Motorola’s innovative hinge helps make its new Motorola Razr the best designed foldable phone to date.
As I fold the Motorola Razr in half for the first time, it becomes clear that the Razr — with its foldable 6.2-inch screen, 16-megapixel double-duty camera and $1,500 price tag — is the best designed, most completely thought-out foldable phone to date. Streamlined. Utterly pocketable. Nostalgic, with a sharp futuristic edge.
Over the course of the crisp fall day I spent at Motorola’s Chicago headquarters, I began to fall a little bit in love with the way the Razr softly snaps shut from top to bottom, one side laying flat on top of the other, without a visible gap between the two halves of the screen. With this simple act, Motorola has solved one of the biggest design conundrums that the Galaxy Fold and other foldable phones have yet to figure out.
If the $2,000 Samsung Galaxy Fold is the foldable phone for early adopters who want to show off their wealth and sophistication, the Motorola Razr could be a foldable phone best suited for the rest of us — or at least for those of us comfortable with spending $1,500 on a phone. (For reference, the 512GB iPhone 11 Pro Max costs roughly the same price. It converts to about £1,170 or AU$2,200.)
In setting out to create a foldable phone that doubles the screen size while keeping the body small enough to pocket, Motorola has faithfully updated its original Razr flip phone from 2004, the brand’s most iconic, best-selling phone ever. This new Razr is wider, heavier and fully stocked with features fit for 2019. And it succeeds in sparking my emotional attachment to the clamshell designs of yore. Resistance is futile: The Razr must be flipped.
More than that, as CNET Editor Roger Cheng says, the foldable Razr gives Motorola a chance to stage its comeback in a flashy way that’s impossible to ignore.
The Motorola Razr comes at a crucial time when foldable phones are at a crossroads between hype and reality. A year ago, foldable phones were pegged as the next revolution in phone design, bringing to life the dream of making a large-screen device more portable. But crippling screen problems and massive delays from the biggest player, Samsung, placed the future of foldable phones in doubt. The late arrival of Huawei’s Mate X hasn’t helped either. Now it’s Motorola’s turn to step into the spotlight. If successful, the struggling brand — now profitable for the first time in years — could give foldable phones renewed hope.
I’ll need to fully test the Motorola Razr from top to bottom, keeping a close eye on any damage its plastic OLED (known as P-OLED) screen might incur, its real-world battery life, camera quality and everything in between. But so far I love what I see: A foldable phone with real potential for today, not just a curiosity to improve upon tomorrow.
That’s not to say that every foldable phone should or will follow the Razr’s model, even if Samsung teased its own foldable flip. This is the Wild West of phone design, and the difference is exciting and necessary as the industry figures out how — and even if — foldable devices will become a thing. If you’ve got an eye on foldable phones, it’s time to pay attention.
Keep reading to learn about how the Motorola Razr’s foldable screen is designed to contain damage, how noticeable the screen crease is, what comes in the impressive box and the potential trade-offs the phone makes for its design and price. Scroll to the end for a specs comparison with the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X.
The Motorola Razr goes on sale in the US some time in January for $1,500. Verizon is the exclusive US carrier… forever, but the Razr will also sell in select Walmart stores. We don’t have an exact sales date yet. Preorders begin Dec. 26. Canada will get the Razr in “early 2020.”
Globally, the Razr will also go on preorder in select European countries as early as December, with a January sales date. Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil and select Asian markets will also carry the phone.
What it’s like to use the Motorola Razr
We’re not at the point yet where using one foldable phone is like using them all. There’s still some novelty because so far we’ve seen so many different designs. But the idea of using the larger, folding screen to do most of your tasks is a constant. Here are some questions I thought you might have.
How’s the screen? I’ll give you the short answer here and a longer answer in the section just below: It’s made of plastic and I haven’t had a chance to test its durability yet, but it looks the way I’d expect it to. There’s a fingernail-thin channel that runs around the perimeter between the display and the bezel, which concerns me in light of the Fold’s former issues with the top layer separating from the P-OLED below. At the very least, this channel collects dust.
How does it fold flat? The Motorola Razr’s proprietary hinge design has an open cavity that houses the looped portion of the screen. In other words, plastic screens don’t fold totally flat or you’d crease them down the middle. There’s still an air gap inside the phone, you just don’t see it, so the design appears mostly flat. Technically, there’s a 0.2mm gap between the display and hinge.
