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Motorola, in hunt of the salad days

Motorola, in hunt of the salad days

A few weeks ago we found myself on a eighteenth building of a ancestral Merchandise Mart building in downtown Chicago, surrounded by dozens of concerned reporters accessible a press discussion for Motorola’s new phone. We were in a room splashed with clear hues and packaged with chairs of varying shapes and sizes, organised in a semi-circle pattern. A circuitously wall had a graffiti-like picture that read, rather perplexingly, “We wish more” and “Thank you.” At a front of a room was a temporary theatre flanked by dual televisions. A hulk Ma Batwings “M” was intoxicated on any display.

Welcome to a new, soon-to-be Lenovo-owned Motorola—it’s surprisingly like a aged one.

As we waited for a record to begin, we reflected on how many Motorola, prolonged a brave of a U.S. wiring industry, had impacted my life. Sure, many people associate a name with a pioneering radio hulk it once was. But, overdue to a inlet of mobile record and mobile phones, Motorola has played an constituent partial in many people’s daily lives. For example, in high propagandize we had a pursuit offered dungeon phones, and we remember Motorola’s StarTAC being a tough sell. (It had a high cost tag.) Still, we was means to pierce inventory, a pointer of things to come. Years later, we worked for Verizon Wireless, where we found myself doubtful during how good a Motorola Razr still sole good a full dual years—eons in technology—after it arrived on a market. For many of my life, Motorola was a hulk in technology. That’s not utterly a box today.

(In 2011, a association separate into a mobile inclination business, Motorola Mobility, and an infrastructure business, Motorola Solutions. They share usually a name; Motorola Mobility, after a brief duration underneath Google, will shortly be owned by Lenovo.)

But behind to a eventuality during hand. Rick Osterloh, a newly-appointed boss of Motorola Mobility, took a theatre wearing a intelligent watch on his left wrist. “Choose to have a leisure to choose,” he declared. It would spin out to be a day’s theme. Osterloh and association went on to deliver dual new phones, a Moto X and Moto G, that could be customized front to back. They introduced a highly-anticipated Google Android-based watch, a Moto 360, that came in opposite colors and with several bands. Finally, they showed off a Moto Hint, a unconventional Bluetooth headset, accessible in an collection of colors and materials.

The new Moto X, in particular, was important since it was a company’s second shot during introducing a market-moving device. The initial indication of a phone, a company’s flagship model, launched in late 2013. It was Motorola’s try to lay explain to a new supremacy—the handset was competitive, customizable, affordable, and fabricated in a United States. Despite always-on voice commands and an all-day battery, a phone never gained traction, and always seemed to be on sale. When his arrangement was over, we pulpy Osterloh on because a phone’s cost seemed to be in a consistent flux. “We schooled a lot about what it took to attain in a reward smartphone business when we launched a Moto X,” he told me. “For us, we found a honeyed mark was about one- to two-hundred dollars next Samsung and Apple.” As such, a new Moto X retails during $499 but contract, about $150 reduce than allied Apple or Samsung devices.

Another thesis that echoed during a arrangement was that of “Pure Android.” Awash in a sea of customized versions of Google’s Android mobile handling system, Motorola has selected to take a substructure of formula Google releases to a partners and leave it mostly untouched. The association sees it as a indicate of differentiation. It touts it as a “Vanilla Android” experience, maybe a initial time in a story of blinking, buzzing consumer wiring in that “plain” was alike with “preferred.” The result, it says, is a faster, leaner device that’s able of receiving vital program updates earlier than a some-more customized phones on offer by any other manufacturer.

Steve Horowitz, Motorola’s comparison clamp boss of software, was unrelenting that a company’s calm tweaks to Android could not be matched by any competitor. “One of things that we like, frankly, are facilities that people don’t even know are features,” he told me. He’s referring to a new underline in that we merely call your palm over a phone’s arrangement to overpower an alarm or incoming call, rather than press, tap, or appropriate as on other phones. “It’s roughly like a healthy gesture—’Oh, stop it,’ and it only works,” he said. It’s a neat parlor trick.

Whether such subtleties are adequate to send a masses behind to a store and compensate a reward for a Motorola device stays to be seen. The association continues to be in transition, and that account has hijacked many all associated to a products it makes. Its new and rarely touted Texas public plant is approaching to tighten as final public moves to China, Lenovo’s home. The Midwestern association is still recuperating from a whirlwind matrimony to (and divorce from) that guide of Silicon Valley, Google. And a Lenovo understanding isn’t even approaching to tighten until 2015, withdrawal it in dilapidation for a rest of a year. If a executive group can put all a corporate play behind it and concentration once again on creation constrained devices—Droid, anyone?—they could really good take advantage of a lot of implicit goodwill for a company, during slightest in a U.S.

Motorola has a leisure to choose. Now it only needs to do it.

Logged In” is Fortune’s personal record column, created by Jason Cipriani. Read it on Fortune.com any Tuesday.

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