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

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

A few years back Motorola struck gold once again with the highly affordable yet functional G series and recently, Motorola has started moving back into the high-end space. But it wasn’t until the Edge 30 Ultra that launched in summer that brought Motorola back into the space that can compete with flagship phones from Samsung or Apple.

I got a chance to sit down with Sergio Buniac, President of Motorola and Ruben Castano, Customer Experience Officer to discuss this Journey Motorola has taken along with where it sees the phone industry going.

Sergio Buniac: Let’s talk about our journey. We created the Moto G with the idea that people don’t need to pay more to have an incredible experience such as 16GB memory, and HD display and we were right.

Then during the journey, we felt the need to come back to the premium space. And that’s what happened with the Edge family. We want to make devices that are meaningful and have the latest spec but a device consumers can connect with.

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

Abbas Jaffar Ali: Where or how do you see the phone tech industry in general? Do you think it’s mature to a level where the growth every year that we see is very, very iterative now? Have we reached the peak design of what a phone should be, or do you think there’s a lot more left that a phone can offer in the next few years?

Reuben Castano: I think there’s a lot more to come. Technology’s constantly evolving and, and innovation just doesn’t stop at purely 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 so much that we can still do in the mobile space.

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

Eventually it’s accessing information, it’s accessing the internet. So whether you wear it around your head, whether you carry it in your pocket, whether you’re accessing it through your ear or your wrist, I mean it’s a pretty vast field still to develop and, and continue to evolve.

We established the Motorola 312 Labs which is an innovation hub spaced out of our headquarters in Chicago, but with teams all around the world. And their mission is to look at that three to five year horizon. What are the technologies, what are the new innovations that we need to have with that longer term horizon while the rest of Motorola is looking at the shorter six months to two year.

And so, within that context of the 312 labs, one concept that is quite interesting is the Neckband. It’s wearing a fully fledged 5G device around your neck. As a consumer, this gives you a lot of flexibility and you have all the connectivity requirements. That 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 to distribute the architecture that’s necessary for a mobile connected life.

Abbas Jaffar Ali: How close is the relationship between Lenovo and Motorola? Do you work together on technologies? Is there a shared lab where these ideas are worked on?

Sergio Buniac: There is full integration- our vision is to leverage. From sourcing parts to management to UI integration to experience between the PC and the phone, what we are trying to do is integrate.

We are looking together at the backbone infrastructure in terms of supply chain and also on the R&D phase. If you think about what the new Work From Home trend requires and the seamless interaction between our devices with Ready For. There’s a lot of collaboration exporting that expertise to our PCs. There are things that Lenovo brings to the table such as a commercial footprint and expertise as the world’s largest PC provider that would have taken Motorola five to ten years to develop.

Reuben Castano: I was there when we were working with Lenovo engineers and our Motorola team developing the first Razr. We worked on how to fold a plastic display and took note on how Lenovo had already created a rotating hinge on the Yoga convertible notebook to enable so many modes of use.

Some of those things went into the Razr, but in the mobile space, we had to do our unique development and implementation. And Lenovo is now leveraging the unique way that we fold the display on the Razr so we get the zero gap design.

So there’s a lot of collaboration, and moving forward, it’s about ecosystem. It’s about a mobile phone working seamlessly with a laptop. Our Ready For platform is enabling all that. You can now have a Windows environment and an Android environment living together sharing information, copy and paste, drag and drop and also use the phone camera and the speakers for conference calls.

Abbas Jaffar Ali: You spoke about the foldable screen tech and the Razr is now on its third iteration. Do you think this is fad or technology that will be the future of phones.

Reuben Castano: It’s a technology that we are very committed to. And it’s very useful for consumers in their daily life.

Consumers love the ability of having something pocketable and small that fits in your hand. I can quickly take care of things on the external display. That’s why we put so much emphasis on that. And then when I need a larger display, it’s also easily and quickly available.

So, no, it’s not a fad. In fact, we see a lot of interest from consumers in that type of space. That technology has matured a lot. and we are fully committed to continue to work in that space.

Abbas Jaffar Ali: Are there any intentions on creating bigger foldable devices- like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold which is a phone factor that unfolds into a mini tablet.

Reuben Castano: We’ll answer consumer needs as we identify them and as we do our research. Right now we’re pretty comfortable with the form factor that we have. We think a very pocketable device that delivers a 6+ inch display covers our consumers needs, and integrates into their daily workflow and life quite easily.

Sergio Buniac: We are still working very hard on solving 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 those things coming. Equally important is to evolve. We are now looking beyond foldable. We believe things can be rollable. This idea- being small, but being big when it needs to resonates big. It solves a consumer problem.

Motorola showed me a demo of their rollable phone that was recently unveiled and its a fascinating device expands from 4-inches to 6.5-inches using a screen that rolls out. The standard 4-inch form factor makes it easy to carry and use it with one hand while the expanded state can be used when a keyboard is required or if you were watching a video.

I’d like to thank Motorola for giving me this opportunity as well as being one of the very few people to see their upcoming rollable phone.

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