How tall is the Razr? Does it feel unwieldy or overly long? The 6.2-inch screen is tall, but also narrow, with a 21:9 ratio. The resolution is 2,142×876 pixels. Motorola has bottom-loaded most of the apps and controls to make them easier to reach with your thumb. It works better than most phones one-handed.
How well does it really fit into your pocket? Smaller front pockets might be a squeeze, but I had no problem slipping it into the back of my skinny jeans. It easily fit into my jacket pocket and purse’s phone pocket.
Is there a screen on the outside like there is on the Fold? You’ll get a 2.7-inch external display that’s meant for viewing essentials such as the time, alerts, notifications and basics like signal and battery life. You won’t be able to type on it (that’s for the best), but you can respond through canned messages or your voice. You can use it to see what you look like in selfies (see below).
How sturdy is it to open and close? I can feel the hinge tension while opening and closing the Razr, and the movement feels smooth and measured. You can see the gears of the hinge working if you look at it from the top and bottom. It looks cool, but I hope nothing gets stuck in there. Magnets hold the sides together. My thumb got tired after a day of opening it one-handed, but using two hands felt just as natural. This might not be an issue with brawnier thumbs.
Can you see a crease? Yes, but it’s narrow and less pronounced than on the Galaxy Fold. You can feel it if you rub your finger along the seam, but it’s more subtle than on the Galaxy Fold.
Why does the Razr still have a chin? The thick plastic “chin” at the bottom of the phone harks back to the original Razr design, so score one for nostalgia. More importantly, this chin houses the optical fingerprint reader (it works with Google Pay), all the antennas, the vibration motor, and GPS and Wi-Fi modules. It also gives you something to hold on to while watching video.
Do you open up the phone to talk? To initiate a call, yes, but if you’re already on a call, you can close it to keep talking — so long as you’re on speakerphone, connected through Bluetooth or on a video call. Otherwise, the phone closes out most apps. Music players are another exception, and you’ll be able to control tracks from the smaller outside screen.
What’s it like to watch videos on the Razr? I watched a few YouTube videos. You’ll want to do this horizontally: Depending on how the source video is formatted, you might crop off some heads if you pinch and zoom to fill the screen. Otherwise, you might see black bars bordering the sides. For what it’s worth, Motorola calls the 21:9 screen its Cinemavision display.
How do you use the cameras? There’s a 16-megapixel camera beneath the exterior display and that’s what you’ll use most of the time to take your photos, selfies included. There are a few tools to make selfie-taking easier, and the upshot is that image quality might be higher than average. The 5-megapixel camera you see when you unfold the Razr will be used mostly for video calls. You won’t get a telephoto or wide-angle lens, but there’s software-assisted portrait mode as well as Night Vision (and a time-of-flight sensor) for extreme low-light shots.
What’s the warranty like? Buy a Razr in the US and you’ll get round-the-clock tech support over chat. You can speak to a human on the phone for a 14-hour-per-day window. Here’s the rest of the fine print for Verizon customers (warranties may vary by country):
In the event that device or display failures occur, all Razr customers are offered 24-hour turnaround and free advanced exchange support with free next-day freight under Motorola’s standard warranty. For display defects incurred during normal use we are offering to repair or replace devices free of charge through our standard warranty policy. For all other service required for circumstances that fall outside of the warranty or promotional terms consumers can have displays replaced for $299.
Motorola: Our foldable screen is stronger than the Galaxy Fold
My first question about any foldable phone is “how strong is that screen?” — thanks to the Galaxy Fold’s litany of early screen troubles, which resulted in a redesign and a four-month delay.
The main culprits plaguing Samsung’s design came down to damage by pressure (e.g. pressing the screen hard enough to crush pixels), debris getting underneath the screen, damage to the plastic material through sharp objects (such as a fingernail or ring) and pulling off the protective top coating.
Like Samsung, Motorola uses a flexible plastic OLED display to bring images to life, and a type of plastic coating on top to protect the delicate electronics that make your screen light up.
Since harder materials like flexible glass don’t exist yet (Gorilla Glass-maker Corning is working on it), all foldable phones use some type of plastic top coating.
In Motorola’s case, it’s a polyamide coating, a variation on the ShatterShield technology the company developed in 2011 for the Droid Razr series. Motorola says that its experience working with the material gives it an edge, along with a harder coating than the Fold, which should make it more resistant to scratches. Steel plates behind the plastic OLED add structure and help distribute any impact forces along the phone’s length. We’ll test this claim.
