Moto and Updates: More Planned Obsolesce from Lenovo’s Motorola

Moto and Updates: More Planned Obsolesce from Lenovo’s Motorola

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Planned obsolescence is a tricky grey area in every field. Advancements in science and technology allow equipment and components to last longer and perform reliably, but these improvements also have a very direct short-term impact on the sales of your future devices.

After all, if the previous device is still working, that is one less compelling reason for a consumer to purchase the next device that the company will release a short while later. A lot of decisions that smartphone makers take also play directly within the scope of planned obsolescence, even if the prime motive behind the decision was something else. Sealed batteries, forced updates that slow down the device and as is the case with Android OEMs, not providing updates at all — everyone is guilty of factoring in some element of obsolescence in their releases.

Just to take our minds off phones with sealed batteries for a change, let’s talk about Lenovo and Motorola. Before Lenovo acquired Motorola, the company was praised for its Moto X lineup, how they performed for the money they asked for, and how quickly the devices got updated owing to their minimal skin over pure Android. The Moto X 2013, on Verizon of all carriers, received its Android 4.4 KitKat update just around three weeks after KitKat was announced — even before the Nexus 4 got the update!

The Moto X from 2013 was a Motorola phone that received an update faster than a Nexus

The Moto X from 2013 was a Motorola phone that received an update faster than a Nexus

But ever since Lenovo acquired Motorola, things have been…different. And we’re not talking only in the terms of the delay in receiving updates to an OS skin which is a fairly minimal touch-up to stock Android. We’re also talking about some of the weird decisions regarding updates that the company has taken in the recent past. To recall, Lenovo had just about killed off the update support for the Moto E 2015 only 6 months after the device’s release. But after a lot of bad press, the company yielded and promised an Android 6.0 update for the device in some regions.

We’re at yet another of these perplexing update decisions from Lenovo with regards to Motorola branded devices. Motorola’s recent Android 7.0 Nougat announcement for its devices included a long list of devices, which included devices like the Moto G4 Play and the Moto X Play. Curiously, as brought to our attention by our forum members, the list is missing devices like the Moto G3 and the Moto G Turbo Edition.

The Moto G3 was launched in July 2015 while the Moto G4 Play was launched in May 2016. Ironically, the G4 Play sports the same CPU and GPU as the G3 but at a lower clock speed (go figure!). As mentioned above, the device is getting the official Android 7.0 Nougat update while the G3 will not. Similar, yet slightly more befuddling, situation exists with the Moto G Turbo Edition which was launched in November 2015 and shares the exact same CPU and GPU as the Moto X Play which was launched earlier in July 2015. The Moto X Play will receive Nougat, while the newer Moto G Turbo Edition will not.

misc-jackie-chan-lNow factor in this: Android 6.0 was officially released in October 2015, and Android 7.0 was officially released in August 2016. The oldest devices from the above mentioned four are the Moto G3 and the Moto X Play, both of which were released in July 2015, but only one of them is receiving its Android 7.0 update. A device released a few months later with the same SoC as the update-receiving phone, is however, not getting the update. Confused? We are too.

There is no clear update policy at play here with Motorola and Lenovo. One cannot argue that they are favoring only the most recent of devices, because with the Moto X Play in the picture, they are not.

One also cannot argue that the devices in question sport weak and outdated SoCs which makes the update technically infeasible, because other devices with the same SoC released by Motorola itself, are being promised an update. Yes, SoC is not the only roadblock in bringing an update to a device. But with the number of hardware similarities between the Moto G3 and the Moto G4 Play, a large part of the update work is already done in some form by Motorola.

One could also come on to argue that pricing of the devices is what Motorola used to decide which devices are worth updating. But if you take a look at the predecessors of the Moto G3, both the Moto G and the Moto G2 received two Android updates that spanned over version numbers — KitKat and Lollipop for the Moto G, and Lollipop and Marshmallow for the Moto G2. The Moto G3 will sadly, remain on Marshmallow under Motorola’s current plan.

With the MotoMaker options, the Moto G 2015 provided great hardware. But sadly, poor software update support.

With the MotoMaker options, the Moto G 2015 provided great hardware. But sadly, poor software update support.

So that brings us back to the starting argument of this article — planned obsolescence. Motorola’s update plans are nothing short of planned obsolescence. By not providing the latest in terms of software, Motorola and Lenovo hope to fleece customers into purchasing newer phones that are the same in terms of SoC. The lack of update is the mechanism put into place to induce consumers to abandon perfectly capable and working hardware, in favor of newer devices that are more of sidegrades than upgrades. Motorola is not even supporting devices in its budget lineup for 18 months of software updates anymore, as is evident from the Moto G3.

What you do get now from Motorola and Lenovo is uncertainty. You simply do not know if the device you purchase will be updated for another year or two. Granted, the low end of the market is not where one should expect the most in terms of after-sales updates, but Motorola’s recent actions reaffirm that they are back with the rest of the Android OEMs into ignoring the budget devices. Which is pretty ironic, considering that the Moto G, the budget hero, was Motorola’s best selling smartphone of all time. And to be fair, while we keep using the name “Motorola” here, we really should be calling out Lenovo — these issues and other controversies became prominent after Lenovo’s acquisition, as it was under Google that Motorola has begun releasing updates faster.

Our forum members are petitioning for the Moto G3 and the Moto G Turbo Edition to receive some Nougat love from Motorola. If you would like to support their cause, please visit the forum thread. We hope bringing light to this issue manages to convince Lenovo once more that there’s value in software updates.

What are your thoughts on Motorola’s recent update plans? Are you looking forward to purchasing a Motorola device in the future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!