Killing the Vibe line won’t help Lenovo or Motorola
Just over three years after Google acquired Motorola for $12.5 billion, the company changed hands for a second time last year and was acquired by Lenovo for $2.9 billion. People speculated that the move made sense for Lenovo as an attempt to gain popularity in international markets, where Motorola was a more popular handset brand. Lenovo, on the other hand, was widely considered only a PC maker in most of the world outside of its homeland of China.
Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanqing at the time of the acquisition said it would help transform the company into a global contender in the smartphone segment. The acquisition also added some 2,000 patents to Lenovo’s portfolio.
Tech enthusiasts soon began to question the decision, however, as Lenovo and Motorola had competing phones in roughly the same price segment. People have raised the question of whether Moto’s phones will start eating away at sales of Lenovo’s handsets, or vice versa.
We raised the same question a few months ago at a combined event between Lenovo and Motorola. Afterwards, a representative from Lenovo explained to us that the two brands have their own identity and that neither cannibalizes the market of the other. This was also reiterated at a more recent joint event, but the speculation hasn’t died down.
The speculation started after a Lenovo executive allegedly claimed that the Vibe line would be discontinued. This was reported by Canalys, a market research company, who then claimed that the Vibe range was killed to make way for Motorola in the middle to high segments.
He also claimed it would help Lenovo simplify its portfolio and reduce cannibalization. However, Lenovo in an emailed statement to Gadgets 360 clarified that the Vibe line will live. “Vibe remains an important brand in the Lenovo family of mobiles. We plan to continue to grow and expand the franchise in select markets around the world,” the company spokesperson said.
But does the move make sense? If we compare the Lenovo and Motorola smartphones currently available in the market, we can see the different approach taken by the two brands. While Lenovo handsets are available in different price segments, Motorola exists with a very small number of devices and in a narrower price range.
At the Moto X Play launch in September, Motorola claimed to have sold 5.6 million phones in India since its return to the market. Of the 5.6 million units, 2.6 million were sold during the February-August period this year, and the majority were Moto G and Moto E smartphones. Since returning to India, Motorola has introduced two Moto E and three Moto G and Moto X; it also sells the Moto 360, all of which are sold through Flipkart.
The Lenovo K3 Note was also sold exclusively through Flipkart, and the company said in September that it sold over 500,000 K3 Note handsets in India in less than two months.
But that’s where the similarities end. Where Motorola’s phones are sold on the basis of “close to stock Android”, Lenovo’s Vibe phones all have different USPs that set them apart. The Lenovo Vibe P1 and Lenovo Vibe P1m, launched recently at Rs. 15,999 and Rupees. 7999 respectively, are powerhouses with 4900 mAh and 3900 mAh batteries respectively.
The Lenovo Vibe S1, on the other hand, sports dual-sided cameras and targets the selfie audience. Priced at Rs. 15,999, it sports 8-megapixel and 2-megapixel front cameras. The Vibe Shot is another camera-focused smartphone priced at Rs. 25,499, which sports a 16-megapixel rear camera with a six-piece modular lens, BSI sensor and tri-color LED flash.
With that in mind, it’s hard to say how the two brands’ products could eat away at the other’s sales. And given the success of both brands, that doesn’t seem to be the case anyway. In July, Lenovo Group moved into the top 5 smartphone vendors by global shipments, according to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). Lenovo and Motorola together saw 24.3 million smartphones shipped last year and held a combined market share of 8%.
The company also saw similar results in the Indian market, with Lenovo Group (Lenovo + Motorola) becoming India’s fifth-largest smartphone vendor in Q2 2015 with 6% market share. The IDC report added that Lenovo (alongside Motorola) makes most of its sales through online channels. And, in a recently released report on 4G smartphone shipments in India, Lenovo Group became the fourth-largest supplier of 4G-enabled smartphones with a market share of 9.5%.
With that in mind, it’s clear that the two brands aren’t eating into each other’s space, and to suggest that Lenovo should kill off its Vibe line at a time when there’s no outward indication that this is necessary, n makes little sense. It’s no surprise that Lenovo has announced that it’s not killing the Vibe range; it is surprising that the question was asked.
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