Somehow, Motorola smartwatches are still happening, though they won’t be from Motorola Mobility’s current owner, Lenovo. There’s a long and complicated story about how a company you’ve never heard of is manufacturing “Motorola” smartwatches, but as Android Police has been tracking, the group, called CE Brands, is indeed planning to release three new watches soon.
Ever since Motorola stopped being an independent company in 2011 and sold itself to Google, the “Motorola” brand has been fragmented across the electronics landscape. The brand is so abused today the word “Motorola” is truly a zombie brand that means basically nothing in terms of a device’s lineage. It could represent a product from three different companies.
In the run-up to the Google sale, Motorola Inc. split into two companies, Motorola Mobility, for consumer electronics like smartphones and watches, and Motorola Solutions, for things like first-responder radios and other critical communication tools. Google bought Moto Mobility for $12 billion, then sold the cable modem business to Arris and started making Motorola smartphones. Google threw in the towel on Motorola in 2014 and sold the division to Lenovo, but one well-received product line that landed just before and after the transition was the Moto 360 smartwatch, which, with two generations, brought a stylish round design to early Android Wear devices.
Lenovo still makes Motorola-branded smartphones, but somewhere along the line a company called “eBuyNow” became a Motorola brand-name licensee (it looks like eBuyNow has some partnerships with Lenovo’s Motorola Mobility) and started producing “Moto 360” smartwatches. eBuyNow describes itself as “an independent, data-driven consumer electronics company” that uses “proprietary tools to identify precise gaps in the consumer electronics industry, and then proceeds to build, market, and distribute promising consumer electronics goods with a strictly results-oriented approach.” I guess there’s an algorithm somewhere that said building Moto 360 smartwatches is still a good idea, and sure enough, the first zombie Moto 360, called just the “2019” edition, got widespread press coverage and was mostly a run-of-the-mill smartwatch.
eBuyNow is working on a merger with CE Brands Inc., a “premier global licensed brand manufacturer,” which, in addition to the “Motorola” smartwatches, also sells “Kodak”-branded (yep, the camera company) “smart home” products, including baby monitors, security cameras, and air purifiers.
In the soulless zombie realm of CE Brands, new products are announced not via hyped-up livestreams but in PowerPoint presentations shown to investors during fiscal quarter results. The thrilling slide above gives new expected release dates for CE Brands’ product line and predicts it will “drive incremental revenue streams.”
The company’s latest press release says the “Moto Watch 100” will be out in November, while a square model is planned for Q1 2022. CE Brands has reworked its product line recently, but the last report, from March, expected a Wear 4100 watch. It’s not clear if this watch will ship with Wear OS 2.0 or the new (and currently Samsung-exclusive) Wear OS 3.0.
CE Brands says it has licensed the Motorola name until December 2025, presumably scoped to smartwatches, while Lenovo still makes Motorola smartphones, and Motorola Solutions still makes Motorola radios.