We’re well into year number two of Lenovo ownership of Motorola and the parent company has cleaned house with its mobile operations. With all research, design and production moved to Chicago and branding changed up, the task at hand now comes down to making good phones and selling them.
Lenovo senior vice president Chen Xudong’s concerned about the last two parts and where his company stands in the global marketplace. He thinks that the marketplace could expand to as many as ten major players — that’s in spite of what analysts and media outlets alike view as the maturation of the smartphone as a consumer product. We’re not sure who to count beyond Apple, Samsung and maybe even Huawei at this point, but
Chen acknowledged that Lenovo’s phone haven’t done well by keeping to the low-end of the spectrum. Bringing in the Motorola (Moto by Lenovo) cache will certainly help carry the company in that respect, but it’s going to take some time, maybe two to three years to fully integrate Motorola into the new strategy. For scale, Chen said that Lenovo took four years to fully chew through its ThinkPad acquistion.
Currently, the long-term view includes focusing on fewer devices. No more outlandish comments about churning out 60 phones or whatever: the company’s committed to 15 max from the downmarket Vibe — known as the “Lemon” brand in China — and the prettier Moto by Lenovo brands combined. It’s still plenty by Western standards, but the trend has been downward for Lenovo.
Another part of that long-term view comes down to what the company will release in the second half of this year. He mentioned in passing of the glut of Chinese manufacturers selling all-metal phones in the $500 range and that the first Moto by Lenovo product for the west will be innovating upon that development in some respect. In a related but separate thread, Chen’s itching to integrate fingerprint scanners into Moto products and possibly get some metallic Moto phones into China.
The senior vice president saw an east/west divide in terms of fit and finish, though. Westerners, Chen felt, care about how their phones feel which is why the company will likely keep the coated silicon rubber, leather and wood materials on Moto Maker in that hemisphere. The other side of the earth will also be introduced to Moto Maker for its material options as well. That signature Moto form factor will live on, but with screen sizes above five inches — after all, that’s what the market at large prefers.
One challenge when it comes to aesthetics, the executive said, will be the Moto G. While it’s doing great in developing Latin American and European markets, its survival in the US — where phones priced above $500 seem to be all the rage — will be a tough one.
Finally, Chen hopes to have Lenovo be the company that brings back Google services to China. After all, Google got 6 percent of Lenovo’s stock with the Motorola deal and both are entangled in Project Tango at the moment. The executive seems more concerned about Android hardware/UX fragmentation in China. That problem gets exacerbated as Apple hits the country with its iPhones and accompanying ecosystem.
But Chen ultimately believes that 2016 will be the year that Google returns to China, at least for mobile.