UPDATED: Motorola's Jha: Software issues drive 70% of smartphone returns

Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) CEO Sanjay Jha said that 70 percent of smartphones that are returned to the company are returned because of software issues that have affected device performance.

Jha said that the software issues include things like battery life, sluggish operation and third-party applications. Although Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) weeds out malicious apps in its Android Market, unlike Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store, Google does not tightly control which apps make it into the market. "For power consumption and CPU use, those apps are not tested. We're beginning to understand the impact that has," Jha said during an appearance at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Technology conference on Thursday.''

In a statement Motorola released after Jha's remarks to clarify them, the company said that its top priority is to "provide a device that delivers an exceptional user experience. Part of this focus involves conducting extensive research to examine factors that contribute to smartphone returns, so that we can better understand consumer needs and enhance the performance of our products."

"We work very closely with developers directly to test applications and optimize applications for our devices, but given the volume of apps available on Android Market, it is unrealistic for us to test them all," Motorola said in the statement. "For this reason, Motorola Mobility has invested significant resources in MOTODEV to provide developers with the tools, test environments, test devices, virtual devices, and testing programs to ensure a high quality of code/applications for the consumer."

Jha's wide-ranging remarks also touched on Motorola's brand, the company's plans for overseas markets and Motorola's MotoBLUR service.

On the company's brand, Jha said people see Motorola's phones as trustworthy and high quality, but he said there is not enough excitement around the devices. "It's important to make (the brand) sing a little more in an aspirational way," Jha said.

The Motorola chief said the company could have done a better job of selling the benefits of its Atrix smartphone and its Xoom tablet, which went on sale in the first quarter. The company said it shipped 250,000 Xoom tablets in the first quarter, but did not disclose how many were sold to customers. It also did not say how many Atrix units were sold. Jha said sales of the Atrix were not as robust as he would have liked, but were better than many expected.

Jha also addressed Motorola's delayed Droid Bionic LTE phone for Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). Jha said Motorola has made progress on LTE, and will have more LTE products coming out in the second half of the year. Moto rivals HTC and Samsung have already delivered LTE phones to Verizon.

Additionally, Jha said the company's MotoBLUR service will continue to evolve. MotoBLUR started a social networking user interface, but Jha said the service is now collecting data on how the apps customers are using affect things like battery power. He said MotoBLUR should be able to warn subscribers when they launch a power-draining application.

The Motorola exec also said the company plans to push more products into China and Latin America, and ramp up its presence in Europe in the fourth quarter.

For more:
- see this Dow Jones Newswires article (sub. req.)
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this Chicago Tribune article

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Motorola ships 250,000 Xoom Android tablets in Q1
Motorola's Mutricy on the future of Webtop and MotoBLUR
Motorola unveils Xoom, Android 'Honeycomb' tablet
Analysts contend Motorola Xoom, Atrix sales sluggish
Motorola: We're already seeing 'slowdown' in sales due to Verizon iPhone

Article updated June 5 to reflect the statement by Motorola. Sanjay Jha said that  70 percent of smartphone returns are due to software-related issues; he did not state that 70 percent of smartphone returns are due to third-party applications.