Motorola Joins the Foldable Phone Trend with its RAZR Refresh
Many of us who used cellphones in the early 2000’s remember the Motorola RAZR, a flip-phone that at the time functioned not only as a powerful telecommunications device but as a stylish status symbol in the era before the iPhone introduced smartphones to the masses. Now, nearly two decades after the launch of the original product, Motorola is banking on their customers’ nostalgia for this pre-iPhone era with a refresh of the original RAZR, featuring the same clamshell design with a folding screen, a similar technology as was included in the recently-released Samsung Galaxy Fold. After months of rumors, leaks, and speculation, Motorola has finally introduced their hotly-anticipated new flagship, simply called the “Motorola razr,” to the press. The media generally had a positive impression of the unique new device, despite only being able to spend a short amount of hands-on time with it. The razr is set to launch in January 2020 for $1,499, and only time will tell how reviewers react after being able to spend more time with the phone and use it in their day-to-day life.
Fundamentally, the razr’s design is unlike any smartphone that’s been released as of yet. When closed, the phone resembles its years-old namesake, with the most notable difference being a larger, higher-resolution “quick view” display. The phone has a camera on its exterior, which functions both as a selfie camera and a rear-facing camera when the device is unfolded. For I/O, the phone has only a singly USB-C port with no headphone jack. The device is thin, even when folded, and features an attractive, simplistic design, with the Motorola logo adorning the back. In fact, Motorola says the device is exactly as thin as the original RAZR from 14 years ago. Members of the press praised the device’s hinge, which feels sturdy and allows the phone to fold completely flat when both opened and closed. The small “quick view” display present on the exterior is meant for simple tasks, like checking notifications and toggling settings as well as taking selfies.
There’s no denying that for most people the razr is a novelty device, with its most attractive characteristic being its immediate “wow” factor.
The device opens to reveal a 6.2” plastic OLED display, resembling a standard smartphone display with a slightly taller-than-average 21:9 aspect ratio. Otherwise, the device’s specifications are dissapointingly mid-range; the 16-megapixel camera isn’t going to win any photography awards, as it features only a single lens and a mediocre resolution, and journalists compared it to the cameras featured on flagship devices from several years ago. The front-facing camera, meant primarily for video calls, is even worse at just 5 megapixels. The phone’s processor is a nearly two-years-old Snapdragon 710, and while it is more than powerful enough to handle most ordinary smartphone tasks, it pales in comparison to devices released this year at half the price. The razr includes a reasonable 6 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, but its battery, at a capacity of just 2510 mAh, will likely struggle to provide a full day’s worth of use for power users. There’s no support for external storage, but the included 128 GB should be enough for most people. Motorola clearly needed to make some compromises to enable the device to be so thin, but these compromises are particularly hard to swallow given the phone’s hefty price tag, as it’s far pricier than nearly all other premium devices on the market.
That being said, the razr is a fascinating device, and potentially represents the future of smartphone design. When folded, the phone is smaller than virtually every other smartphone on the market, making it ideal for people with limited pocket space. And as the RAZR is the most successful flip phone ever, consumer nostalgia is likely to drive sales, as the phone is undeniably cool. Though some journalists worried about the long-term durability of the device, as the similar Galaxy Fold had a number of devastating issues with reliability prior and even after its eventual release, engineers at the press event announcing the device were confident in the strength of the hinge’s complex design. The phone is water-resistant but not water- or dust-proof, and the device’s folding design may even help with its durability, as the phone’s main screen is protected when in its folded position, obviating the need for a case or screen protector. The main display’s crease is mostly invisible, whereas the Galaxy Fold’s crease is prominent, and folding displays generally are prone to damage from strong pressure or sharp objects.
There’s no denying that for most people the razr is a novelty device, with its most attractive characteristic being its immediate “wow” factor. Nonetheless, it is shaping up to be a perfectly usable and decent smartphone for those willing to pay up and for those looking to impress their friends with their unique and eye-catching device.
Tyler Olhorst is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.