For a while, all seemed good in the wake of Motorola’s acquisition by Lenovo – the top brass at the mothership gave assurances that they wouldn’t meddle with Motorola’s recent run of success and Moto didn’t seem to miss a beat when they churned out 2014’s Moto X, G, E, Nexus 6 and Droid Turbo.
To be sure, even after being acquired by a new company, any mobile device OEM has existing commitments that must be honored, usually about 18 months’ worth of phones. That’s why the fruits of Google’s prior acquisition of Motorola took time to manifest themselves, and that’s what accounts for Motorola’s 2014 and 2015 lineups following their acquisition by Lenovo.
Before I continue, I will point out that Lenovo’s devices overall are usually of high quality, and we’ve been privileged to review quite a few of them. From most of the accounts I’ve read, even their own phones apart from Motorola have proved to be of exceptional quality.
That said, the news earlier this month that Lenovo would confine its mobile phone efforts to its Motorola division despite the latter’s decline in sales should have been a harbinger of tough times to come, and later the other shoe dropped. Lenovo seemed to overreact to the Motorola news by laying off 20% the Chicago-based company’s already lean workforce. Perhaps even more troubling than the “how many” is the “who” though – key software engineers responsible for the satisfying experience of owning a Moto X/G/E (apps like Moto Assist, Moto Voice, Moto Display, etc.) are being cut, to be replaced by engineers from the parent company. It seems Lenovo will be taking a more “hands-on” role with Motorola after all.
What will become of the company that brought us the Nexus 6 and Moto X? It seems hardware design is going to change, perhaps hinted at by the switch to LCD displays in Moto’s 2015 lineup (previous Moto flagships featured AMOLED displays). Software will obviously change as the latest round of layoffs indicates. Given my experience with one of Lenovo’s latest Android tablets, I don’t expect them to switch to any kind of heavy-handed skin on future Moto phones, though. Sales will no doubt take a further hit in the latter half of 2015 since Motorola decided to bypass the carriers for the Moto X Style (that said, I fully expect at least one 2015 Droid phone for Verizon customers, and the Moto X Play is evidently crossing the Atlantic as the Droid Maxx 2).
More than even the almost certain changes to come on the hardware and software fronts, the sales numbers will determine the future of Motorola Mobility. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of Nokia’s experience.