The storied Motorola name will fade from phones this year.
Lenovo, which bought Motorola Mobility from Google in 2014, will unify its two phone businesses under the Lenovo name, using Motorola’s Moto brand for its high-end products and its homegrown Vibe brand for budget devices. The Motorola name will live on from a corporate perspective as a division under the Chinese consumer-electronics giant, said Motorola Chief Operating Officer Rick Osterloh.
Though the iconic M “batwing” logo will remain, consumers will stop seeing the Motorola name on Moto products. Instead, they’ll be branded Moto by Lenovo.
“We’ll slowly phase out Motorola,” Osterloh said during an exclusive interview Thursday at the CES conference in Las Vegas, “and focus on Moto.”
The phase-out means an end to a name that once stood for the pinnacle of wireless technology. Motorola invented the cell phone, after all. At one point in the mid-2000s, you couldn’t turn your head without seeing the ultrathin Razr flip phone, which came with a “Hello, Moto” ringtone. Older folks will remember the Motorola DynaTAC as one of the first true mobile devices.
But times change. Google bought Motorola’s phone business in 2012, selling it two years later.
“It’s our treasure,” Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said after the deal. “We plan to not only protect the Motorola brand, but make it stronger.”
Lenovo wants to use its corporate brand to unify the products. Phones such as the Moto X will prominently feature the blue Lenovo logo. Motorola’s iconic M “batwing” logo will still be used.
Though an icon of the mobile industry, Motorola has seen its business take a beating and has become a shadow of its former self. Nowadays, you’re more likely to nab the latest Apple or Samsung phone than you are to look at a Motorola device.
Still, some bemoan the loss of such a significant name in the business.
“Lenovo does not have a bad brand but Motorola stands for a lot, especially in mobile,” said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Kantar WorldPanel. “It would be a shame to move away from that.”
The decision is likely a play to use the Moto lineup, which has been popular with some Android enthusiasts, to get consumers more acquainted with the Lenovo brand. Lenovo is the world’s largest PC maker, but it isn’t your first thought for phones and other mobile products.
Under one house
Osterloh and his business, which will keep the Motorola name from an organizational standpoint, will soon take over all mobile operations at Lenovo. This means bringing Vibe phones into markets where Moto exists, and vice versa.
In markets where the Lenovo name is strong, the company intends to introduce the Moto line as an upscale product. Motorola will use the relationships and sales channels in its territories to push Vibe phones that cost less than $100. Osterloh said he expects to bring the Vibe line to the US, though it’s unlikely that would occur this year.
“It didn’t make a lot of sense not to cover the markets top to bottom,” he said, comparing the strategy to how Old Navy and Banana Republic coexist (they’re both owned by Gap).