The Rise and Fall of Motorola

In 1984, the DynaTAC 8000x was launched by Motorola, the world’s first mobile phone, weighing 2.5 lbs and with a 35-minute battery life.

Remember Motorola, the once-prominent name in mobile phones?

When was the last time you saw someone using a Motorola? In fact, when did you last hear about the company?

Join us as we take a trip down memory lane to explore how Motorola went from being a major player to facing tough times.

If you’re curious about the rise and fall of this once-cool brand, read on as we delve into the life and death of Motorola!

The Birth of Motorola

In Chicago, Illinois, USA, on September 25, 1928, Paul Galvin and his brother Joseph founded Motorola as the “Galvin Manufacturing Co.”

But Paul had already started a telecommunications company with Edward Stewart in 1921. In 1923, due to unpaid taxes, the company was forced to shut down.

Undaunted, Edward started the Storage Battery Co in 1926, manufacturing a battery eliminator that allowed radios and other portable electronic appliances to work without batteries.

This was a game-changer for situations where batteries were unavailable.

The Galvin brothers bought the battery eliminator design and launched it as Motorola’s first product under the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation.

Motorola’s Radio Manufacturing

The Galvin brothers introduced affordable automobile radios called Motorola radio in 1930, mainly selling them to police departments and municipalities.

According to their website, the car radio was the inspiration behind Motorola’s name, with “motor” coming from motorcar and “ola” implying sound, making Motorola mean “sound in motion.”

By the late 1930s, the company had started producing a variety of one and two-way radios, including radio receivers for police cars.

Two notable examples of Motorola’s two-way radios are the SCR300 radio, the world’s first FM portable two-way radio, and the Handie-Talkie SCR536, the most famous radio of the World War II era.

In 1937, Motorola entered the home entertainment industry with a line of home radios and phonographs.

Ten years later, the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation changed its name to Motorola Inc.

Motorola’s Entry into the TV Industry

After World War II, televisions began to gain a lot of sales, and Motorola saw an opportunity to grow their business by producing TVs.

That’s why, in 1947, they released the Motorola Golden View, a 7-inch TV that was so affordable it sold over 100,000 units in just one year – that might not sound like much, but it was a lot back then!

The company then introduced portable TV models in the 1960s, like the 19-inch 1960 Motorola Astronaut television, the world’s first portable television with a large screen.

Nowadays, Motorola still sells numerous TV models, even partnering with Indian eCommerce company Flipkart to sell smart TVs targeted at the Indian market.

Motorola is famous for creating the first-ever cellphone, which was demonstrated by the company’s lead engineer on April 3, 1973. Despite the basic technology, Motorola spent years improving their cellphone technology. Eventually, in 1984, they released the first commercial cellphone, which was called the DynaTAC 8000x. This cellphone had a talk time of only 30 minutes and a battery life of 35 minutes, and it took 10 hours to charge. In 2020, the cost of the phone would have been equivalent to over $10,000. Just five years later, Motorola released the first flip phone, called the MicroTAC.

However, despite initial success with phones like the Motorola Razr flip phone, the company struggled after Apple released the first iPhone in 2007. Motorola lost $4.3 billion between 2007 and 2009, which led to the company splitting into two entities. One company focused on telecommunication products like police radios, while the other focused on consumer products like cell phones. In 2012, Google bought out Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, but they sold it to Lenovo in 2014 for only $2.91 billion. Despite this, Google obtained tens of thousands of patents from Motorola, which strengthened their position against patent attacks. Today, Motorola is no longer an independent company, but its legacy as a trailblazer in the world of communication technology lives on.


1. What was Motorola?

Motorola was an American multinational telecommunications company that was founded in 1928. It started as a manufacturer of car radios and grew to become one of the largest mobile phone manufacturers in the world. Motorola was known for its innovative technology and iconic products such as the Razr flip phone.

2. When did Motorola decline?

Motorola’s decline began in the early 2000s when it failed to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung, who were dominating the smartphone market. The company struggled to keep up with the rapidly changing technology and lost market share to its competitors.

3. What led to Motorola’s downfall?

Motorola’s downfall was caused by a combination of factors such as poor management, lack of innovation, and failure to adapt to the changing market. The company was slow to adopt new technologies and was unable to keep up with the competition. In addition, it made some bad business decisions, such as investing heavily in the ill-fated Iridium satellite phone project.

4. When did Motorola split into two companies?

Motorola split into two companies in 2011, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Solutions. Motorola Mobility focused on mobile devices and was later acquired by Google, while Motorola Solutions focused on communication solutions for businesses and government agencies.

5. What is Motorola’s legacy?

Motorola’s legacy is its contribution to the development of the mobile phone industry. The company was responsible for several innovations, including the first commercial handheld cell phone, the DynaTAC, and the first flip phone, the StarTAC. Motorola’s Razr phone was one of the most iconic phones of the early 2000s and set the standard for future phone designs.

6. Is Motorola still in business?

Yes, Motorola is still in business, but it is no longer the dominant player it once was. The company is now a subsidiary of Lenovo and focuses on mid-range and budget smartphones. Motorola also produces a range of other products, including smartwatches, baby monitors, and home security systems.

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