Mobile UltimateMobile Ultimate

Motorola just made its biggest US smartphone push in years, but it probably won’t matter

Handout: Moto ModMotorola announced the Moto Z2 Force on Tuesday, a new flagship Android smartphone that will be available in the U.S next month.

The Moto Z2 Force offers a “shatterproof” display that won’t crack or damage when you drop it, Motorola says. It also has the latest Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, the same that’s in Samsung and LG’s newest phones.

It’s entering a crowded Android market dominated by Samsung, which has a much more attractive edge-to-edge form factor, as well as unlocked entrants from companies like Essential, the company started by Android’s founder Andy Rubin. HTC, once praised by reviewers for its fantastic phones, is trying to make a comeback in the U.S. Even BlackBerry, long left for dead and now back on the market thanks to a licensing deal with TCL, is trying to sell Android phones.

The Moto Z2 Force is a big deal, though, because unlike other devices this one is going to be available from every major U.S. carrier.

Motorola, now owned by Lenovo, hasn’t been able to launch a flagship smartphone across all of the U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular since… I can’t remember when. Probably the Moto RAZR in the early 2000s, and even then there were different models on each carrier.

Samsung, LG and Apple are the only brands that consistently launch flagship devices on every carrier each year. It’s a hard feat, one that other smaller companies such as HTC have struggled to accomplish.

Yet all of this might be for nil.

While the Moto Z2 Force seems like a promising phone with all of the trimmings of a high-end flagship device and a $700 off-contract price tag, there’s a reason that Samsung and Apple are usually the highlight devices in carrier stores. People actually buy those phones.

Motorola will need to show carriers that customers are willing to buy its phones, and it’s betting big on new “mods” that allow users to augmented their devices with attachment that add features such as wireless charging, a 360-degree camera and more.

Unfortunately, the compelling mods, like that camera, cost $300. Nobody will pay that much.

The latest data released by comScore shows that Apple had 44.6 percent of the U.S. smartphone market as of February 2017. Samsung had a 28.3 percent share and LG 10 percent. Motorola, at the time, had just a 4.3 percent share.

I’m reminded of the death of Nokia. Year after year, even after the Microsoft acquisition, it launched compelling new smartphones that nobody bought. Slowly, carriers realized this and stopped stocking the phones en masse.

With Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 expected next month, and new discounted prices for its flagship Galaxy S8 and GalaxyS 8+ smartphones, and then Apple’s new iPhones due in September, it’s hard to imagine a big market for Motorola’s new devices, or a way for it to drastically increase its share.

It’s unfortunate, too, because the Moto Z2 Force looks really nice.