Motorola launches Razr in Thailand

23 Dec 2011

Motorola Mobility has launched its newest, thinnest Android phone into the Thai market, the new Razr, putting a lot of emphasis on its past history of firsts and trend setting high hopes to revitalise its image.

Somchai Sittichaisrichart, Managing Director of distributor SIS-Qool, set the tone and explained how the total market for smartphones in Thailand in 2011 just fell short of two million due to the extended flooding.

Of the market, smartphones only account for around 20% of phones, hence ample room for growth. 2012 will see three out of every ten phones sold to be smartphones and comfortably over two million devices sold. He said that some analysts expectations of 30% to 50% smartphone market share in Thailand was overly optimistic.

Tablets will also see a huge boost in mind share from the Thai government’s “one tablet per child” program (but ended up only giving one tablet to primary one students, and only in schools that were deemed ready, rather than for each child as per the election posters). Unfortunately, Motorola has not yet decided on a launch date for the Xoom 2 in Thailand, promising only a vague Q1 in Southeast Asia.

Android is where the momentum is and accounted for 40%+ of sales in 2011. iOS is still strong. BlackBerry is still growing in terms of absolute numbers but the momentum is gone. But his strongest criticism was for Windows Phone.

“I tell my partners not to bother with it unless they introduce support for the Thai language,” he said.

Interesting insight from one of Thailand’s largest distributors who obviously has his hand on the pulse of things.

Meanwhile, back to the star of the show. Robert Van Tilberg Senior Regional Sales Director, South Asia, Mobile Devices, Motorla Mobility launched the phone itself. The specs are pretty impressive if not exactly headline news: 1.2 GHz dual-core, 1 GB RAM, a big (but not replaceable) 1,780 mAh battery, gorilla glass 4.3 inch qHD Super AMOLED screen all in a slim 7.1 mm body (excluding the camera bulge) with a kevlar back. Ice Cream Sandwich is promised for a vague “sometime in 2012.”

What stood out was the fact that it was splash-proof and that Motorola had gone out of its way to maximise battery life with an intelligent agent that turns off various wireless radios whenever possible, claiming 30% more battery life.

But in these days of (gingerbread) cookie cutter phones, design alone is not enough to stand out. The Razr's unique selling point is called MotoCast. Billed as a personal cloud it allows the user to run an agent on a PC and then stream media and documents direct to the phone when needed. A good idea, but one can only wonder about the risks in opening up all one’s personal data on a PC to a new attack vector.

Motorola partnered with AIS in launching the phone, but in a country where SIM-locking is not allowed, partnering is not like in the west. Live Razrs will be available in 35 AIS shops for prospective users to try out.

AIS is investing heavily to deal with the explosion of data. In 2011 the telco invested ten billion Baht ($320 million) in network improvements, a quarter of that going into its 900 MHz 3G network. The 2012 figures will be announced in January.

But to solve the bottlenecks from data explosion, AIS, along with other telcos, is betting on Wi-Fi hand-off. Wi-Fi networks now cover most shopping malls, parks and university campuses, even in remote up-country locations. In total, AIS has rolled out 50,000 hotspots so far and is part of the new WiFi alliance of all the major telcos.

Poomjai Krittiyanon, AVP for Smartphone marketing at AIS also said that the strength that a telco brings to the partnership is in terms of customisation and availability of Thai content. For instance, AIS has a music store and bookstore with a number of magazines at 30% off the newsstand paper-copy price.

But is price alone a compelling enough reason to buy an e-magazine? And is the lock-in that the telco wants from purchased content working? Or is it actually dissuading subscribers from buying content because of fear of lock-in?

Motorola still ships its phones with locked bootloaders, while some of the competition has embraced the unlocking, rooting, custom-ROM community with open arms. Sony Ericsson and Samsung in particular going out of their way to embrace custom rom development. As for Motorola, the official line is that they are aware of the need, but the bootloader remains locked for now.

One big problem with its Atrix predecessor that was highlighted by a member of the media at the launch was because the Atrix shipped with Swype as part of the locked system partition, it was impossible to install a new beta version of Swype on top. The pre-loaded version did not support Thai, and thus the Thai-enabled beta could not be installed. This apparently came as news to the executives gathered at the launch and the standard, “we will take this technical question offline” answer was played. Unlocking and rooting would allow deletion of the pre-installed keyboard, but Motorola is obviously not going to do that for a small niche market any time soon.

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