The Droid X2, the Droid 3, the Photon 4G, the Droid Bionic, the Atrix II, the Droid Razr. Six phones, six months. Any one of them could be considered flagships based on their specifications, yet none have had the time to establish themselves as such. Another Motorola phone keeps popping up. Debut, debut, debut. The phones are good. No one doubts that. But I’ve yet to hear any of the phones lauded as premier handsets, and I’m pretty sure I know why.
It’s not that they’re bad phones, nor that they’re feature-incomplete. They’re just not finished. It’s so insanely hard to built something great, something so finely put together that it sings when you hold it. So its beyond me why Motorola thinks they can build one great device every month. It seems that there is an industry-wide reluctance on the manufacturer side of things to take that extra step to polish the phone, to really fill in the cracks and make the handset outstanding. Let’s take the Razr as a case study. Regardless of how poorly it photographs, I’m actually quite smitten by the hardware. It has solid build quality, unique design, good camera, and an absolutely horrific pentile display. The failure to pull all of these elements together is not unique to Motorola, and its very rarely something so obvious as the display. It’s usually something less tangible that’s lacking, but when a product goes through such rushed development, the missing piece -whatever it may be – is noticeable.
It seems that the strategy of most manufacturers is to toss out a fleet of phones and hope that one sticks. However, not all companies have such rapid-fire releases. Apple, Nokia and RIM are three such companies that have slower-than-average release schedules. They are also known for building great hardware. This is no coincidence. It is an obvious conclusion to draw that added time, effort and resources result in better phones. The result is also a more pleasant experience for consumers. Aside from a carrying a greater degree of quality, I can also expect one of these phones to be proudly running the company’s flag for more than a few months. I can purchase a phone with the satisfaction of knowing it won’t be outdated next month. With companies such as Motorola, I can expect them to build a phone, then either iterate on it or have another similarly specced phone out in a month. Its truly surprising, because in an era and OS that is occupied by devices all sporting similar specs, design should be a true differentiator.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to produce a better-than-average device every 6 months. You can, and companies like Motorola and HTC consistently do put out good hardware. But it’s just that, good, and nothing more. What if they were to really take the time to iron out the kinks in their phones, to really polish the look and feel of their devices? You can be sure that the comparative time and resources put behind the development of the Nokia N8, original iPhone and Blackberry Bold were greater than the time and resources that funded the development of the Vivid or the Droid 3. One would at least hope so.
Nokia lost its step, but not by fault of its hardware. They’ve always taken great pride in their design and overall quality, and the media barrage being released to promote the Lumia 800 makes it quite clear that they’re still very proud of what they’ve accomplished on this front.
It’s time that other manufacturers start taking similar pride in their work, abandoning good phones for the pursuit of great phones.