Why the RAZR is killing Motorola
It's one of the most iconic phones on
the market, and something that redefined the way that
consumers look at mobile phones. But the Motorola RAZR
V3 has turned from a thing of beauty into something
more sinister.. because the RAZR is slowly killing Motorola.
Motorola's sales are slumping and the
handset division is making a significant loss. Major
shareholders are unhappy and want something to be done
urgently. However, it seems that the once successful
RAZR has become a millstone around Motorola's neck.
Motorola RAZR V3
To understand how the RAZR became such
a menace we need to go back a few years. The original
RAZR V3 was launched in mid-2004
and at the time there was nothing at all like it on
the market. An very striking handset to look at,
the RAZR was much thinner than anything else on the
market and its sleek metallic look and futuristic keypad
were particularly distinctive. True.. it looked slightly
odd because it was also much wider than contemporary
phone, but it is easy to forget that the RAZR was a
real head-turner when it came out.
At launch, this was a premium handset
with a premium price tag and a healthy profit margin
for Motorola. In early 2005 the original silver edition
of the RAZR was joined by a very limited edition black
version given to guests at the Oscars. This cemented
the RAZR's reputation as a desirable and distinctive
Sales of the RAZR boomed, and as it
did the price inevitably started to drop.. but the increased
volume made up for Motorola's loss of margin and business
There were problems though - although
the RAZR looked high-tech on the outside, the handset's
specification was a straight copy of the V500
series and V600
which had been around since 2003. So it wasn't a very
new phone underneath, even though it was
still quite competitive. However other features proved
to be a disappointment, such as the pretty-but-difficult
keypad and the poor user interface. The RAZR also lacked
an MP3 player, expandable memory or a decent camera
which became more marked as the competition evolved..
and the RAZR did not.
RAZR succeeds.. others fail.
Already by the time the RAZR was launched,
Motorola was struggling with other phones in its portfolio.
The clever Windows-based Motorola
MPx (pictured left) was a high-profile failure,
was running late and was panned at launch due to
poor performance, the MPx100
had been cancelled and various other phones were either
incredibly late to market or were not making much of
an impact. The MPx series in particular was hampered
by Motorola's lack of ability to get the handsets working
properly - but most observers would probably agree that
they were ahead of their time.
World Congress 2005
Buoyed by the success of the RAZR, Motorola
went into the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes at the beginning
of 2005 with a range of different phones under its belt.
These included the 3G E1120
(pictured right), the E1060
music phone, the A1010
smartphone - significant phones because they were extremely
advanced in terms of specifications. The E1120 had a
QVGA screen, 3 megapixel camera, GPS, expandable memory,
and MP3 player, 3D audio and Bluetooth.. and this was
back in 2005. It was also an attractive phone with a
style quite unlike the RAZR. The E1060 shared similar
styling while the A1010 was an advanced 3G Symbian device.
All three handsets were quietly cancelled.
At a stroke, Motorola lost three of the most promising
phones in their range. The E1120 in particular would
still be a great phone today and it certainly looks
more stylish than most.
RAZR V3x and V3i are launched
By late 2005 things were looking desperate
for Motorola. The aging RAZR had been re-released in
a variety of colours including black, blue and a fairly
hideous pink. The Unrath
& Strano edition took this to extremes. Yes,
the RAZR was still selling briskly, but at very little
profit to Motorola, and it had long ago lost its
In spring 2005 Motorola had announced
their first RAZR clone, the V1150
which was later rebranded as the RAZR
V3x (pictured left). The V3x was a fundamentally
different device to the V3 - a fully featured 3G phone
with expandable memory, a 2 megapixel camera, QVGA screen
and video calling, it knocked the V3 into a cocked hat.
Motorola hit a problem with the V3x.. at launch time
the 3G market was still tiny and the V3x was substantially
larger and heavier than the original RAZR. Here was
a phone with features that the general public didn't
yet want, and the device itself lacked the "wow"
factor of the V3. Despite this, the V3x sold reasonably
well in its small market niche.
By late 2005 Motorola had come out with
(pictured right) - a substantially improved device with
a multimedia player, better camera and expandable memory.
While not as advanced as the V3x, it made the platform
more competitive with the competition. The V3i sold
well, often alongside the original (much cheaper) V3
in the shop.
disasters for Motorola
Around the same time that the RAZR V3i
was launched, Motorola again found itself in difficulties.
