3 March 2003

157 grams



The A830 marked Motorola’s first entry into the 3G devices market. Initially the company did not have a customer for the phone, but Motorola was confident that many mobile operators, who had recently secured 3G spectrum in auctions across the world, would soon require a device. This was because they needed to launch some sort of service to meet the regulatory requirements that came with the spectrum purchase. This ensured there would at least be modest sales volumes available for a 3G mobile phone if Motorola decided to offer one. However, things quickly changed when ‘greenfield’ operator Hutchison Whampoa entered the market with the “3” branded service it planned to offer in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, and Australia.  Hutchison wanted its network to go live on the auspicious date of 3 March 2003 (03/03/03) and it needed Motorola to be able to deliver two handsets in time for launch. One was the A830, and the other was a smartphone device powered by the Symbian operating system, the Motorola A920.  After some negotiation this led to one of the biggest handset deals of the time with Hutchison agreeing to a US$700 million deal for Motorola’s devices. This was a stunning deal, but was a daunting prospect, particularly as Motorola was going to be developing phones at the same time as multiple infrastructure vendors were rolling out the network. In the UK, Hutchison had agreed deals with NEC and Nokia for 3G network infrastructure, while in Sweden, it was using Ericsson. The A830 was built on Motorola designed silicon. It was a tough process with terrible yields coming from the manufacturing process. Only five percent of the dies produced were fit for use in the final chips required for the phones. The A830 also had abysmal battery life. To put this into perspective, Motorola’s very first mobile phone, the Dynatac 8000X which was launched in 1984, only lasted about 30 minutes before needing a recharge. Fast forward to 2002/2003, and the A830 only had 30 minutes of talk time when it was initially launched and about 4 hours of standby time. Motorola ended up having to ship two batteries in the box to combat this problem.  There were two versions of the A830: one had a generic menu key that would take you to a standard Motorola phone menu. The other featured a “3” branded key that brought up the services offered by the 3 network. Hutchison was unique in that it had user interface specialists like Andrew McGrath who though hard about how to “rethink” the consumer experience for mobile users. Hutchison wanted to control the entire user experience and did it well. As the A830 did not have a built-in camera to do video calls, Motorola created an accessory that was referred to internally as "The Claw" (see below). The back battery cover on the A830 was removed, and it provided a wraparound accessory attachment to solve this problem. Motorola A830 "claw" The initial video calls on the A830 were made to Motorola colleagues in Australia, with one of the first ones being to a colleague who happened to be driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge at the time – an astonishing experience that had previously seemed inconceivable. “Hutch” as it was affectionately known, wanted to use the advanced speeds of 3G to deliver what was often referred to as “girls, games, and gambling”. Although this approach would be inconceivable for a service launching today, at the time, 3 became known for offering adult content alongside more mainstream offerings. For Motorola, the real interest was delivering content from partners such as the BBC for current affairs and the Premier League for football (soccer) highlights and goals within minutes of scoring. To get an appreciation of the service#, watch the video included on this page of England player Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne scoring a goal at the Euro ’96 championship in March 1996. This was considered high quality video on mobile at the time - no one had ever seen a phone do some of the things Motorola could demonstrate, like video clip download/playback or live video calls. Journalists who were shown the A830 when it launched were astonished. A key person involved with the A830 project was Ron Kozoman. Ron had the incredibly difficult job of matching all the different 3G infrastructure capabilities with the phone. Ericsson and Nokia were the leaders in the network infrastructure space at the time and the A830 became a reference device for many operators around the world. It had special test mode software that was bundled with other testing tools and was sold by Motorola in addition to the handset. The A830 was a real workhorse and much of the reason that 3G services got off the ground was due to the phone’s ability to serve as both a consumer device as well as solid piece of reference hardware for the operators to shake out their network functionality.  The A830 also opened up a fascinating partnership between Motorola and Ericsson.  Motorola was not strong in 3G infrastructure at the time and Ericsson was quite behind in 3G phones. Ericsson had committed handsets to operators as a part of its infrastructure delivery, and because it couldn’t source them internally, it turned to Motorola. It was the start of a partnership that lasted for at least two years.  The arrival of the Motorola A830 marked an extremely exciting time in mobile phone history. This stemmed from the arrival of mobile broadband, downloadable services, consumer-specific design, and a real race to build phones that worked with infrastructure that was simultaneously being built at the same time. The overview above was provided by Bob Schukai, who was head of Motorola’s global 3G strategy and business development and worked directly on conceiving and launching this iconic phone.