Choosing a new smartphone in the current market is quite the challenge. You have the iPhone, a number of Android devices, the Palm Pre, countless WinMo units, and very, very soon the Droid. If you know a little something about the industry, you probably already know the most obvious differences between the devices, the manufacturers of said devices, and the environments those devices and manufacturers live in. What exactly do I mean? Look at the iPhone and Apple. They’re pumping out one model/year. Palm ups the ante though if we take their current pace and figure a whole year, we’re looking at 2-4 devices year. Android ups that number even more with projections for next year looking like 20+. And of course we have Windows Mobile with just as many if not more device launches each year with many manufacturers. As you can see, peoples’ perception of “quality” and hype get’s higher as you see the platforms making less separate physical units per year.

Now before we go to deep and get entangled in a web of confusion, we must point out that while each platform appears to be the deciding factor tied to a “less is more” philosophy, the real focus is even more specific — all of the way down to the manufacturer level. So before we go on, I’ll ask two million dollar questions:

  1. Can Motorola really push out 20+ Droid quality handsets in one year when it took them so long to get 1 Droid over many years?
  2. If they do succeed, will they effectively water down the Droid series and destroy it much like they did with the Razr line and styling?

Because there isn’t really anyone else in the market (US anyway) that puts all of their resources into a single device each year, Apple again takes this spot. Look at the iPhone. Each year it gets released as the culmination of many months of hard work with both hardware and software teams working around the clock to bring out what they feel is the best smartphone on the market. On the other end of the spectrum, HTC pumps out hardware left and right. If you really sit back and look at the various phones that they produce, you’ll notice that besides 2-3 main styles, the devices as a whole aren’t really all that different. Sure, a button gets added here, subtracted there. A screen get’s elongated and a slide out keyboard added. But all in all, there isn’t too much variation.

So you see, it isn’t necessarily the OS/platform that matters in regards to quantity over quality, but instead centers more around the manufacturer. Of course, a byproduct of having the manufacturer pumping out more hardware that requires little tweaks to the OS here and there can certainly make it seem like this is an OS based character trait on the surface. Not to mention, with each new piece of hardware no matter the manufacturer, the OS has to become more “general” for the masses so that it doesn’t become incompatible with anyone piece of hardware, further distancing the platform overall from tightly integrating with any specific piece of hardware. This is of course unless the manufacturer takes it upon themselves to further refine the OS to their own specifications. Being that hardware manufacturers create….hardware, their attempts at software and user interfaces, etc. don’t always turn out so well. Such differences in who is actually working with the OS, the actual OS developer or the manufacturer, can lead to a rather murkey line between the OS developer and hardware manufacturer’s responsibilities.

The whole reason this topic sparked some creativity in my mind was an article I read on PhoneArena and detailed Motorola’s plans to release more than 20 different smartphones for 2010. Moto as pretty much everyone knows hasn’t done anything worthwhile in the mobile sphere since the Razr. Everything they’ve released thus far has been trying to milk the Razr design in hopes of once again cashing in on that once iconic style. But that fad is done and over. People want something new. Which is the reason why they’ve floundered for so long. Just recently, the Droid is a shinning point in Moto’s product lineup that puts the troubled manufacturer back on the map and in the minds of many gadget lovers alike.

The Droid is huge for Moto and no doubt consumed most if not all of their primary company resources. You may be saying: “Hold up, what about the Cliq?”. The Cliq while a nicely done piece of hardware just isn’t on the same level as the Droid. It’s more of a mid-range phone. A well put together mid-range phone. Still, I stand by the assumption that a great deal of Motorola time, money, and engineering was focused solely on their latest hail marry and what a hail marry it is. Assuming that all of these resources went to one phone alone, with the end result turning out amazingly well, how on earth could the possibly recreate the same results across 20+ phones in 1 year if they’ve had so much trouble over the last 5 years making anything worthwhile? I just don’t see how it’s going to work. What I do see is eighteen maybe nineteen so-so, ho-hum phones that no one will remember and one true shinning glory.

Motorola is no doubt riding high on initial pre-reviews and fanfare that is building as we approach the Droid’s launch within the next several days. And as we’ve already said many times over, they deserve it. But is that success already going to their head? Are they going to take the core design of the Droid and go copy/paste crazy in the design department on 20 Droid-esque look-a-likes in 2010? Such a move will destroy the all of the hard work they put into this first Droid model as they will quickly water down the series’ image by diluting it with a bunch of crap. I worry in the back of my head that they will forget the last several years of failure after failure because they often tried too hard by seeing how many devices they could pump out instead of focusing on delivering a unique, quality device that geeks and not so geeks would lust over. Apple does it with the iPhone and it’s growth is still enjoying upward momentum. Can Motorola continue on after this first Droid phone and create a market leading Droid series?

I sure hope so. Seeing a once great company fall down and come so close to death only to re-invent themselves is a great thing to witness. It would certainly be a tragedy to see them repeat the same mistakes they made during and after the Razr craze. Starting off the Droid series with a bang only to kill it by pushing their resources too thin would be a sad thing indeed.

Hardware aside, Moto has already made the right decision by moving to Android and skipping out on WinMo 6.5. They read the market well. The market doesn’t want WinMo 6.1.1 (…the minor update…). They want something new, exciting, and feature packed. For this I commend Moto. It was probably a hard decision to abandon WinMo, a partner for many years, and partake on a new journey with an OS and platform that is but a few years old. But they did. And they’re enjoying early success.

After seeing the bigger picture and thinking long and hard about quality vs. quantity, are you worried that Moto will again beat a particular phone/style long past it’s expiration date? Or do you feel they really learned from the past and can in fact sustain a 20+ device goal?