Non-RAZR phones were not selling in any numbers, upcoming
handsets were late and frankly uninspiring. The SLVR
(a monoblock version of the RAZR) was enjoying a modest
success, but Motorola really needed something else.
That something else was the disastrous
ROKR E1 (pictured left). Launched in September
2005, the ROKR E1 was a warmed over E398
from 18 months previously and that was a rehash
of the cancelled E390 announced in late 2003.
When the ROKR came to market, most of the underlying
technology was two years old. All of this was made much
worse by a crippled implementation of iTunes which limited
the number of songs that could be stored.
Many people assumed that the ROKR would
be the "iPhone"..
but it wasn't. The ROKR E1 was severely criticised in
the press and proved to be immensely damaging for Motorola.
Although the significantly better ROKR
E2 was announced a few months later, non-RAZR handset
sales slumped and the ROKR label was badly tarnished.
The ROKR E2 never even made it to most major markets.
And then for the first half of 2006, Motorola basically
shut down and announced no significant handsets at all,
just a couple of RAZR clones including the W220
takes stock - and goes RAZR mad
We believe that the failure of the ROKR
shook Motorola very badly. At this point almost all
non-RAZR projects were canned (including the very late-but-promising
E1120). By the second half of 2006, Motorola had a new
range of phones.. almost all of which borrowed heavily
from the RAZR's design.
In short succession, Motorola came out
with the RIZR
MAXX (pictured right), RAZR
F3 all of which were based on the RAZR or SLVR styling
to a large extent. This first batch of Motorolas had
no less than three HSDPA (3.5G) RAZRs.
Then followed the ROKR
L9 and a whole host of RAZR clones such as the fairly
All of these handsets were very different, but had one
thing in common.. styling. Although many of these handsets
have not made it to market yet, it became immediately
obvious that the market reaction was cool at best and
hostile at worst.
curse of fashion
The original RAZR was a fashion phone,
perhaps the first fashion phone (also Motorola's old
StarTac also vies for that honour). It could be argued
that Motorola created the current fashion phone market
with the original V3, and it is certainly widely considered
to be a design icon.
At present there are very few handsets
in Motorola's range that do not borrow from the RAZR
in styling - but the problem is that the RAZR is strictly
last season's fashion. While newcomers such as LG have
come up with the Chocolate
devices, Motorola continues to bring out RAZRs in an
effort to rekindle success.
Other competitors don't compete in the
same way - Sony Ericsson phones are more understated
when it comes to design and don't fall into the fashion
phone category, and Nokia like to design every phone
to look a little different from the rest which keeps
their range looking fresh.
Desperate times for Motorola.. but
they make the same old mistakes
is now getting on for the middle of 2007 and Motorola
are in an awful mess. Sales have
slumped and the Motorola board are under threat
from angry investors. Without doubt Motorola needed
to take a new direction in order to revive sales.
The simple truth that Motorola goes
not understand is this - the RAZR has had its day.
This particular design is no longer of interest to most
customers, regardless of how clever the phones are
technically. Fashion-savvy customers in mature markets
are mightily bored of the overall design. When people
wander into a shop they don't see the technology underneath
- the first thing they see is yet another RAZR design..
at first glance not so different from the phone they
have already. That's the thjng about fashion phones.
And yet Motorola's response to slumping
RAZR sales is.. the RAZR2 (pictured right). From
what we can tell, the RAZR2
V8 and RAZR2
V9 are two very promising phones.. but they have
utterly wasted their time because all the clever new
features in these handsets have been squeezed into the
same tired old form factor that has been around for
Yes, technically savvy customers (such
as Mobile Gazette readers) may be interested
in the RAZR2 lineup because of features such as the
clever external screen and HSDPA support, but both phones
are saddled with the same old looks and nasty keypad
of the original RAZR. And believe it or not, most retail
customers look at looks first - and there RAZR2
looks just like a V3i with an oversized external display.
Motorola must do better
We are sometimes accused of being anti-Motorola
at Mobile Gazette, but that simply isn't true.
We believe that competition is good and a strong Motorola
will benefit all consumers in the long run.. after
3GSM 2005 Motorola really looked like a company that
could reach the number one spot. But Motorola's fixation
on the RAZR design may well prove its undoing.
The elegant E1120
demonstrated the Motorola knows how to design attractive
phones other than the RAZR. The capable MOTO
Z8 shows that Motorola can write the clever software
that's needed in a modern handset.
It is time for Motorola to take its
considerable (but underused) talents and put them to
good use by creating a new design icon which
will finally make us all go "wow" again.
to our newsletter for more news on