Catching Up With Motorola's Symbian Plans

Published by at

Ewan and Rafe caught up with Bill Werner, Motorola's Vice Preseident in charge of 3G Products, at 3GSM in Cannes to find out about the new A1010 and Motorola's involvemnt and thoughts of Symbian OS and the other main platforms.

Motorola probably have second place in the market share of UIQ devices after Sony Ericsson. The A1000 series phone son the Hutchinson Telecom 3G Network, ‘3’ in the UK are the high end, maximum spec devices. Running Symbian OS and UIQ, Motorola have invested heavily to get the A1xxx series into pole position as 3G devices. With 3GSM seeing the launch of the A1010, Rafe and I caught up with Bill Werner, the 3G VP at Motorola, to ask about the A1010 and all things Symbian.

Unlike the Nokias of this world, Motorola have been involved with every Mobile Phone Operating System out there, including Symbian, Windows Mobile and Linux. What’s the story behind that? "Motorola are active in all the markets around the world," explains Bill, "and our customers [the Network Operators] have a lot of varied tastes." It makes sense to offer the networks what they would like – this seems to be the common theme at 3GSM this year. The A1xxx series of phones are pitched as high-end 3G devices, and when we were looking around to decide on the Operating System for those devices, we chose what was the best solution. And that was UIQ and Symbian OS."

Motorola rather spectacularly (in the eyes of some commentators) withdrew as a Symbian partner in 2003, but continued to use Symbian OS as a licencee. "This reflects our platform agnostic approach," Bill says. "If you step back from having a direct investment with one company, you gain more flexibility in the Operating System choice for certain markets and customers. That’s what the Motorola approach is. The relationship with Symbian is unchanged day to day, and certainly on the developer side of things, the agreements for enhancements and evolutionary changes haven’t seen any obstacles.

We’ll continue to see the UIQ interface in the A1xxx series of phones, and this range is growing at 3GSM, with the launch of the 3GSM. What’s new in this device? "Wi-Fi" announces Bill, which is impressive given that you’d hope Motorola would put this on the spec sheet. It’s been rumoured to carry this, and while there’s a certain crossover in the functionality between 3G and Wi-Fi, it’s something that proves popular with a lot of travellers. What does this do to the battery life, though?

With any phone, adding new features will always have a detrimental effect on the battery. But there is a need for the manufacturer to keep the battery life at an acceptable level. We realised with the A1000 that there would be a lot of high demand applications, such as Video Calling, so it shipped with a very large battery to take account of this. As well as the thinking behind the battery, we’ve been working with Symbian at the OS and Kernel level to ensure that the new features in the A1010 would have as little impact on the battery as possible. To sum up, there is a concern, but Motorola feel that what we’ve done is going to be in that acceptable range for the end-user.

Along with adding Wi-Fi capability, there’s nothing else obviously new. "We’ve taken advantage of a lot of enhancements in the OS, and the A1010 is now a more mature and stable product than the A1000. "A lot of our customers feedback has driven these changes." So it’s more an evolutionary change from a strong base than big flash jumps in technology, as some manufacturers will attempt.

Other than 3, the A1010 is going to be appearing on a number of other 3G networks in the world. We didn’t get any names, but appearances in early 2006 are likely. 3 is talking about a Q3 2005 launch for the A1010, so those dates probably fit in with a period of exclusivity for the UK 3G network.

Motorola are clearly pushing to get 3G into the mainstream, where they think their early adoption and investment in 3G handsets will pay off. Symbian OS is going to be a big pat of that. It’s unlikely that they’ll push UIQ devices to the mid range and mass market (that’s what they have the Linux and Java based platforms for). While other handset manufacturers struggle with their first generation 3G smartphones, Motorola will probably be hard at work on the successor to the A1010, with all the knowledge gained from their early entry. It should be fun to watch, because if the A1010 can break America, that’s a huge market for Motorola… and Symbian.

Rafe's also taken a look at the Motorola A1010 in this article...