” Jha said.
The Droid Razr will be available for pre-order online beginning Oct. 27, and will launch globally this November. The phone will cost $300 with a two-year Verizon contract. The Motoactv fitness device will also launch in November in the U.S., and will cost $250 for the 8GB version and $300 for the 16GB version.
It’s doubtful that we’ll see the same glowing consumer response to the Razr that Apple has enjoyed with its 4S. But with an undeniably cool smartphone form factor, a host of new software features, and a push into fitness tech, Motorola is certainly intent on staying relevant.