BGR Interview: Motorola’s Alain Mutricy on resurrecting the RAZR

Verizon Wireless on Friday released a class-leading smartphone that combines two of the biggest cell phone brands of the past decade into a single device. Verizon’s DROID line of smartphones played a huge role in making Android the global juggernaut it is today, and Motorola’s RAZR turned the wireless industry on its head in 2004, showing consumers that a cell phone can be both beautiful and functional. The decision to merge these brands into one single powerhouse was not made lightly, we can assure you, and the DROID RAZR will undoubtedly find itself atop plenty of wish-lists this holiday season. We recently sat down with Alain Mutricy, Motorola Mobility’s senior vice president of Portfolio and Product Management, to discuss this iconic device and why it is worthy of carrying the RAZR brand into the future. The full text from our Q&A with Mutricy follows below.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Alain. Let’s get right to it: I have one of Verizon’s first LTE smartphones, built by a Motorola competitor, sitting in a desk drawer in my office right now. This phone is barely five months old, but it’s more than half an inch thick and the battery life is terrible. How was Motorola able to make the DROID RAZR just half as thick as my old 4G phone without compromising battery life or other areas of the user experience?

At just 7.1 mm thin, DROID RAZR by Motorola is impossibly thin. We were able to accomplish this feat through our design innovation – a combination of materials and strategic design choices. For one, the device has a stainless steel core and is made with KEVLAR fiber, an extremely lightweight, yet durable, material. We also fit the device with a Super AMOLED Advanced display, and embedded the 1780 mAH battery and enabled micro-SIM. But we couldn’t just make it thinner and stronger – the next generation had to be smarter as well. That’s where the innovation in the software and user interface experience comes into play. We have a quadruple threat with MotoCast, Smart Actions, webtop and our Business Ready promise.

Kevlar has a great look to it and there are marketing benefits as well, but why were Kevlar, aluminum and Corning’s Gorilla Glass the right build materials for the DROID RAZR?

We wanted to build a device that could live up to the RAZR brand and carry on its legacy. Like the original, DROID RAZR by Motorola is super thin, super light and super innovative. We kept various elements of the original design, such as aluminum accents, but added new ones that the smartphone market hasn’t seen, such as KEVLAR fiber. KEVLAR is beautiful, strong and widely recognized as an indestructible material by consumers. We also stuck with a few tried and true materials that our smartphone consumers love, including Corning Gorilla Glass. It’s incredibly thin, yet holds up well to the common mishaps smartphones often endure.

Consumers seem to be very focused on the hardware aspects of the DROID RAZR, for obvious reasons, but let’s talk about the phone as a complete package. How important to the RAZR and future smartphones are Motorola’s various unique software solutions, such as Motocast and Smart Actions?

The DROID RAZR software experience is exceptionally important. Clearly, we wanted to create a beautiful device that would shock the market with its innovative design. I think we did that. But more importantly, we wanted to create a number of software experiences that simply make people’s lives easier. Let me talk about four of these innovations.

MotoCast lets you stream music, pictures and documents from your home or work computers — virtually anytime, anywhere — so content is always within reach. No uploading to a third-party site and everything stays protected, right on your computer. So if you bump into an old friend at the coffee shop and want to show off the pictures you took on your last vacation, it’s easy. Simply go into your gallery, select MotoCast and you instantly have access to all those great photos that are stored on your home computer.

Smart Actions has really been a surprise delight for people. It’s a software solution that takes care of the things you don’t always remember to do and helps automate other tasks. Whether you want to maximize the last ounce of power in the device, or simply see the music app as soon as you plug in headphones, Smart Actions enables users to get the most out of their devices.

And of course there’s webtop. This is Motorola’s revolutionary software solution that allows you to view what’s on the device on a larger screen. We first announced webtop with Motorola ATRIX back in January, and are again releasing it with DROID RAZR by Motorola. When you connect the device with one of several accessory devices – such as the Lapdock 100, HD Station or Travel Adaptor – you get the power to edit documents on a larger screen and browse the Web with a full Firefox browser, all while powering the device. Or, when you plug it into the HD Dock or HD Station to connect to your HDTV, speakers and other peripherals, you unleash large-screen entertainment all powered by the device.

