Motorola was the darling of the tech enthusiast world in 2014. Solid phones with simple but great software features, that were built well and available to everyone everywhere. They practically invented the great budget phone with the Moto G, then improved on it. Even people who were looking at (and buying) other phones had to appreciate the way Motorola changed from an average U.S. carrier OEM into an innovative company that built great things.
Things quickly changed through 2015. Poorly implemented updates, "rolling" release dates that made people who wanted to buy their phones and watches unable to do so and poor decisions left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
They can fix it. They really don't need our help here, because they know what's "wrong" as well as we do. But we're still going to discuss how they need to change in 2016, becasue we care.
1. Stop making so many different models
Moto needs to stop building multiple "flagships" and multiple versions of the same phones. They aren't Samsung, and don't have the resources to do it. Samsung should stop, too, but that's another article.
Having Style and Play and Pure versions of the Moto X, as well as the AT&T Moto whatever, the Verizon Moto whatever, Droid this and Droid that means you have a handful of phones all on a different software track with a limited number of people looking after them. This became clearly evident when U.S. carriers didn't feel the need to bring a Marshmallow update to last year's phones sold and shipped as new in 2015.
That's unacceptable. But it wasn't entirely Motorola's decision, because AT&T and the rest of the carrier cartel were the real customers in some of those cases.
Motorola needs to make carriers understand that plenty of people think a Motorola phone is a high-end product that deserves regular updates. They can't afford to stop making phones to sit on the shelves at the Verizon store, but what happened in 2015 can't happen again.
2. Let people know that they are buying carrier phones
Motorola does a really sneaky thing at Moto Maker — they still sell carrier versions of the 2014 Moto X that will not receive an OS update. They do it right alongside the 2015 models, with no mention that they are older models that are forever lost in time in regard to Android updates.
A few words explaining this to people — especially those willing to pay full price for an AT&T branded 2014 Moto X — isn't hard to put on a website. Not doing so feels a little dishonest, and they are better than that. At least most of the 2015 models are unbranded and unlocked, minus the Droids that nobody should be looking for.
3. Use the power of your Soak Tests
Motorola has a really great way to beta test Android updates called a Soak Test. People can volunteer to test potentially bad software and give feedback on how it works. Moto gets great feedback, and tech nerds get the latest software faster. Win-win.
But often times we see a Soak Test quickly followed by a general release that didn't give testers enough time to properly break stuff. That means people who don't want to fool with buggy software are stuck doing it anyway.
Bugs happen, but Moto has the best method to deal with testing. Go back to multiple soaks and give each a little breathing room.
4. Be honest about your cameras
Every year someone from Motorola promises that this model has the best camera ever. Then we all get to complain because it wasn't true.
Motorola has come a long way, and the camera on the 2015 models was acceptable for most of us. They weren't the best, but they were a nice addition that can take good pictures most of the time. That's not a bad thing. Promising more than you can deliver is a bad thing.
Stop doing that. People who are looking for the best camera aren't going to be impressed unless it really is the best camera, and aren't going to buy a Moto phone. The competition may be doing better work on the camera than Moto is doing, but there are still plenty of people who find the cameras on 2015 Moto phones more than adequate.
Chances are the things that were said on stage manufacture a bit of buzz that's quickly diminished by real examples. This doesn't help anyone.
5. Keep the focus on budget-friendly models
We have Motorola to thank for all the sub-$400 phones that don't suck. The Moto G was a breakthrough here, and the entire industry took notice. Expect to see really good, cheap phones from Samsung and LG in 2016, and even better phones from companies like Alcatel Onetouch or ASUS. And that's awesome.
But there is always room to improve. Motorola has said more than once that the Moto G was their best selling smartphone ever. People who use one know why — it does what it needs to do and doesn't hurt your wallet.
I'm sure there are people chained to desks tasked with the job of making the 2016 Moto G even better. Nurture those people and do whatever it takes to make it happen.
What do you think Motorola can do to get better in 2016? Comments are open!