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Motorola RAZR

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.

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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.

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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.

Smartphones

How to Take Advantage of Smartphones’ “Digital Wellbeing” Tools

It’s no secret that over the past several years, smartphones have taken over nearly every aspect of most of our lives, as we use the versatile devices for everything from communicating with friends to catching up on work emails to consuming entertainment. As smartphone use is on the rise, many are concerned about the negative impact that device addiction may have on our lives, interfering with our engagement with the real world. This concern is shared even by developers of smartphone software, who have introduced tools to allow users to limit their exposure to their devices, which are categorized under the umbrella term “digital wellbeing.” Such tools are available on both Android and iOS devices, and while their presence may not be obvious, digital-wellbeing features are built into the operating systems of many popular smartphones.

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While digital wellbeing features have existed in Android for some time, their functionality has been expanded for Android 10, the latest version of Google’s operating system. While Android 10 is currently only available for Google Pixel devices, the software update should roll out to other smartphones soon, as manufacturers work to optimize the software for their individual devices. Digital Wellbeing is one of Google’s prioritizes for this version of the operating system, and a number of landmark features have been introduced. For instance, users can enable a so-called “Focus mode,” which disables certain apps deemed to be distracting, and users can also set a maximum amount of time they’re allowed to use each app per day. Additionally, Android 10 introduces a “wind down” mode, which is designed to help users fall asleep at the end of the day by switching the screen to a less-engaging grayscale mode and turns on Do Not Disturb. Android 10 users can also view the amount of time they spend using each app in the Settings menu, and see which apps are occupying the most of their time.

iPhone users, too, have access to tools that are meant to improve their relationship with technology. iOS 12 includes a mode called “Screen Time” which, like its Android counterpart, allows users to view statistics about how often and for how long they use particular apps. This mode also allows users to view the number of times they’ve picked up their phone as well as the time of day they’re most frequently active on their devices. Both operating systems allow users to create limits on how long they use their phones, but whereas Android allows users to set limits on an app-by-app basis, iOS users are only able to set limits by category. iPhones running iOS 12 also have a “Bedtime mode” feature, which dims the display of the lock screen at night to prevent your phone from waking you up when it’s on your nightstand.

Both operating systems allow users to create limits on how long they use their phones

In addition to specialized tools built into their operating systems, Google offers advice for how to ensure the way you’re using your devices is healthy and positive. The company has a page inviting users to reflect on their technology habits, encouraging them to “take the first step toward understanding your relationship with tech, and get tips and tools to help your digital well-being.” This page presents visitors with a quiz, asking them questions about their usage of technology and whether it interferes with their other obligations, whether those are related to work, family, or friends. The company recommends users take advantage of the Google Assistant, which allows people to interact with their phone using only their voice, to spend more time away from the device’s screen, and also suggests users customize the notifications they receive on a per-app basis to prevent them from becoming overwhelming.

While it may seem counterintuitive to rely on our phones to provide us with ways to limit our engagement with technology, the integration of smartphones into our daily lives is a fact of living in the modern era. As such, these tools are a welcome addition to the smartphone ecosystem, and as developers continue to compete for our attention with ever-more engaging apps, the prospect of enforcing self-imposed limits on smartphone usage may become increasingly enticing.