Biggest camera, battery and screen trade-offs you need to know
I’ve never met a perfect phone, and the Motorola Razr already shows some trade-offs. The phone’s main 16-megapixel camera is a good start, but it lacks the telephoto and wide-angle lenses that have become the hallmark of premium devices. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Fold gives you six of them.
I’m curious if and how the screen dimensions hamper video watching, gameplay, typing and reading over time. The keyboard is narrow, but accurate enough for me to use without too many mistakes. I could also type quickly. People with larger fingers may not feel the same. I was relieved that the chin didn’t get in the way.
There’s also a question mark over battery life. Motorola put a battery in both sides of the Razr, for a combined total of 2,500 mAh. That helps balance out the weight, but two separate batteries are typically less efficient than one. Motorola says the battery will last a day. For reference, the Galaxy Fold battery adds up to 4,380 mAh.
One way the brand keeps battery drain in check is by using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor instead of the premium Snapdragon 855 chipset. Since the 710 chip’s peak speeds are slower than the 855’s, it’ll burn less battery. The physical chip size is smaller, too. You shouldn’t notice a difference in most of your tasks.
Most apps on the external screen don’t open to the internal screen. That’s a departure from the Galaxy Fold, whose 4.6-inch exterior display lets you open any Android app and then pick up with it where you left off when you open up the device. Motorola says that when it updates the Razr to Android 10, it’ll add more shortcuts to travel from the small outer screen to the 6.2-inch inner display.
The Razr’s version of Android 9 means you won’t be able to use popular features such as system-wide dark mode just yet.
Everything you get in the box
Your unboxing experience is set up to be pretty memorable. Motorola has made a unique and eye-catching box with sharp corners, a tinted, transparent top and a speaker grille so you can play music through the box when you slot the phone in it upright. It’s a keepsake for those who love them.
The Motorola Razr box comes with:
- The Motorola Razr phone
- Wired USB-C earbuds
- An accessory case that will also house your sunglasses
- 15-watt TurboPower charger
- USB-C cable
- Headset adaptor
Motorola Razr specs vs. the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X
Motorola Razr vs. Galaxy Fold vs. Mate X
|Motorola Razr||Samsung Galaxy Fold||Huawei Mate X|
|Display size, resolution||Internal: 6.2-inch, foldable pOLED; 2,142x876p pixels (21:9) / External: 2.7-inch glass OLED, 800×600-pixels (4:3)||Internal: 7.3-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 2,152×1,536-pixels (plastic) / External: 4.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 1,680×720-pixels (Gorilla Glass 6)||Fully extended: 8-inch OLED (2,480 x 2,200) / Folded up, front: 6.6-inch (2,480 x 1,148 pixels) / Folded up, back: 6.38-inch (2,480 x 892);|
|Pixel density||373 ppi (internal screen)||362 ppi (internal screen)||414 ppi (expanded screen)|
|Dimensions (Inches)||Unfolded: 6.8×2.8×0.28 inches. Folded: 3.7×2.8×0.55 inches||Unfolded: 6.3×4.6×0.3 inches. Folded: 6.3×2.5×0.6 inches||TBA|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||Unfolded: 172×7 2×6.9mm. Folded: 94x72x14mm||Unfolded: 117.9x161x6.9mm ~ 7.6mm. Folded: 62.8x161x15.7mm ~ 17.1mm||TBA|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||7.2 oz; 205g||9.7 oz; 276g||TBA|
|Mobile software||Android 9 Pie||Android 9.0 with Samsung One UI||TBA|
|Camera||16-megapixel external (f/1.7, dual pixel AF), 5-megapixel internal||12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)||4 rear cameras|
|Front-facing camera||Same as main 16-megapixel external||Two 10-megapixel, 8-megapixel 3D depth||At least one|
|Video capture||4K||4K (HDR 10 Plus)||N/A|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 (2.2GHz, octa-core)||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855||Kirin 980 processor|
|Battery||2,510 mAh||4,380 mAh||4,500 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Below screen||Power button||Power button|
|Special features||Foldable display, eSIM, Motorola gestures, splashproof||Foldable display, wireless charging, fast charging||Foldable display, fast charging|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$1,499||$1,980||Converts to about $2,600 (2,299 euros)|
|Price (GBP)||Converts to about £1,170||£2,000||Converts to about £2,000|
|Price (AUD)||Converts to about AU$2,200||AU$2,950||Converts to about AU$3,700|
All Rights Reserved for Jessica Dolcourt