Motorola Mobility (MMI) hasn't always seen as the most cutting-edge cell phone manufacturer, but it's slowly been waging war against Apple (AAPL) - and lately, Motorola's efforts seem successful. Motorola is fighting on multiple fronts: devices, advertising and intellectual property.
Motorola's newest devices, to an objective eye, are frankly superior to the iPhone. Its latest flagship phone, the RAZR Max, is the only phone of its kind to feature longer battery life than the iPhone. Even more impressively, it lasts longer than the iPhone while tapping Verizon's (VZ) 4G LTE network; there's no such thing as a 4G-enabled iPhone at this point. Additionally, its other technical specifications meet or exceed that of the iPhone, while the user experience (between Android and iPhone) is more a matter of opinion than something that can be objectively graded.
Motorola seems to be furthering this strategy based on leaked specs of a forthcoming Atrix 3, a phone that would likely be destined for AT&T (T) customers. The leaked details suggest that the phone will include the same battery as the long-lasting RAZR MAX, while enjoying a high-resolution screen and faster processor. Motorola's flagship phone at Sprint (S) is the Photon 4G, which will probably also be updated in the near future to have similar specifications.
Though touting battery life may seem to be silly, it actually may be one of the most important features of a phone and may be the deciding factor for some buyers when choosing a device. For anyone, it's annoying to have to charge a phone mid-day, but for a business traveler, it is a deal-breaker to regularly run out of battery while working. The RAZR Max's battery lasted 11 hours and 25 minutes during a standardized stress test (compared with the iPhone 4s's eight hours), but in more realistic situations it will last from the time one wakes up until he turns in for the night. In a field of iPhone competitors, that's a feature that no one else currently provides, and one that can change purchasing decisions.
Motorola is not afraid of advertising the strengths of its devices. The RAZR and RAZR MAX (and other 4g phones) were heavily advertised as any normal electronic device is, but recently, Motorola launched a newer campaign that takes aim at another one of the iPhone's supposed strengths - Siri. In videos that have appeared on YouTube, Motorola demonstrates that the software running on its devices (voice recognition plus underlying applications) is actually faster and better than the very hyped-up Siri. (I normally don't like to talk at my phone, but I used the voice navigation feature while driving alone in an unfamiliar city recently and it worked just as well as advertised in the video). While it's hard to tell from these videos if Siri or Motorola's technology is better overall, Siri's weaknesses are commonly known to the point where they are facing customer litigation, so Motorola's efforts to erode away at consumer confidence in Siri via campaigns may be a very effective strategy.
Lastly, Motorola is waging a patent war with Apple, largely being fought in German courts. The back-and-forth of the decisions is too complicated to thoroughly describe in this article, but at various times, in various courts, covering various patents, Motorola and Apple have each declared victory against the other. Most importantly is an ongoing matter in the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, where a decision was made regarding Motorola's 3G technology. The decision was positive for both sides - there will be no injunction against Apple 3G devices, but Apple seems likely to have to pay to license Motorola patents. When the matter is settled, the result is likely to be something very reasonable for both parties; for MMI investors, it's good for investors to know that its company's IP is solid. Additionally, Google (GOOG) seems interested in continuing this aggressive litigation strategy once it fully absorbs Motorola Mobility.
Apple is still unquestionably the leader in the smartphone industry, enjoying penetration, and more importantly, profits, beyond levels that other manufactures can dream of. Motorola is not even the strongest Android manufacturer - that honor belongs to Samsung (OTC:SSNLF), which has benefited from manufacturing many of the components of its own phones and competitors' devices and excellent innovation and design. But Motorola seems very well-positioned at the moment; its devices are arguably some of the best in existence, it enjoys promoting that information, and it has the ability to defend against intellectual property claims (and even wage IP offenses). Consumers should be excited that companies like Motorola Mobility exist, as they're advancing smartphone offerings - and Google (GOOG) shareholders should be excited about the absorption of the moment's most interesting smartphone manufacturer.