Modern smartphone culture has been defined by Apple and Samsung, but rewind a little over a decade and these two monster brands had barely made a dent in the mobile phone market. In the late nineties and early noughties, it was Motorola who were the trailblazers.
But the brand which invented the mobile phone, introduced the iconic “RAZR” to the world, and went on to redefine the budget end of the smartphone market with the Moto G is to cease to exist, after owners Lenovo announced it would be dumping the brand.
End of an era
To think there is now an entire generation of mobile phone users who have never (and probably will never) experienced the delights of a rubber-buttoned, monochrome-screened Motorola, or wasted literally hours manoeuvring a pixelated snake around a Nokia 3210, serves to remind how fleeting consumer tech trends can be. It also provides the perfect opportunity to take a trip down Motorola lane and dig out some of the iconic handsets.
The device to which so much is owe -. Motorola’s DynaTAC handset was the first commercially available mobile phone and paved the way for the portable cellular telephony which redefined the way people communicated. An abbreviation of “Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage”, the DynaTAC was an eye-watering $3,995 when it was released in the US back in 1984 and quickly became symbolic of the excess, greed and chaos of Wall Street in the late 80’s.
Released back in 1996, Motorola’s StarTAC was one of the first mobile phones to gain mass consumer adoption, with 60 million sold worldwide. It was the forerunner to the famous RAZR, being the world’s first clamshell flip-design mobile phone. A countdown of the 50 Greatest Gadgets of the past 50 Years run by PC world in 2005 placed the Mototola StarTAC at number 6.
With the possible exceptions of Apple’s iPhone, BlackBerry’s QWERTY-keypad design, and Nokia’s 3310 model – the first truly mass-market mobile phone – you would be hard pressed to find a more recognisable handset than the iconic Motorola RAZR, the multi-million selling flip-phone which, in many respects, kick-started the movement towards mobile phones as a fashion accessory as well as a communication device.
First released in 2004, the elegantly thin profile and flip design made the RAZR irresistible to phone users who were desperate to wean themselves off Nokia’s chunky 3310.
Released in 2011, this cumbersome, multi-functional device marked that peculiar era in mobile phone technology when the major manufacturers all seemed to be waiting for each other to decide which direction the market would take. With the exception of Apple, who very much played their own game, mobile brands began churning out some bizarre looking devices as the mobile market entered the ‘smart’ era and consumers began seeing their phones as complete multi-media devices.
The Motorola Milestone was a monstrous slide contraption which featured a full keypad, measured in at 123.3 x 64.1 x 12.9 mm and had a fighting weight of 184 g. In short, it was a beast. A very ugly beast.
Motorola’s last meaningful contribution to the mobile phone market is the excellent Moto G series which, when first released back in 2013, proved beyond all doubt that high-end smartphone technology could be purchased for less than £150.
These impossibly simple and yet strikingly elegant handsets reinvigorated the Motorola brand – the company shipped more than 10 million smartphones in the third quarter of 2014 – and breathed new life into the ailing budget end of the smartphone market.
The Moto G was the device which marked the point at which the mobile phone industry had arrived, full circle, back at the point of affordable PAYG handsets, in the mould of early Nokia. The difference now was that even these cheap and cheerful models were internet-ready and as powerful as desktop PCs.
End of the line
From the colossal DynaTAC mobile device, to the fashionable RAZR and through the smartphone era to the plucky Moto G, Motorola has been the beating heart of the mobile phone industry for over 30 years. The iconic brand has had to bow out gracefully in these ultra-competitive times but leaves behind a legacy of much-loved and multi-million selling mobile phones.
Thanks for the memories, Motorola.