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Motorola is back: Lenovo drops confusing branding, revives familiar name

Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus Our first take
Motorola is back — sort of. Last year, Lenovo, the Chinese tech giant that purchased the mobile phone pioneer from Google in 2014, decided to phase out the Motorola name in lieu of “Moto by Lenovo.” Evidently, the company has since soured on the switch, Motorola chairman and president Aymar de Lencquesaing told CNET.

Lenovo now plans to return to the full, iconic name and “batwing” logo in territories where the brand still holds cachet. Elsewhere — in Russia, for example — the company will hang onto the Lenovo brand a bit longer.

The redirection is somewhat surprising, given that Lenovo only started to reposition Moto as a sub-brand in early 2016. Moto was to be the higher-end of the company’s two smartphone marques, the other being Vibe. The thinking was, a new identity under the Lenovo umbrella should help unify the parent company’s products in the public eye, but de Lencquesaing says today, the company has greater insight.

“In 2016, we just finished transforming ourselves,” the Motorola boss said in an interview. “We have clarity on how we present ourselves.”

So what does this mean for future products? Motorola will eventually be the name going forward in all regions, but different territories will adjust at different speeds. The renewed faith in the legendary moniker has likely been spurred by the favorable reception HMD Global-owned Nokia has received after revealing a range of phones at Mobile World Congress this past week, including a successor to the landmark Nokia 3310.

However, the return to industry prominence cannot be achieved with a simple name change alone, and Motorola has a tough road ahead if it hopes to regain its place within the top tier of Android manufacturers. The company’s smart, cogent marketing in the early days of Google’s mobile platform made Droid synonymous with Android, and installed Motorola as Apple’s greatest threat in the smartphone space, albeit for a short time.

Now, thanks to confused branding, a series of management handoffs, and repeated shifts in corporate strategy, Motorola has taken a back seat to the likes of Huawei, Xiaomi, and, of course, Samsung — though it continues to produce mostly compelling devices. Thanks to a fresh vision, the once-industry leader is confident it can recover some ground.

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