Motorola has really gone downhill since they were acquired from Google by Lenovo in early 2014. But this past week, there was some news that really pissed some people off. Including myself, someone that doesn't even own a Motorola phone. And because of this news, I won't be recommending any other Motorola phones for the foreseeable future.
The big news last week was surrounding the Moto Z2 Force. Motorola announced that only the Verizon variant would get the update to Android Pie (which is already almost a year old at this point, with Android Q coming in about a month). Which just sounded utterly stupid. The Moto Z2 Force was available on all carriers, and as an unlocked smartphone. With very little changes between the variants, but for some reason only the Verizon variant would get the update.
Motorola said that updates are "complex". Yeah, that's something we already know. But updating one version to Pie but not others, just seems like a huge cop-out. And I wasn't afraid to let Motorola know about it.
Motorola did respond and say that updates are done on a case-by-case basis, which I understand. But you can't promise a phone will get Pie, and then a year after Pie has come out, decide that it's to hard to put Pie on that phone. The fact that it was pushed out for the Verizon version just makes things even worse for Motorola. It wouldn't be as big of a deal if none of the Moto Z2 Force smartphones got Pie, but one did, while the others won't.
Updates have become almost non-existent since the Lenovo purchase
Since Lenovo purchased Motorola in 2014, we've seen software updates quickly drop from very often and almost immediate under Google, to now, barely even getting updates. The Moto Z2 Force is not the only phone that is not getting many updates, the new Moto Z4 is only getting a promise of Android Q. Moto Z4 released last month (June 2019) and Android Q will release next month (August 2019). Motorola can't even promise Android R? That's a big deal.
Under Google, Motorola was really fast with updates, in fact, it shocked us a lot of the times when we would see the Verizon Moto X getting an update to a new version of Android. Because it was coming quickly after the Nexus, and well before any other smartphone. Now, if you get an update, you are likely the last phone getting that update.
Not only are phones from Motorola not getting new versions of Android, but they are barely even getting security updates. Which, arguably, are much more important than a shiny new version of Android.
Lenovo rarely updates its phones, even before it bought Motorola. So this is something we all knew was going to happen when it did buy the company. We knew that it was going to slowly turn into Lenovo. Which meant pumping out way to many variants of the same smartphone, and not updating a single one. We've seen this with the Moto G lineup the past couple of years – though this year, it did tone it down a little bit.
Motorola is now going all in with Android One, but that doesn't fix the update issue. Here's a little inside baseball for Android One and updates. Just because Android One is stock Android – really it's just AOSP – doesn't mean that it's easy to update an Android One smartphone. Once Android Q is released by Google, companies like Motorola gets the update. From there, Motorola still needs to wait to get the binaries from Qualcomm, MediaTek or whoever is the company that made the chipset in those smartphones. And if its Qualcomm, it's going to be a while. As Qualcomm focuses on its high-end chipsets first (Snapdragon 800 series) then moves to the Snapdragon 600, and so forth. Which means that new Motorola One Vision won't be getting updates fast, even though it's an Android One device.
Another piece of inside baseball here, and that is the cost of getting updates certified by carriers is pretty substantial. Smartphone makers that sell phones on carrier networks have to pay millions to get their update certified. That's just not feasible when you have a phone on every single network, and you aren't sell many at any of those carriers. That is likely the real reason that Motorola is not updating the Moto Z2 Force to Pie on the other carriers.
The lack of updates is not the only reason why you shouldn't buy Motorola phones though.
Motorola isn't even trying to make compelling smartphones anymore
Motorola used to make some pretty impressive devices. Remember the first Moto X? I do. I owned it and the next generation Moto X too, both were pretty incredible devices for their time. Do you hear anyone saying that about Motorola's 2018 or 2019 smartphones? Nope. That's because the company isn't even trying.
It has seen how successful the Moto G brand has been for them and has decided to only focus on smartphones in that range. For the "flagship" Moto Z range, Motorola isn't even going with high-end specs. The Moto Z4 this year has a slightly more powerful processor than the Moto G7, and it's twice the price. That's sad. But not surprising. The Moto Z3 last year, had the last-generation Snapdragon 835 chipset inside. What made things worse was, the fact that it was the same chipset found in the Moto Z2. Which gave Moto Z2 users very little reason to even buy the new Moto Z3.
Motorola also got rid of its Shattershield displays. That was one of the more innovative things it had done in the past five years. Shattershield was a display that was shatterproof, and anyone who is clumsy or has kids, know that was a big deal. But it wasn't in Motorola's eyes. The first iteration of Shattershield was actually really good, but after that it started finding a cheaper way to make that display. Which included using a built-in screen protector, that scratched way to easily – but hey, it didn't shatter.
The company needs to go back to the drawing board and find something that's going to get customers (and potential customers) interested in their phones again. Because the current crop isn't doing it.
The oldest phone maker is quickly fading from existence
Motorola is the oldest phone manufacturer in the world right now. It was established in Chicago, IL back in 1928. So it just recently celebrated its 90th birthday. But will it make it to 100 years old? It's not looking likely at this point.
When you think of Motorola, you probably think of a ton of different iconic phones throughout history. There was the StarTAC that was released in 1996, or the RAZR that was released in 2005, or even the original Droid that came in 2009. The original Droid is what most millennials probably associate with Motorola more than the other two. As it was the phone that Verizon put its money behind to sell against the iPhone. And it was pretty successful. If it wasn't for the Droid, Android wouldn't have the nearly 90-percent market share it has today.
Motorola has done many things over the past five years under Lenovo's ownership that has turned away its loyal customer-base that it built under Google's ownership. That included releasing many more variants of the same phone. The Moto X went from a single phone under Google, to having three or more variants. And it has gotten even worse with the Moto G line. This year there is the Moto G7, Moto G7 Plus, Moto G7 Power and Moto G7 Play, all of which are pretty similar. Then there's the fact that a lot of these phones are not priced competitively. With Nokia back in action, you can get a cheaper phone, with better specs and a better build. Finally, there's the software issue. Motorola hasn't really done much to its software in quite a few years. Just giving us the same features year after year, and then not even giving users updates to their phones.
Now when you think of the more recent Motorola, many people are shocked to see that it is even still around. Since it was bought by Lenovo, it has faded from existence. And it's unlikely that Lenovo spent $2.91 billion on this company, just for it to fade away. But that's exactly what has happened. Can Lenovo turn around Motorola? Of course they can. Look at what they did with ThinkPad after that brand was bought from IBM many years ago. It's possible, but it just doesn't seem likely at this point.
If a smartphone maker cannot give us updates in a timely fashion, then they don't deserve our money. It's always important to vote with your wallet, and if Motorola sees that it is selling less smartphones, it's going to take the hint and do something to change that. Selling less smartphones means less revenue coming in, and that also means people are going to lose their jobs. While we would never advocate to get people laid off, that's part of the business.