Last week, it was announced the iconic Motorola brand is being phased out by Lenovo, who bought Motorola Mobility from Google in 2014. The company is not disappearing, but its products will no longer bear the Motorola name, instead “Moto by Lenovo” for higher-end phones and Lenovo’s Vibe moniker for the lower-end.
It’s certainly not the end of the world, and given the strong efforts Motorola put forth in its first year under Lenovo, fears of the company’s quality slipping after the acquisition has diminished. Still, it’s a sad day knowing one of the most venerable brand names will no longer be in use. To celebrate its legacy, let’s take a look back at some of Motorola’s best products in its long, storied history.
Smartwatches still haven’t hit their stride, but Motorola was one of the first companies to prove digital wearables could be as beautiful as their mechanical counterparts. The original Moto 360 was the first smartwatch that excited people with its looks, but lacked proper battery life and performance to convince many to take the plunge. The second generation is undoubtedly one of the best wearables ever made, taking the top spot on our Best of 2015 list thanks to its updated processor and improved battery life. Add in the ability to customize via Moto Maker, and the Moto 360 is a clear win. The smartwatch form factor is not a necessity for most, and it may never be, but Motorola’s effort has always been a strong example of why the gadget should exist.
It’s easy to forget, given the rise of Apple, Samsung and Google in the age of the smartphone, but Motorola was the progenitor of the mobile phone. One of its best early efforts was the StarTAC, the first-ever clamshell/flip phone which improved on the MicroTAC’s semi-clamshell design and gave users a truly lightweight, portable cell phone. More importantly, though, the StarTAC sold. It was one of the first mass adopted mobile phones, selling more than 60 million units.
The DynaTac 8000X was where it all began. The first truly mobile phone. A massive brick that came in at a whopping $3,995 (nearly $10,000 today), the DynaTac line of devices was revolutionary because of its (now considered bulky) size, which was actually incredibly slim for its day as similar devices were installed in cars or large briefcases. It was the first mobile telephone that could connect to networks without the assistance of a mobile operator, allowing users to carry it wherever they pleased. Though comical by today’s standards, the DynaTAC 8000X was a milestone for mobile devices, and has remained in the cultural lexicon (it made an appearance in a recent KFC commercial) for decades.
After success in the early 2000s, Motorola lost its envied place in the mobile phone world once Apple changed the game with the first iPhone. The company lost $4.3 billion from 2007 to 2009 and was then divided into two independent companies, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions. The former took on the pioneering handset business, and eventually found some footing in the smartphone industry with the Droid line. The real turnaround, though, came when Motorola Mobility was acquired by Google in 2012. Under Google, Motorola was able find a fresh new image with the “Moto” brand, led by the original Moto X in 2013. The first generation was a successful appetizer for future Moto products, helping introduce the Moto Maker concept and new Motorola identity.
Later editions, particularly the second generation, were sizable advancements from the original, with beefed up specifications, better camera performance and satisfying build quality. The 2014 edition of the Moto X was such a significant improvement it even pushed one critic to call it the “best Android smartphone ever made.” Beyond its own accomplishments, the Moto X is important for creating the entire Moto line, which has spawned fantastic budget phones in the Moto G and E, a top-notch smartwatch and an overall clear vision for the company. If the early efforts under Lenovo are any indication, such as the Moto X Pure and latest Moto 360, the forthcoming devices to bear the Moto name should be of similarly high quality.
Despite all the good the Moto line has done for Motorola the last few years, it’s tough to choose anything but the RAZR V3 as the best product to come from Motorola. Simply put, the RAZR V3 set the world on fire, ushering in an era where your phone wasn’t just a useful tool, but a statement. Impressively thin for its time, the V3 was the epitome of cool and in its four year run it was a massive success for Motorola selling more than 130 million units, making it the best-selling clamshell phone of all time.