Are Android Phones Motorola’s Road to Redemption?

Motorola’s long-awaited Android phones are about to hit the market at last — one will reportedly go to Verizon, the other to T-Mobile. None of the three companies will comment on the devices, but the blog Android and Me has posted what it says are tech specs on both devices.

The Verizon device, called the “Sholes,” will focus on gaming, according to the site, while the T-Mobile phone, called the “Morrison,” will have GPS, a compass, email support and several other iPhone-like features.

The phones are an indication that Motorola is trying to claw its way back into a market it once dominated.

About the Sholes

The Sholes will ship with Eclair (a next-generation update of the Andoid OS), and it will focus on gaming.

“Sholes is going to be the new flagship device for Android in 2009,” wrote Taylor Wimberly on the blog.

Google is cooking up four versions of Android this year, according to Andy Rubin, who heads Google’s Android efforts. Android 1.6 is code-named “Donut,” and Android 2.0 is code-named “Eclair.” The third version is code-named “Flan,” and the fourth has yet to be named.

Donut and Eclair will take advantage of the most powerful processors on the market for features like 3-D gaming, Rubin said.

The Sholes will be powered by a 600-MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 3430 multimedia applications processor, which is the first device in TI’s OMAP 3 architecture, according to the specs posted. TI claims it delivers up to three times better performance than ARM11-based processors. It is the first applications processor to integrate the ARM Cortex-A8 superscalar microprocessor core, according to TI.

The OMAP 3430 incorporates IVA 2+, a second-generation, power-optimized version of TI’s imaging, video and audio accelerator used in TI’s DaVinci technology. It provides up to four times performance improvement in multimedia processing over previous OMAP processors. This could let users attach a multistandard DVD-quality camcorder to the phone.

The ARM’s vector floating-point acceleration combined with the OMAP 3430’s dedicated two- and three-dimensional graphics hardware accelerator provide “outstanding gaming capabilities,” according to TI.

Sholes smartphones will have 256 MB of RAM and 512 MB of ROM; an expansion slot that takes microSD and microSDHC cards; a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and video recorder; and GPS navigation.

The Sholes has a 3.7-inch touch-sensitive display with a resolution of 854 by 480 pixels and 16 million colors, according to the posted specs.

Verizon declined to comment on the device. “We do not speak to rumors about new products,” spokesperson James Gerace told LinuxInsider.

Morrison’s Supposed CPU Irks Android Fans

The Morrison will reportedly use a 528-MHz Qualcomm MSM7201A CPU, the same as T-Mobile’s current G-1 mobile phone.

The information on the Android and Me blog drew criticism.

“Same CPU as the G1? Seriously?” reader Phi commented.

“I agree with Phi,” wrote x9f. “Hella fail on the same CPU as G1 really Moto?”

However, Markie Mark defended the use of the CPU: “There’s a reason why all Android phones use the same CPU and it’s a valid one: It costs lots a $$ (sic) to put Android on another CPU.”

The Morrison will apparently have 256 MB of RAM and 512 MB of Flash ROM. It will support microSDHC cards of up to 32 GB and have a 320 by 480 HVGA display.

Its 5-megapixel camera has an image capture resolution of 2,560 by 1,920 pixels, according to the post. Features include autofocus; white balance; geotagging; and color effects. The camera has 5.4x digital zoom and a video recording resolution of 320 by 240 pixels (QVGA). It records videos at 25 frames per second.

The Morrison’s iPhone-like features include a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor and an accelerometer. It supports various email protocols and email attachments.

T-Mobile declined to confirm the Morrison’s features or reports that it would hit the shelves on Oct. 21.

“As a standard business practice, T-Mobile does not comment on rumors or speculation,” spokesperson Krista Berlincourt told LinuxInsider.

Will Android Save Motorola?

Morrison and Sholes alone might not be enough to help Motorola claw back much of a position in the mobile phone market that it ruled for years.

“These devices are just a start,” said Ramon Llamas, senior research analyst at IDC.

“Neither of them is the Motorola Razr, which was an iconic device when it was released back in 2005,” he told LinuxInsider.

“Motorola needs more than just a couple of Android phones to make a comeback,” Julien Blin, CEO and principal analyst at JBB Research, told LinuxInsider. “Most handset vendors except Nokia will offer Android phones in the coming years.”

Motorola ranked fourth among the major vendors in the IDC Mobile Phone Tracker Report for Q2, 2009, shipping 14.8 million mobile phones — less than half the 29.8 million shipped by third-placed LG. Second-place Samsung shipped 52.3 million units, and market leader Nokia shipped 103.2 million.

In Q2, 2009, Motorola had 5.5 percent of the market, down from its Q2, 2008, share of 9.2 percent.

However, Motorola did stem the bleeding, and IDC said it cut operating losses 50 percent from the previous quarter’s figures.

Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha, who is also CEO of the company’s mobile devices division, has been fighting to put that division back on its feet. Last month, Motorola hired William Ogle as chief marketing officer for its mobile devices business. Ogle was formerly chief marketing officer for Samsung Telecommunications America.

At Motorola’s Q2 earnings call last month, Jha said Motorola will release several more Android-based devices in the first quarter of 2010. It has also established a “very solid” working relationship with Google on the Android platform and ecosystem.

Motorola will unveil more Android smartphones for a broader set of price points, Jha said.

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