If there ever was a Cinderella story of the mobile industry, Motorola would be it. OK, maybe it hasn't quite slipped into the glass slipper, dispatched with the evil step-family and married the prince just yet. But it has — with the beloved Moto X, uber-popular Moto G and ridiculously budget-friendly Moto E — found itself back at the ball, at least. And while Motorola has had its share of dance partners, having been shuffled from Google to Lenovo, the story at least appeared to be playing out in the proper direction.
But the past week or so finds Motorola flirting dangerously near midnight.
It started with the launch of the new Moto 360 smartwatch. Motorola's e-commerce platform has never been the most robust — that's putting it mildly for anyone who's ever tried to order anything on launch day — but this year it at least appeared to hold up better.
That is, until a number of folks (myself included) received the following note from Motorola VP of E-Commerce Bjorn Kilburn, with the subject line "Sorry we're late":
I am very sorry we're late delivering your customized Motorola device. We experienced technical difficulties with our ordering and shipping system. We are working hard to get your device to you as soon as possible, and we will send you an updated estimated shipping date as soon as we can. I apologize for the inconvenience, and I am grateful for your patience.
And with that, the Moto 360 — some of them, anyway — hit a delay, and the horses started to turn back into mice.
A delay of a new product is one thing — abandoning others well before their time is another.
The bigger bombshell came this week, when Motorola announced which of its devices will be updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Here's that list again:
- 2015 Moto X Pure Edition (3rd gen)
- 2015 Moto X Style (3rd gen)
- 2015 Moto X Play
- 2015 Moto G (3rd gen)
- 2014 Moto X Pure Edition in the US (2nd gen)
- 2014 Moto X in Latin America, Europe and Asia2 (2nd gen)
- 2014 Moto G and Moto G with 4G LTE2 (2nd gen)
- DROID Turbo
- 2014 Moto MAXX
- 2014 Moto Turbo
- Nexus 6
Most notable, of course, is what's not listed there. There's no 2015 Moto E — Motorola's $119 entry-level smartphone that was released just this spring. It was updated from Android 5.0 to Android 5.1 in May, but that's it, apparently. No Marshmallow for you.
Same goes for some of the 2014 Moto X models. Specifically, models that aren't the Pure Edition. That is, the carrier versions of the phones. Have a Verizon or AT&T 2014 Moto X? You're screwed, confirms Moto Matt, the longtime semi-public face of Motorola's support forums.
And with that, the ballgown is starting to revert to rags.
If there is one bright spot here — and we can't really call it that other than we're getting an idea of another decision made in 2015 — it now makes a little more sense that Motorola's only selling the 2015 Moto X unlocked, outside of the carrier system.
Motorola is sending a good many of its customers home from the ball early, holding only pumpkins.
Testing updates — any update, be it a major one like from Lollipop to Marshmallow, or a "smaller" maintenance update — costs time, and money. There's the cost of the engineers to produce the update. And then there's the cost of a manufacturer getting its updated tested and approved by the operator. And to be clear, that's not a cheap process, either in terms of human resources, or the fee the carriers impose on the manufacturers.
So bypassing the U.S. carrier system and instead going it alone makes even more sense for the 2015 Moto X and Moto G, and presumably future versions of the Moto E (assuming there are any). That ultimately could prove to be a good thing for new Moto X owners. No waiting for carriers to test and approve updates (and when you have multiple manufacturers trying to get multiple updates for multiple phones approved, not everyone can be first). And no having to fork out thousands and thousands of dollars for the privilege. (Exact figures are unknown, but we've been told multiple times that it's not a trivial sum.)
That does little to assuage current owners of the Moto E and carrier versions of the 2014 Moto X. Motorola could reverse course, but as of now there's no reason to believe that will happen. Motorola has prided itself on transparency the past couple years when it comes to updates. It should give better detail as to why these phones won't be updated.
Because right now this Cinderella story is sending a lot of people home from the ball with pumpkins in their hands.
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