Saturday, January 05, 2013

Smart Phone, Dumb Person

I joined the community of annoying smartphone people with the purchase of my Motorola Atrix HD Android phone.

I'm very happy with the phone, but I was surprised by the weird world of phone marketing I found when trying to decide which phone I should get. I started my search with a small set of requirements for the phone:

  • Android Jelly Bean
  • AT&T
  • preferably Motorola - just because they're based in my old home state of Illinois. I guess Apple and Motorola are the only American phone manufacturers these days.

Anyway - pretty simple, right ? What I expected to find was some web pages on the Motorola or AT&T web sites with a lineup of Motorola's Android phones something like the Apple Store's iPhone page. The iPhone has a great approach to marketing - there's just one iPhone product line with the flagship iPhone 5, and the older 4s and 4 available at a discount. I expected Motorola might similarly have a couple different phone lines based on size or feature set, and one or two older generations available at a discount. Sadly for Motorola - it turns out Motorola offers separate product lines for each carrier! I just found this page that nicely lays out their product lines, but I somehow didn't stumble upon that page during my phone search, and I was amazed by how many different (but very similar) phones Motorola designed and manufactured. Motorola's phone branding is crazy - RAZR is exclusive to Verizon (Verizon apparently owns the "DROID" brand trademark too from the old days where iPhone was AT&T exclusive), ATRIX is AT&T, Electrify for U.S. Cellular, Sprint gets the Admiral and Photon, Triumph for Virgin Mobile ... I think these are all actually different phones - not just the same no-brand phone with a different carrier logo.

Motorola's per-carrier marketing is just crazy. It's already hard for Motorola to distinguish itself from the other Android handset manufacturers (htc, Sony, Samsung, LG, ...); it's crazy that Motorola has to muddy down its own brand in some misguided strategy by the carriers to differentiate themselves from each other. Nobody switches from Verizon to AT&T (or vice versa) because one has a slightly better Android phone than the other.

Actually - it looks like Samsung might be in the same messed up phone-per-carrier boat. This carrier-branding mess must drive Google crazy. The iPhone was trail blazing in so many little ways that people forget (visual voice mail, apps, ...) - the unified (across carriers) "iPhone" brand was one I never considered.

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