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Moto G under threat as Lenovo plans to “phase out” Motorola

Motorola Moto G 3rd Gen watermelon

Motorola's COO has said that Lenovo will "phase out" the Motorola brand this year, casting doubt over the future of the Moto G

Motorola has produced some of the best smartphones we’ve seen over the last three years, most notably the superb Moto G, which has consistently beaten every other budget smartphone on the market ever since it was first introduced in 2013. However, Motorola’s Chief Operating Officer Rick Osterloh has said that the Motorola brand will be disappearing from its handsets over the coming year as it starts to unify its smartphone business with its parent company, Lenovo.

“We’ll slowly phase out Motorola and focus on Moto,” Osterloh said during an interview with CNET at CES.

Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014 and until now has kept Motorola’s logo and Moto branding on all of Motorola’s smartphones. This will still be the case for Motorola’s high-end devices, such as the Moto X Force, but Osterloh stated that its budget devices will soon be rolled into Lenovo’s Vibe brand. The Motorola name will also live on as a corporate division of Lenovo, but even Motorola’s flagship devices will start bearing the name “Moto by Lenovo”.

“Motorola Mobility continues to exist as a Lenovo company and is the engineering and design engine for all of our mobile products,” a spokesperson for Motorola UK told me. “However, for our product branding we will utilize a dual brand strategy across smartphone and wearables going forward using Moto and Vibe globally. ‘Motorola’ hasn’t been used on our products since the launch of the original Moto X in 2013.”

The news comes as a surprise after Lenovo’s CEO Yang Yuanqing said it would “not only protect the Motorola brand, but make it stronger” when it first bought the company two years ago.

According to Osterloh, though, it won’t be long before we start seeing Vibe phones on shop shelves, as he will be taking over all mobile operations at Lenovo very soon. Where Lenovo has a strong market presence, it will use its connections to push Moto branded phones as aspirational devices, but it will rely on the strength of Motorola to introduce sub-$100 Vibe smartphones where it has a weaker presence.

“It didn’t make a lot of sense not to cover the markets, top to bottom,” he told CNET. Osterloh also said he expects to bring Vibe smartphones to the US at some point, but it’s unlikely to happen this year. This suggests we might still get one last Moto G before it disappears forever, but Motorola UK told me it cannot comment on any product related questions for the time being. 

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