Classic flip phone revived as hi-tech $1,500 foldable smartphone
It has been 10 years since US mobile giant Motorola consigned its Razr flip phone to the history books, as touchscreen phones with downloadable apps began to take over the industry.
The flip phone is one of the best selling mobiles of all time, according to a 2018 report from tech news site Decluttr. Some 130 million examples have shipped since the phone’s launch in 2004, earning the title of “the best-selling clamshell phone in the world to date”.
But the arrival of the iPhone in 2007 soon put not-so-smartphones out of favour with customers, spawning a new wave of connected handsets that made the Razr obsolete.
On the surface, the rebooted flip phone sports a similar design to the original. The device is hinges horizontally along the middle, with the top half of the handset mirroring the curved edge as the old model – as does the protruding microphone at the bottom of the mobile.
Flip the phone open and the differences become more apparent. Gone is the traditional button layout, which has instead been replaced by a flexible 6.2in OLED display “that folds in on itself,” says CNet.
While Samsung has been the first major mobile provider to ship a foldable handset with the £1,900 Galaxy Fold, the revived Razr comes in a more compact package for better portability and significantly undercuts its rival on price.
Ahead of the device’s launch next month, the critics have put the phone to the test to see how it stacks up against the competition. Here’s what they had to say:
“We assumed that foldables would bridge the gap between phones and tablets by unfolding horizontally into a wider display”, says TechRadar’s David Lamb. “Motorola’s take has other ideas, and flips open to reveal an elongated touchscreen, one that’s just a bit longer than the iPhone 11 display.”
So Razr users “don’t get much more screen real estate” than a conventional smartphone, but the “novelty” lies with what you can do with the device when it’s closed, he says. The top section of the Razr has a small display on the opposite side of the main screen, letting users easily check their emails and see texts without needing to flip open the phone.
The primary OLED display is “gorgeous”, says Joseph Carey of the Daily Express, especially as the device’s 21:9 aspect ratio “makes it incredibly easy to navigate with one hand.” Bezels are kept to a minimum, although there is a “sizeable” notch at the top that houses a single front-facing camera.
The flip mechanism, meanwhile, has “a strange sensation” when opening the device as “the entire display actually shifts down slightly”, says Carey. “The new Razr isn’t delicate, but we don’t feel as comfortable nonchalantly flipping it open and shut as we would on its 2004 brother.”
However, Corey Gaskin at Digital Trends says the Razr is “a design-first device,” as Motorola has “some sacrifices” with the flip phone’s internals. For instance, Qualcomm’s mid-range 710 processor was chosen for the device, as opposed to the faster 855 chip, to help eek out more power from the twin-pack battery system.
While the Razr “looks incredible”, Gaskin hopes that a second-generation version “will bring it closer to parity with other phones you can get at this price” – an area that’s primarily occupied by the Galaxy Fold.
It may not beat the Galaxy Fold on performance, but Pocket-lint’s Mike Lowe says the phone’s portability gives it an edge over its rival: “We’d rather pocket this over the Samsung or Huawei solutions every day of the week.”
“Indeed, the Razr may well be the most exciting phone to launch in 2020 – and that’s before we’ve even entered that year”, he concludes.
Price and release
The Razr carries a price tag of $1,500 (£1,170) in the US and will be available exclusively through local network provider Verizon when orders open on 26 December, notes TechRadar.
Motorola says that European orders will open in December as well, the site reports, although an official release date and pricing has yet be announced.