Is the golden era of mobile growth over already, or is Motricity (Nasdaq: MOTR) just missing the boat?

The mobile-data services specialist certainly missed the boat in the just-reported third quarter, anyhow. The company was expected to report a $0.09 adjusted net loss per share on sales of about $32 million, but it fell short on both counts.

Revenue landed at just $30.4 million, 20% below the year-ago period and also short of management guidance Quarterly revenue was slightly below prior guidance, in large part because of lower-than-expected international revenues.

A $123 million goodwill writedown charge totally eviscerated the GAAP bottom line, but even the adjusted figure that excludes such one-time charges crashed to $0.31 of red ink per share.

Management calls this "a necessary period of transformation," insisting that the third quarter was "productive" in its own way. But I'm not buying it.

Motricity's sales growth hit a brick wall in 2009 and never recovered. The company was never profitable and has an ugly tendency to burn cash rather than creating it. Today's cash balance is just 25% of what it was a year ago, and this paltry $17.7 million wallet rests on a brand new $20 million short-term loan. "We strengthened the balance sheet," says CEO Jim Smith. More like jury-rigged it with duct tape and chewing gum, if you ask me.

Smith is an interim leader and not the permanent solution, in case you needed more red flags. The company is "exploring options," or looking for a buyer. Carl Icahn holds a 14% stake and is chasing down the changes.

Motricity is a holdover from the age of feature phones, trying to carve out a niche and stay relevant in the smartphone era. The company wants to "deliver value to smartphones and feature phones alike," but it's late to the smartphone party. Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T (NYSE: T), and Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) all use Motricity's feature-phone content services today, but as you can see from the falling revenues, the glory days are long gone. And the company never figured out how to make money to begin with.

There are many ways to make money on the smartphone revolution, but Motricity ain't it. The stock fell 10% today and has lost a stunning 92% of its value in 2011. To see three hidden winners in this new age of mobility, grab a copy of our brand-new special report on the smartphone and tablet sector. These are not the names you see on store shelves but the real winners hidden behind the scenes of every handset. Get yours today -- this money-making report is totally free.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.