Motorola Inc.’s Motoblur service for Android-based smart phones is coming soon to Canada. The content delivery service will arrive on three Motorola handsets – the Quench from Rogers Communications Inc., the Dext via Telus Corp. and the Backflip through Bell Canada Inc.
Launch dates haven’t been announced, but the devices are scheduled to become available in the first half of this year. The national Motoblur campaign will kick off on May 17, said Rick Gadd, vice-president of mobile devices business for Motorola Canada, at a recent press event in Toronto.
Motoblur, which runs on top of Google Inc.’s Android mobile OS, aggregates contacts, activities and messages from various online sources, like social networking sites and Web-based e-mail accounts, into unified streams and databases of information on Motorola devices. Motoblur widgets allow users to interact with the external sites without having to open additional apps or browsers.
Contacts, for example, are merged into a single database on the phone and kept current through automatic syncing and real time updates. Select a contact from the address book and you view not only their contact information, but also their latest status update, profile picture and a complete record of your communication history.
The “social status” widget lets you update a status on multiple sites at once. The “messages” widget merges e-mail, text and social site messaging into single threads. The “happenings” widget merges activity like status updates, wall posts, friend feeds and photo uploads from multiple locations into a one live stream.
Motoblur also supports various battery modes so you can opt, for example, for things like longer life or better performance. Broadband is used more efficiently by reducing the need to visit and load Web sites through a browser.
An online portal for Motoblur allows users to remotely wipe data off phones or use GPS tracking to pinpoint the location of a phone in the event of loss or theft. The service also performs backups of contact information, messaging, log-in details and customization settings, which you can automatically transfer over to a new Motorola device.
Motoblur is Motorola’s “secret sauce,” said Gadd. “With Motoblur, we are focused on differentiating the Android experience … and delivering a unique experience that is not only different but compelling,” he said.
The service currently supports Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync.
Users can continue to add whatever other applications they want from the Android market, said Sue Forbes, vice-president of apps and experiences at Motorola, at the event. “All of this is based on Android — what we’ve done is extended that operating system with Motoblur,” she said.
Forbes does see potential for Motoblur-supported smart phones within the enterprise. Motorola has provided the right security mechanisms for the enterprise to be comfortable with the devices, she said. Messages are fully secure, the password controls are set up so IT managers can have the password controls and enterprises can remotely wipe devices independently of end users, she said.
Palm Inc.’s webOS, a mobile OS that runs on the Palm Pre smart phone, also integrates information such as contacts and calendars from multiple sources. But the global Motoblur service differentiates itself from the market by supporting more sources and more aggregation, according to Forbes. It also breaks down the barriers between the different applications, she said.
Motorola is differentiating its hardware through value-added and unique software, which was the original promise of Android in the first place – to allow hardware vendors to differentiate their products, said Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst based in Toronto. “Motorola clearly has gotten the Google Android message and is taking it to heart,” he said.
Motoblur is basically a widget platform, and what you use that platform for is entirely up to you, said Levy. “The first generation … is focused on developing social media convergence capability, but there’s nothing that says in the future, savvy developers won’t be able to use this platform for other purposes that are more enterprise-focused,” he said.
HTC Corp. remains a formidable competitor, with its broad product line with so many carriers on so many platforms, but Motorola will eat into HTC’s marketshare through innovations like Motoblur, said Levy. “Right now, the perception is that HTC delivers excellent hardware, but the software stack isn’t uniquely differentiated. Motorola is taking a very different direction,” he said.
“Motorola doesn’t have the broadest handset offering yet, but through differentiated software platforms like this, it hopes to create a name for itself and compete with HTC … on its own terms,” he said.
Levy sees Motorola positioning itself for longer-term success. “They are looking beyond the near term, which is nice to see because the company lost its way for a while, but now obviously, they are thinking much more strategically,” he said.
Motorola recently experienced an advertising setback in the U.K. after rival INQ mobile filed a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over Motorola’s claim to have “the first phone with social skills.” The ASA found Motorola’s claim misleading and upheld the ruling, according to Martin Gaston, who covers the story on a ZDNet UK blog.
“Motorola said to the ASA the claim ‘was not a claim at all, since it expressed no objectively measurable statement of fact’ and that ‘there was no measurement to determine if the phone had social skills, indeed, inanimate objects such as phones could not possess social skills,’” writes Gaston.
The Dext is a 3.1-inch touch screen phone with a slide-out keyboard that has a built-in spring mechanism, 5MP camera and runs Android 1.5. Motorola took its time perfecting the keyboard on the Dext, which resembles the layout of a game controller, said Neal Foster, director of product management for Motorola Canada.
The Blackflip is a 3.1-inch touch screen phone with a “reverse” flip keyboard and touchpad on the back of the screen so your fingers don’t get in the way when navigating. By flipping the keyboard, the phone screen can remain vertical while resting on a tabletop, which is handy for slideshows or operating as an alarm clock. It runs Android 1.5 and includes a 5MP camera.
The Quench is 3.1-inch touch screen smart phone that runs Android 1.5 and supports Adobe Flash Lite, pinch-and-zoom, and includes a trackpad button and a 5MP camera with digital zoom and LED flash.
One music feature streams the lyrics of the song you are listening to at the bottom of the screen, translates the lyrics into other languages and finds other people listening to the same song at the same time on Google Maps.
The Quench also supports a new typing method for touchscreen keyboards, based on software from Swype Inc., which works by sliding your fingers from key to key to spell out a word. Swype software tracks the pattern of motion to guess what word you want to type – and may be faster than traditional means, according to a recent Guinness World Records win for on-screen texting.