A Fingerprint Sensor: Why Motorola Failed and Apple Won't

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Cutting edge. Groundbreaking technology. It was February 2011 and Motorola just launched a new phone with a slick, new feature: a built-in fingerprint sensor. 

It was the Motorola Atrix 4G. Chances are, you've never heard of the phone.

Why not? While we could come up to a number of answers to that question, there's one simple answer that sums it up. Motorola isn't Apple . It takes a powerful brand and an Apple-like customer experience to get customers to notice new technologies like this.

The Apple way
Motorola would have done well to take some advice from Steve Jobs: "You've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology -- not the other way around."

The Motorola's Atrix 4G felt forced upon the consumer. It was built on the back side of the phone, near the top. Talk about awkward.

They probably didn't have the technology or the hardware real estate to embed it on the font anywhere. So what did they do? They put it on the only place they could put it. They did what Apple would never do.

Touch ID on iPhone 5s. Source: Apple.com.

On the iPhone 5s, the feature is built right into the home button -- the same button that already prompts the phone to display the unlock screen.

Given the Touch ID's seamless experience, Apple can actually use the feature as a major selling point.

The Atix -- what was it called? Oh yeah, the Atrix 4G -- the Atrix failed miserably to pass Jobs' customer-experience test.

Apple's competitive advantage
Of course, it's not easy to pioneer new technologies packaged in a way that gets consumers excited. Apple has the wherewithal to launch new technology with a top-notch experience. With an unparalleled grasp on the premium consumer-electronics segment, hefty profit margins, and the seamless integration of Apple-branded hardware, software, and services, not everyone can pull-off a new blockbuster smartphone feature the way Apple can.

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The article A Fingerprint Sensor: Why Motorola Failed and Apple Won't originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Daniel Sparks owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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