How Google Android Could Save Motorola

As Motorola (MOT) makes big bets on Google’s (GOOG) Android platform, here are two examples of what the company should be thinking about: Two new phones from INQ Mobile, a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa.

They’re not available in the U.S. — the company plans to sell its first phones here this year — but they’re worth a look.

They’re cheap, attractive, and they do something today’s feature phones don’t: They build mainstream Internet services that people actually use — like Facebook, IM, email, Twitter, etc. — into the actual phone software, so it’s always on. They also include built-in “push” Gmail, they display Facebook and Twitter updates on the phone’s home screen, they organise phone and social-network contacts into a single list, etc.

Most importantly, while remaining very inexpensive phones — to support big sales and mainstream adoption — they also encourage people to pay for a monthly data plan to activate the phone’s Internet features. Carriers are starved for revenue growth, so anything that gets non-smartphone users to pay for mobile data is very attractive. That’s the promise behind INQ Mobile, and that should be Motorola’s goal with its Android feature phones.

And as we noted last week, that’s where Android — with its free, powerful, easily customised OS software, and solid Web browser — could be promising. Especially if Motorola can bake services like Facebook, MySpace, Google Maps, and YouTube right into the phone’s OS.

The problem today is that the powerful hardware that Android requires to run smoothly is still too expensive for a company like Motorola to stick in a lower-end phone and still make a profit. That’s one reason why INQ Mobile made its own software, with lower power requirements, instead of using Android.

But that problem will go away eventually, and Motorola must be a leader here, not a follower.

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