Category: "Android"

Android, Motorola, and the Patent Wars


Ever since the arrival of the Motorola Droid, hailed as the first serious Android contender to the iPhone, changing the smartphone (or rather app phone) landscape forever (and arguably not to the advantage of Apple), I have been a Motorola Droid user. I had 2 units of the original Droid, then at my 3rd Droid 2 Global.

Overall, I should say I am generally happy with both the platform and the hardware. There are of course glitches and frustrations, which I think is unavoidable to some extent with such gizmos (at least knowing me they are), but in general there are no major reasons for me to move away from this combo that I have relied on for almost 2 years.

Why, some of you might ask, do I all of a sudden seem like brand loyal diehard, when I have made the point so many times before that it is always the actual facts, functions, and needs that determine for me what I buy, no matter who makes it. My motto was "zero brand loyalty". Also, you might ask, why on earth would anyone stick with Motorola, when fancier and flashier Android competitors are abound with better and brighter alternatives? Take, for example, Samsung. Don't they have the "super AMOLED", a screen that is praised as ~30% brighter than any other company's best display option and the only touchscreen technology choice today, which can produce a visible interface on a smartphone in direct sunlight? Or take HTC! There does not seem to be a month go by when they don't come out with something jaw dropping. Specs are following some dizzying exponential accelerating hardware curve, set out by HTC for themselves (and for the rest of the market to follow). It is incredible what they can put together, technologically, in a phone. Google itself is turning to these (Samsung, HTC) for manufacturing its own "Google" phones, the Nexus series, not Motorola.

If you look at the article, however, I think you might get a sense as to (in part) why this newly embraced "brand loyalty" towards Motorola. I mean I do like them in general: I had several Motorola phones way before the smartphone era, and I do believe they do an outstanding, truly highest quality job when it comes to manufacturing. Reliable, business grade, sturdy, dependable are just some words that occur to me thinking of their manufacturing.

However, that is irrelevant here. Manufacturing is expected to be pretty perfect today anyway, technological perfection is a minimum from any of the main Android manufacturers. Patent portfolios aren't equally perfect across the board, though. As pretty much every one of the main Android device makers are tangled in a patent lawsuit (or usually multiple suits) with Apple, who has launched on an ultimate mission to exterminate all its competitors with patent-based weaponry; actually the strength of patent portfolios will weigh in tremendously and determine how exactly the apps phone world will look the day after tomorrow.

At a minimum, Motorola (and maybe only Motorola) can fend for itself, when it comes to legal challenges in the patent arena. In that regard, if you look at all the various Android makers, Motorola stands out by a mile. Pundits have been evaluating Apple's patent assault strategy. HTC was obvious. Small patent portfolio, easy target. Samsung was another must-have target, especially considering the danger it poses with its super AMOLED display and the resulting phenomenal performance on the market. Certainly these fights are showing results, just look at Vodafone's decision to suspend sales of the Samsung Galaxy tab in Europe. It was generally assumed that Apple will not go after Google itself any time soon, as that "clash of the titans" may be a bigger piece than what even Apple can swallow and, albeit that conflict clearly building up, has the dubious prospect of total annihilation of one or the other giant.

Instead, switching gears from small targets to larger beasts, perhaps testing the waters for the ultimate clash, now it seems Apple decided to go after Motorola (Xoom, in Europe), which will definitely be a major test of my assumption (in which I generally concur with the writer of the linked article that Motorola is patent-invincible). Motorola is most certainly a formidable opponent in any patent fight when it comes to phones. Just as explained in the linked article, it can well be the last bastion, even after Google (!), in the Android wars.

In any case, I remain assured, for now anyway, that nobody will announce tomorrow that the sales of Motorola Android based phones are halted until further court order. As to HTC, Samsung, etc devices, well, I am not so sure...