For Motorla, the Razr is just the start of the expanding phones era

Motorola is a company that has reinvented itself many times. The popular StarTek and Razr phones from the 90s defined a generation of mobile phones followed by the Moto Droids that finally allowed Android to compete with the iPhone.

A few years ago, Motorola struck gold again with its highly affordable and functional G series, and more recently, Motorola has been making a comeback in the high-end space. But it wasn’t until the Edge 30 Ultra that launched in the summer that put Motorola back into a space that could rival flagship phones from Samsung or Apple.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Sergio Buniac, President of Motorola and Ruben Castano, Chief Customer Experience Officer to discuss this journey that Motorola has taken along with where it sees the phone industry headed.

Sergio Boniac: Let’s talk about our trip. We built the Moto G with the idea that people don’t need to pay more to get an amazing experience like 16GB of memory and a high-resolution display and we were right.

Then during the trip, we felt the need to return to the privileged space. And that’s what happened with the Edge family. We want to make devices that are meaningful and have the latest specs but that consumers can connect with.

When you look at the Moto Edge 30 Ultra, the packaging is eco-friendly, and we’re working with Pantone who are the world’s leading authority on color to create an experience that is meaningful to consumers. Hopefully when you buy a Motorola phone, you’re buying what will be in fashion six months from now and two years from then. The idea is for the Edge family to go beyond specs.

Abbas Jafar Ali: Where or how do you see the phone technology industry in general? Do you think they’re mature to a level where the growth every year that we’re seeing is very frequent now? Have we reached the design pinnacle of what a phone should be, or do you think there’s a lot left that a phone can deliver in the next few years?

Robin Castano: I think there is a lot more to come. Technology is constantly evolving, and innovation doesn’t just stop at the hardware level. We think of it as hardware and software experiences and when you look at it from that point of view, there’s a lot we can still do in the mobile space.

The phone has become a personal device and a vessel for self-expression, your identity, your payments and your digital life.

Eventually he gets to the information, he gets to the internet. So whether you wear it around your head, whether you carry it in your pocket, whether you put it through your ear or your wrist, I mean it’s a very broad area that still has to be developed and continues to evolve.

We created Motorola 312 Labs which is an innovation hub away from our headquarters in Chicago, but with teams all over the world. And their task is to look at this horizon from three to five years. What technologies, what new innovations do we need on that longer-term horizon while the rest of Motorola looks at the shorter period of six months to two years.

And so, within that context of 312 Labs, a very interesting concept is a neckband. He’s wearing a full-fledged 5G device around your neck. As a consumer, this gives you a lot of flexibility and you have all the connectivity requirements. This device can now power other devices — something on your wrist, something on your ear, or something on your head. So once you look at it that way, you start distributing the architecture necessary for a mobile connected life.

Abbas Jafar Ali: How close is the relationship between Lenovo and Motorola? Do you work together on technologies? Is there a common laboratory where these ideas are being worked on?

Sergio Boniac: There is complete integration – our vision is to benefit. From parts sourcing to management to UI integration of experience between PC and phone, what we’re trying to do is consolidation.

Together we are looking at the basic infrastructure in terms of the supply chain and also in the R&D phase. If you’re thinking about what the new work-from-home trend and seamless interaction between our devices requires with Ready For. There is a lot of collaboration to export that expertise to our computers. There are things Lenovo brings to the table like a commercial footprint and experience as the world’s largest provider of PC hardware that would have taken Motorola five to ten years to develop.

Robin Castano: I was there when we were working with Lenovo engineers and our Motorola team to develop the first Razr. We worked out how to fold a plastic screen and noticed how Lenovo had already built a swivel hinge on the Yoga convertible notebook to enable several modes of use.

Some of that stuff went to the Razr, but in the mobile space, we had to do unique development and execution. And Lenovo is now taking advantage of the unique way we fold the screen on the Razr so we get a zero-gap design.

There’s a lot of collaboration, and going forward, it’s about the ecosystem. It is about a mobile phone that works seamlessly with a laptop. Our Ready For platform makes it all possible. Now you can have a Windows and Android environment living together sharing information, copying and pasting, dragging and dropping, and even using your phone’s camera and speakers for conference calls.

Abbas Jafar Ali: I’ve been talking about foldable screen technology and the Razr is now on its third iteration. Do you think this is a fad or a technology that will be the future of phones.

Robin Castano: It’s a technology we’re very committed to. It is very useful for consumers in their daily life.

Consumers love the ability to have something small in a pocket that fits in your hand. I can quickly take care of things on the external screen. That’s why we focus so much on that. And then when I need a bigger screen it’s readily available and quickly.

So, no, it’s not a fad. In fact, we see a lot of consumer interest in this kind of space. This technology has matured a lot. We are fully committed to continuing to work in this area.

Abbas Jafar Ali: Are there any intentions of creating larger foldable devices – like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, a phone form factor that turns into a small tablet.

Robin Castano: We will answer consumer needs as we identify them and as we do our research. We are now very comfortable with the form factor we have. We believe that an ultra-compact device that offers a 6-inch screen meets our customers’ needs, integrating into their daily workflow and life with absolute ease.

Sergio Boniac: We’re still working hard to resolve some of the consumer feedback we got from the first generation like charging, battery, and better use of the external display. So you’ll see a lot of this stuff coming. Equally important is that you evolve. We are now looking beyond folding. We believe things can be rollable. This idea — being small, but being big when you need to resonate big. It solves the consumer’s problem.

Motorola showed me a demo of its recently unveiled foldable phone and its impressive device expands from 4 inches to 6.5 inches using a screen that is thrown. The standard 4-inch form factor makes it easy to hold and use with one hand while the expanded case can be used when a keyboard is required or if you’re watching a video.

I want to thank Motorola for giving me this opportunity as well as being one of the very few people who got to see their upcoming foldable phone.

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