Motorola has an unexpected hit this weekend, with sales of the phone it barely loves selling out of 3 stores in the UK. We first revealed the existence of the A920, codenamed 'Paragon', almost two years ago. It's Motorola's first Symbian phone, produced under contract for Hutchison with gritted-teeth. Stores in London and Manchester we visited were selling them by the bucket: two London locations had sold out their stock entirely.
Although the A920 isn't Motorola's only Symbian phone, Moto formally walked away from Symbian recently, selling its stake in the operation, having been more of a bystander than active shareholder for the past two years. In February Motorola announced its strategic platform would be Linux, and has since confirmed the existence of a Windows-powered smartphone too.
The early success of Paragon comes in the nick of time for 3. The FT reported on Saturday that supplies of the NEC 606, 3's other handset, had become constrained.
Paragon features several firsts: Symbian's first 3G phone, the first with built-in GPS and video calling. It uses the UIQ user interface launched by Sony Ericsson in its P800 smartphone. The downsides are pretty severe, however: the battery provides only enough juice for 90 minutes of talk time and 55 minutes of video calls. There's no Bluetooth, either.
Motorola believes that its successor, the smaller A925 will fix several of these issues. Borland has "announced" the phone, in a press release for its C++ BuilderX development kit, even though Motorola formally hasn't.
However, Motorola can't do much more to enable users to take full advantage of the headline-grabbing features the Paragons offer. Right now, they can't. The 3 network has deemed this a "walled garden" device, limiting web browsing to 3-approved sites, and more importantly for punters looking for a PDA, it won't run Symbian UIQ applications. (You can find a discussion on how to circumvent this here.
For now, however 3 finds itself in the unusual position of selling a handset that punters actually want to use. How long can this last? ®