Publish date:

Slim Pickins at Motorola

The handset giant sees salvation in a new slate of thin phones.

Motorola

(MOT)

is set to introduce a handful of new phones that it hopes will prove that it's back in the game.

Investors and mobile-phone industry watchers will be eagerly tuning into CEO Ed Zander's "Mobile Experience" presentation Tuesday morning for a glimpse at the designs that could determine Motorola's future.

But judging from the early impressions, there's no dazzling gem in the lineup that seems capable of picking up where the hugely popular ultrathin Razr left off. In fact, the showcase will likely include a "new" Razr that has a bigger external screen and a shinier, sleeker look than the original.

Also, as Zander previewed somewhat last week, Motorola is expected to have a "media monster" phone that works on Europe's 3G network and can play high quality videos and full movies off flash memory cards.

"They need to bring some of that Razr magic back," says IAG Research's Roger Entner, a senior vice president covering the communications sector.

"It's a tough act to follow," says Entner. "The Razr redefined the category. Those breakthroughs don't come around that often."

Ever since the scorching success of the Razr phone turned into a fizzling flameout late last year, Motorola has seen its business erode, its profits vanish and a proxy battle by Carl Icahn threaten to oust Zander from the top job. Shares have lost more than a quarter of their value in the last six months.

Motorola has had a few duds like the Pebl and the Scpl, and possibly the Krzr. The company has also suffered from poor software development. The highly anticipated Motofone F3

failed to work with some of the local languages in would-be growth markets like India.

Even basic tasks like setting up contacts with more than one phone number created frustration. "Motorola's proprietary operating system has been challenging for a lot of people," says one industry observer.

And presuming Motorola can finally build some popular 3G phones -- nearly two years late to the market -- some investors aren't exactly bullish on the company's prospects.

"There's no assurance that there is a near term solution for Motorola," says one investor who prefers

TheStreet Recommends

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Nokia Oyj Sponsored ADR Report

.

Part of the problem is that while Motorola stumbles, a number of rivals are gaining headway on new phones. Prominent among that group are

Research in Motion

(RIMM)

and

Samsung

.

For its part, Nokia said Monday that it now expects to increase its slice of the market beyond the 36% it had last quarter.

"Nokia isn't stand still, they've introduced some really cool stuff," says the money manager. "And RIM is exploding."

And of course, it might be a little hard to ignore the hotly-anticipated iPhone due out next month from

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report

.