BANGKOK, Thailand—Charged with calls to “challenge the status quo” and declarations that “different is better”, Motorola’s recent Asean launch of the new Moto Z2 Play here strayed from the ordinary, which means the brand stayed in character.
Almost a year after the wholly owned Lenovo subsidiary introduced its bold direction by going with a modular flagship model with the Moto Z family and the Moto Mods, which have been met with great success, Motorola is topping its own bar with its latest premium midrange smartphone that will be available in the Philippines sometime this month.
“[Motorola has become] really fresh and really bold. We want to go one step further with the Moto Z2 Play,” Lenovo Mobile Business Group (MBG) Executive Director and General Manager Augustin Becquet said during the launch at the Okura Prestige Hotel ballroom, where the host, performers and event models were dressed in bright colors, vigorous patterns and robust designs.
Asia Pacific Head of Motorola Sales Danny Adamopoulos, one of speakers at the launch, called the Moto Z2 Play “precision-crafted quality”, with emphasis on its even more svelte frame and smarter camera features.
The Moto Z2 Play comes in an all-metal unibody design with a 5.5” Full HD Super Amoled display, and measures 50-percent thinner (6 mm vs 7 mm) and 12-percent lighter (145 g vs 165 g) as compared to its predecessor, the Moto Z Play.
The new model packs a Dual Pixel 12 megapixel rear camera with next-gen laser autofocus and a 5 MP front lens with an 85-degree field of view and a dual color-corrected flash, ideal for wider and clearer selfies, even at night.
This optical power also comes with launch speed. With just a shake of the Moto Z2 Play, users will be brought to the camera, even without unlocking the phone. Twist and it goes to selfie mode. “This is the fastest camera on the market to access from your pocket to take a picture,” Adamopoulos said. “You will never miss a moment.”
He added that the “shake-to-take” quick-access camera mode is just one of the things they put under the hood to make their products stand out. These quirky software features are called Moto Experiences, and the Moto Z2 Play—which is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 626 processor with up to 2.2 GHz octa-core CPU, and runs on Android 7.1.1, Nougat—offers lots of it.
Among the simple commands are the “chop chop”, where flash can be switched on with just two downward chops of the device, and the quick activation of the Do Not Disturb mode by flipping the phone downward. It also comes with a Night Display feature that automatically adjusts the screen to warmer tones at night, reducing the blue light that can disrupt sleep.
There’s also the Moto Display program that previews notifications, pauses music and change tracks without the need to wake the phone. A single touch will do. Weather, calendar and notification updates, among others, can also be launched hands-free through the Moto Voice feature. According to Motorola’s web site, it works with the way users naturally speak.
Accessibility is also made easier with a one-button navigation to quickly move through screens. Swipe left to go back, right to access recent apps, tap to go home, use one long press to unlock. The redesigned fingerprint reader makes these actions possible. “There are no buttons to clutter the screen, giving a much better view,” Adamopoulos said.
Additionally, the fingerprint sensor of the Moto Z2 Play supports up to 10 fingerprints, while its fingerprint sensitivity registers entries at just 750 milliseconds, which stands as one of the fastest in the market.
Alongside the Moto Z2 Play at the launch was the slew of new Moto Mods.
At the top of the list is the second-generation JBL speaker with 10 hours of playback, and now made splash-proof. Next is the 3,490 mAh Turbopower Pack that gives turbo-charging capabilities off a battery pack. Within 15 minutes of snapping it on, this mod gives additional eight hours of standby. Existing battery packs are also enhanced with additional prints and styles.
Another is the new Style Caps that are given function to go with aesthetics, as it now supports wireless-charging capability.
But perhaps the new mod that garnered the biggest buzz at the launch was the Moto Gamepad. With a built-in 1035 mAh battery power, it transforms the device to a handheld gaming console, complete with dual control sticks, D-pad and four action buttons. It will be available later this quarter.
These new offerings add to the existing line of mods that include the Hasselblad True Zoom camera, the Moto Insta-Share projector, the Incipio offGRID Power Pack and the Incipio Vehicle Dock. Becquet said they are committed to releasing 12 mods per year.
Motorola executives vowed that the forward and backward compatibility of their mods runs for at least three generations of Moto Z products. “You definitely get the return on your investment over at least three life cycles,” Adamopoulos said.
Mod prices range from $29 to $300. According to Becquet, the price of the Moto Z2 Play (which has yet to be finalized in the Philippines, but local executives say it will play from the P25,000-P30,000 range), plus the most expensive mod is still, more or less, the same price of an iPhone, or even cheaper. “Instead of keeping your phone for 18 months on average, you can extend it to two to three years,” he said in a separate session at the launch event. “This is also an advantage of this concept: your phone can further evolve.”
Evolution, of course, is nothing new to the Motorola brand. Lenovo Group Holdings acquired Motorola Mobility LLC in 2015 from Google. Vice President of Asia Pacific Sales Lenovo MBG and Motorola Mobility Dillon Ye said that in the two-and-a-half years since their company underwent a “transformation”, they have been able to make strides.
They did this by simplifying the product portfolio of Lenovo and Motorola from 20 to 30 products yearly down to 12 to 14, which covers a full-price range. They’ve also implemented a geo-targeted approach and zeroed in on customer focus.
All this led to what Ye called a “solid growth” for the past 12 months. In that span, Motorola rose to No. 4 globally in the smartphone segment in terms of sale, selling three million Moto Z units. “There’s clearly a high catch rate of the Moto ecosystem and setup,” he added.
Asked what made their execution of the modular smartphone concept more successful compared to the dismal attempts of other companies, Adamopoulos said it was something they had been working on for some time.
“Mods are not a new concept; they’re just new to mobile. You see it in cameras and PCs,” he said. “Our mods concept had been in the pipeline for four years. We see mods as the future. It all comes down to longevity and sustainability.”
For 2017, Ye said they will continue to strive for operational excellence in class quality and customer service, including in Southeast Asia; focused expansion and investing further in their brand, anchored on being “bolder, louder, brighter”.
Becquet adds that with Motorola ranked at No. 4, they’re going to implement a step-by-step approach in terms of growth.
“Right now, the next step is No. 3. We want to keep the ‘challenger mind-set’. This is the most important thing for us,” he said. “The way we’re communicating is so fresh, so new and so different that we’re confident people will discover our offers and go back to the Motorola brand.”
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