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You haven’t launched a proper flagship phone in years. A long time ago, you captured the world’s attention, but those glory days are behind you. Your knees ache, your back aches, your Mods ache. You’re just not the vibrant, nimble smartphone manufacturer that you used to be. These days you get by selling serviceable entry level and mid-range phones.
But wouldn’t it be great to try again? To shoot for the moon and land among the stars? So, you get to work. You know it can take a couple years to get a new kind of smartphone off the ground. That’s how long it took to crank out the Moto X after Google bought you. You plan to release the Z4 in the meantime, but your heart really isn’t in it. Maybe that foldable thing will be ready, soon but who knows? You want to do something real. Something ambitious. Like the old days.
It’s maybe 2018 when you start planning. What are people going to want from a real flagship in 2020? Definitely that new 5G-capable Snapdragon 865 the chip guys are working on. Throw a ton of RAM in there. Up to 12GB. And a 5,000 mAh battery, make that thing last all day. And let’s do that triple camera thing, give one of them a nutty 108MP sensor. Oh, and give it a 90Hz curved edge display. Best of all, it'll have a mfing headphone jack. That should at least get you in the same ballpark as some of the biggest phones.
All of that sounds like it might add up to a pretty expensive phone, but that’s okay. It’s 2018 and Apple just released that iPhone X, proving people will spend $1,000 on phones. It’s a risk, but it’s gonna pay off. It’s gotta pay off. Besides, you’ll make a slightly less powerful little brother. It’ll be okay. It’s fine.
Then 2020 rolls around. Everyone’s talking about your foldable phone, and that’s great. Sort of. But it’s finally time to unveil your flagship for the masses. You’ve been preparing for this. You’re ready. You’re gonna blow them away.
Except...while you were getting ready, the market started to change. It’s not that nobody buys expensive phones anymore, but the industry hit something of a peak. Maybe Apple’s the only one who could really get away with selling a $1,000 phone, sometimes. Maybe phones are just phones now. Whatever. There’s no time to think about that right now. You’ve already got the mid-range market covered. It’s time to launch a flagship and get back into the high-end gam--
Oh my god...
You were hoping to show off your new flagship at Mobile World Congress, but...that’s not happening. Should you do your own smaller event? Smaller events with just a few hundred people are oka--wait, no they’re not now. Well, maybe just someone presenting to an empty room and you can pretend there’s an audience and--oh, Sony did it and it didn’t go well.
Maybe...maybe just an online event will be fine. Yeah, it’s fine. Go ahead and schedule one for April. Hopefully things will have calmed down a bit by then and it will be possible to cut through the noise.
But will people want this phone? Will people want any phone? You were banking so hard on something high end appealing to phone buyers. Now, a 108 megapixel sensor feels so pointless when all you can take a picture of is your living room. Is it too late to put a free roll of toilet paper in the box? Maybe Zoom is interested in a partnership.
You can’t not sell a phone. Your business is making phones, after all. This is what keeps your people employed. This is no time to stare down the well of self-pity. Yes, some people can't afford your expensive, high-end phone. Maybe most people can't. Maybe a lot more people can't afford it than you were hoping, and this is the one year that going the mid-range, affordable route is the better strategy. Maybe this year will be the worst possible year to launch an expensive phone since modern smartphones have existed. But finding the people who can buy your expensive phone is what’s going to keep your employees on the payroll. So suck it up. Put on the show.
But it wasn’t supposed to be this way. This was supposed to be the year that you launched a cool new flagship phone. It was supposed to be the year you launched a foldable phone. Those were supposed to be your big stories.
Google I/O was supposed to happen next month. The Olympics were supposed to happen in Tokyo this year. That New Mutants movie that’s been delayed for literally years was finally supposed to come out at the beginning of April.
Imagine being Motorola.
Imagine trying to do something normal. Like launch a smartphone. Or watch a movie. Or talk to your friends. Imagine trying to do some version of the things you would normally be doing like things haven’t changed. Things have changed, of course. But you didn’t know that things would change way back when you made the decisions that led you to where you are now. And this is the world you have to live in.
You’re not going to be able to sell $1,000 phones to a lot of people. Even if you might’ve before, it’s not happening now.
Things are different. We’re all different. Everything is going to be hard for a while. And it’s okay to be disappointed, or sad, or angry, that things aren’t normal.
I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure how much of this article is about Motorola.