Updated: March 16, 2020 2:38:55 pm
A few days ago, I was invited to Motorola’s office in Delhi-NCR to experience a reboot version of the Razr, a clamshell phone that became a fashion statement in the early 2000s. The difference between this device and that iconic flip phone is a foldable-screen on the new Razr that bends in half like the clamshell design of phones for the past era.
Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which transforms from a phone to a tablet when you open it up, the Razr looks like a regular smartphone when it’s open and is much smaller and compact when it’s closed. So this is the first foldable smartphone where the screen folds vertically, different from the foldable phones I have seen so far.
Yes, initial reviews have not been kind to the $1500 foldable phone. There are a lot of controversies going around the new Razr, and comparisons to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is another headache for Motorola.
Since I got to spend a little time with the Razr ahead of its launch, it would be unfair on my part to jump to the conclusions without testing it extensively. Let’s not forget: this is a foldable phone with a new form factor and hinge design. And most importantly, this is the first generation of foldable smartphones.
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Retro design for modern consumers
First off, the new Motorola Razr does look amazing. It gives you the vibes of the original Razr, which I always wanted to own, but couldn’t due to its high price.
Anyway, Motorola has tried to make the best out of the iconic Razr which, of course, is the clamshell design. And I would like to give full credit to Motorola to think differently.
As I mentioned in the beginning, the Razr’s screen can be folded in half. The phone has a screen that measures 6.2 inches on the diagonal — about the same screen size as the Galaxy S20. When it’s folded up, you will find a 2.7-inch “Quick View” display that can show your notifications, music controls or snap a selfie. It has always-on functionality, like Motorola’s other smartphones.
So the new Razr opens and folds, just like the classic Razr. I actually liked the usability of this form factor. That means, when closed, the phone is not much thicker than a gents’ wallet. Sure, it’s a bit wider and taller than the original Razr, but when I opened the new Razr, it felt a lot like a normal smartphone. This is not a one-handed foldable smartphone, as I struggled to open the device with a single hand.
One design trait of this foldable phone that immediately reminds of the classic Razr is the “chin” on the bottom edge of the phone. Motorola executives told me that the chin holds the phone’s antennas and speakers. This chin also accommodates the optical fingerprint reader. What’s also impressive about the Razr is the size and thickness of the phone.
The Razr is constructed out of stainless steel and Gorilla Glass, so you know you are holding a high-quality smartphone. Flip the Razr over, and you will notice textured back and a classic etched Motorola batwing logo. The right side of the Razr has the power and sleep button, along with a volume rocker. Though it is very hard to tell apart. On the bottom is a USB-C port — there isn’t a headphone jack, but a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter is included in the box.
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That secret hinge
The hinge can break or make any foldable phone. In the case of the Razr, Motorola designed a custom “zero-gap” hinge system that allows the phone to fold without a gap. There is, however, a small gap between the display and the hinge where it folds. Even a tiny gap between the hinge and screen can attract dust and particles, leading to screen damage.
To my surprise, there isn’t a visible crease where the display fold, though you can still feel it. When I used the Galaxy Fold, the crease was clearly visible.
Observation: I don’t know how Motorola did this but when the Razr is completely opened, the display appears to lie flat over the hinge.
Weird creaking sound
A lot of tech reviewers have claimed that their Motorola Razr review units were making a weird creaky sound while holding it half-open. I can confirm that my demo unit had a noticeable cracking sound when the phone was opened or closed. Motorola, in its defense, has claimed that the sound is normal.
At the moment, I can’t say how long this foldable smartphone holds over a longer period of time. But this weird squeaking noise the Razr makes when it’s opened or closed is not a good sign.
What the Motorola Razr is missing
*The Razr is not a 5G-ready device.
*The phone lacks the microSD slot.
*The Razr doesn’t have a standard headphone jack.
Plastic display vs glass display
The Razr has a 6.2-inch pOLED 2142×876 display with a 21:9 display ratio. In my limited time with the Razr, I found the display just fine. I don’t expect it to be as nice as the screen on the Galaxy Z Flip but the Razr’s display seems to be high-quality.
But more than the brightness and viewing angles of the display, you need to remember that the Razr’s display is made of plastic and not glass. Plastic foldable screens are easily susceptible to scratches, whereas glass screens are more sturdy. The Galaxy Z Flip uses an ultra-glass screen, for that matter. That said, both Motorola and Samsung have cautioned users to be extra careful with foldable screens.
As you open the box, the first thing you will notice is a sticker that comes with the Razr. It says “Do not apply a screen protector, as it will damage the display.” There is a long list of warnings that you need to keep in mind when using a foldable phone and you can’t avoid them. And another trade-off of buying a foldable phone is the lack of waterproofing, though the Razr is water-repellent.
Somewhere I feel Motorola has been less transparent about how durable the folding display is. That’s my concern, considering a person investing $1500 should be using the phone for at least three years. Samsung, however, clearly claims the Galaxy Z Flip display can last for 200,000 folds. That said, I have neither used the Razr or Z Flip so it is very hard to say which foldable phone is more durable than the other.
One of the not-so-wise choices Motorola has made while designing the Razr is going with mid-range specifications. I get it, the Razr is more of a fashion statement and less about the specifications. Still, I feel that the phone as pricey as the Razr should come with the top-of-the-line specifications.
Right now, the only model Motorola is making available to consumers comes with a Snapdragon 710 chipset with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage. In my brief time with it, apps opened fast and there wasn’t any stuttering while scrolling web pages. The performance should be fine but not spectacular as it also runs the older Android 9.0 Pie. I am more worried about the longer-term; we already know how mid-range Android smartphones perform after six months.
There aren’t major software customisations being done to make the Razr standout. I liked the feature where apps seamlessly transition from the front display to the main display. By the way, the new Razr also comes with a special retro mode that emulates the old style of the Motorola Razr, which is full of nostalgia.
I am also curious to know if the battery will last as long as Motorola claims. With a 2510mAh battery (it’s being split into two pieces), I am not so sure that the Razr will even last a full day. I may be wrong, though.
What are Motorola Razr’s USPs
*The Razr will be sold as an e-SIM-only model.
*The phone’s flip-style design is its biggest strength.
*Feels premium in the hand.
When the Razr is shut, there is a 16MP rear camera which can also be used to take selfies. The top of the display, when unfolded, has a small earpiece and a 5MP camera.
The Razr’s camera can’t be compared to other flagship devices like the iPhone 11 and Galaxy S20. That’s for sure. I didn’t take many pictures, but what I shot looked underwhelming.
The $1500 smartphone coming with a single 16MP is a big joke. I don’t know how Motorola will justify the price of this smartphone. Even a consumer not so interested in photography might expect a slightly decent camera. This is a bare minimum.
Will you buy the Razr?
After spending an hour (I will repeat again: this is not a review) with the Razr, I have mixed feelings about a smartphone that will retail for over Rs 100,000. Even though I haven’t fully tested the device, I felt that the Razr lacked many basic fronts. The hardware and mediocre camera are the Razr’s biggest flaws. Any consumer, who will spend over a lakh on a smartphone, would expect flagship-level performance.
But my concerns are more than specifications. I am more concerned about the hinge system and whether the display can stand up to everyday use.
I know Motorola wants to pitch the Razr as a status symbol. But this phone would be a hard sell. But then I admire Motorola for thinking foldable phones from a new perspective.
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