[Op-Ed]What is Motorola doing?

On September 5th Motorola announced their newest flagship phones the Droid Razr HD and the Droid Razr MAXX HD (along with the mid-level Droid Razr M).  Both have a dual-core S4 processor with an Adreno 225 GPU, a pentile matrix 4.7″ 720p HD display (you can find my feelings on pentile matrix screens here), on-screen buttons, a kevlar back plate, 1 GB of ram, 32GB of internal storage, an SD card slot, and an 8MP camera.  The only difference between the two is the capacity of the battery (2500mah for the HD, 3300mah for the MAXX) and a very slight bump in thickness for the MAXX (9.4mm vs. 8.4mm).  Motorola didn’t announce a release date and simply said both phones “will be out before the holidays.”  As I sat at my computer watching the press conference all I could think was what is Motorola doing?

(Photos courtesy of motorola.com)
Neither phone is bad per se, but rather 6 months or so late to the party.  The HTC One X sports the same processor, a better screen, the same 1GB of ram, a better camera and was released back in May.  Ditto for the Samsung Galaxy S III except it has a pentile matrix screen similar to the Razr HD and an extra 1GB of ram.  It was released in June.  In essence Motorola announced flagship phones that were at best equal to what the competition had released 5-6 months earlier.
Motorola seems to be hanging its hat on larger battery capacity being the most important factor to buyers.  While this is indeed one of the most important factors for potential buyers, the days of LTE phones draining a battery in 4-6 hours like the HTC Thunderbolt are long gone.  The introduction of the 28nm Krait S4 processor with an integrated LTE modem on board has lead to a massive increase in battery life.  The One X and Galaxy S III both have no problem making it through a day of normal use.
Even if Motorola is aiming for the battery conscious buyer, why introduce both the Razr HD and the Razr MAXX HD?  The difference in thickness between the two is less than 1mm and most consumers probably wouldn’t even notice.  Given the significant difference in capacity why would anyone opt for the Razr HD?  
Is this enough of a difference to justify two separate models?
(Photo courtesy of pocketnow.com)
The only reason I can think of is price.  My guess is that Verizon prices the Razr HD at $199.99 and the Razr MAXX HD at $299.99 on contract.  Why anyone would pay that for either when they could pick up a Galaxy S III for $149.99 or an iPhone 5 for $199.99 is completely beyond me.  That’s not even taking into consideration options like the Galaxy Nexus for $49.99 or the forthcoming slew of amazing phones that will be out before the end of the year on Verizon including the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 ($299.99), the HTC Droid Incredible X ($199.99 or $299.99), and the LG Optimus G ($199.99) all of which feature superior specifications including quad-core processors, 1.5-2GB of ram and true RGB 720p or 1080p screens.
HTC Droid Incredible X
Samsung Galaxy Note 2
LG Optimus G
(Photos courtesy engadget.com)
Motorola doesn’t make bad products, but they also don’t make compelling ones.  Their history with consumers isn’t great and they have some ground to make up in the reputation department (a topic for a separate article).  Their phones are solid and feature nice materials but they are constantly behind the competition in key areas like screen quality, ram, and especially cameras.  Packing huge batteries into their phones is novel, but isn’t enough to battle the big boys.  The competition is fierce and releasing yesterday’s flagship at today’s price isn’t the way back to profitability.  

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