Last, but certainly not least,  we know people want to use their phone at work. We also know what IT departments need in terms of security features. That’s where our “Business Ready” features shine–government-grade encryption, remote wipe and password enforcement for the IT department. And then there’s the ability to access email, calendars and addresses, or edit documents, for you.

The media seems to be mixed when it comes to various value-added solutions like your webtop software and Lapdock package. Has this laptop-like accessory combo been well-received by consumers?

With webtop, Motorola Mobility designed a product that is truly innovative and enables consumers to do much more with their smartphones.  We first announced webtop and the Lapdock accessory at CES 2011 and since then, we’ve announced a variety of new webtop-enabled accessories. As a result, we’ve seen growing adoption of webtop-enabled smartphones and their accessories, all with positive feedback from consumers.

How important to Motorola is innovation outside the smartphone itself, beyond just as a means of differentiation? Can we expect to see more innovative solutions  from Motorola like the Lapdock and MOTOACTV that move beyond your smartphones?

Of course! Our brand aims to empower people’s lives. Our vision is that the smartphone becomes the hub of your digital life. We constantly strive to innovate in ways that create unique, powerful experiences for all types of consumers. Software innovation is a primary focus for us. We want to create devices and user experiences that are intuitive, connected and meet the growing needs of consumers whose lives intertwine with work, play, social life and entertainment.

MOTOBLUR has been a very polarizing piece of Motorola’s Android puzzle ever since it was first introduced. Has Motorola taken the various criticism to heart? What key changes and refinements have been made to Motorola’s Android UI as it lives today on the DROID RAZR?

We always take consumer feedback to heart. As far as our user-interface design, consumers and reviewers alike have commented on the improvements we’ve made to the experience this year. The DROID RAZR software experience is truly remarkable and we’ve been very pleased with the response so far. Everything from the homescreen to every day smartphone applications – such as calendar, email and connected media gallery – are taken above and beyond the basic Android platform to ensure a delightful consumer experience.

You have gone on record in stating that the DROID RAZR will receive an update to Android 4.0 in early 2012. What exciting new features can we expect from the RAZR once it is upgraded with Ice Cream Sandwich? Will Motorola keep most of the same custom UI elements found in the DROID RAZR’s Gingerbread OS, or can we expect some surprises?

As soon as the ICS software is released to us, we’ll be able to provide more details. Stay tuned.

One final question, Alain: Starting with the DROID that debuted in 2009, Motorola has produced several iconic smartphones that helped Google’s Android OS become the global success it is today. When it comes to being worthy of the label “iconic,” few phones if any are more deserving than the original Motorola RAZR first introduced in 2004. Why is this new handset the right phone to reinvent the RAZR brand, and why is it the right smartphone to headline Verizon Wireless’ lineup this holiday season?

The original Motorola RAZR was undeniably an icon. Not only was it the thinnest handset of its time, it was the highest-selling feature phone ever. The new DROID RAZR by Motorola is the RAZR of the future. It combines two iconic brands, but also combines the wildly successful characteristics of the original device – thin, innovative, sleek – with Motorola’s revolutionary smartphone features available today. It’s the right phone to headline Verizon Wireless’ lineup this holiday season because it’s a step ahead of the class. We’ve integrated the fastest network technologies, powerful chipset technologies, and a large battery enabling best-in-class performance all in a super-thin design. And from an industrial design perspective, DROID RAZR by Motorola sports unique materials with sculpted glass, KEVLAR fiber and diamond-cut aluminum accents. On top of all this, this next generation device offers users one of the most innovative interfaces and software experiences available, including MotoCast, Smart Actions, webtop and delivering on the Business Ready promise. This holiday season, there’s no device on the market that compares.

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