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Commentary Foldable Phones

Forget the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, the Motorola Razr is the foldable phone to beat

Hear me out.

motorola-razr-gen-1-11

The Motorola Razr was one of the most popular phones of its day. And it's coming back in 2019 with a foldable screen.

Motorola

Last month, a foldable phone epidemic swept through the MWC 2019 trade show in Barcelona. Samsung had a mic-drop moment and launched the Galaxy Fold just days before the conference got started. Huawei said "hold my beer" and announced the Mate X. Then, TCL (the company that makes phones under the names Alcatel and BlackBerry Mobile) teased several folding phone concepts and let's not forget the Nubia Alpha, which is either a folding phone that's a watch… or a watch that's a phone.

During all this one-upmanship, Motorola sat quietly on the sidelines. But it's not completely removed from the hubbub -- rumors have been swirling that it plans to release a foldable phone. The company confirmed that it's working on a foldable phone and that it will be out this summer, but there was no mention if it is indeed a new Razr.

A revamped Razr has the potential to be the better than all the other foldable phones coming out. After all, before smartphones were a thing, the Razr ruled the industry with its iconic, sleek flip phone design which could translate quite well for the emerging foldable phone era.

Motorola Razr patent indicates a classic design with a foldable screen

In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that Motorola was reviving its Razr brand with a new $1,500 device. Later, a patent filing discovered by 91Mobiles included illustrations of what could be a new Razr phone.

motorola-razr-foldable-schematic

Patent design filing for the 'foldable' Motorola Razr phone.

WIPO

The illustrations suggest a similar design as the original, but instead of the interior space being divided by a hinge that splits the display and dial pad, the "new" Razr would be entirely display. The screen would apparently be flexible enough to fold in half and the curved bulge of the screen (when closed) would be hidden inside the phone's body.

If these markups turn out to be accurate, Motorola is taking a more practical approach than Samsung and Huawei. Instead of a phone opening out to a tablet, the Razr's small size would still mean it remains a pocketable.

On Tuesday, the enthusiast site XDA Developers shared what were allegedly the specs for the Razr:

  • Main display: 6.2 inches; 2,142x876 pixels
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 710
  • RAM: 4 or 6GB
  • Storage: 64 or 128GB
  • Battery: 2,730-mAh
  • Colors: White, Black or Gold

The display on the original Razr was just 2.2 inches. A 6.2-inch display bodes well for people who prefer small phone bodies with as much screen as possible. The processor is a curious choice. Instead of a Snapdragon 855, it's using a Snapdragon 710 which is found in phones like the Galaxy A8 and Xiaomi Mi 8 SE. It will be interesting to see how Motorola optimizes things for the processor.

Like the original Razr, there are also rumors of a second display on the outer shell. This could offer a bit more functionality with some of Motorola's apps like Moto Display, Moto Camera and Moto Actions.

The Razr is already a 'foldable' phone success

The Moto Razr was the first mainstream flip phone. It was gorgeously thin (about half of an inch thick) with a shiny metal finish and it came in tons of colors. When you held a Razr, it didn't feel flimsy or cheap and putting it into your pocket was effortless.

Though foldable phones are the new "hot" thing, we truly have no idea how this folding screen trend will pan out. Despite being released 15 years ago, Razr still has a lot of name and brand recognition. With its clout, more people would be interested in this phone not because of its foldable display but because it's a new Razr.

New leaks show useful software features of the Razr

Last Thursday, XDA Developers shared some of the Razr's alleged software features. One of them is the ability to use the outside display as a trackpad when unfolded. This is similar to the One Button Nav found on some of Motorola phones like the Moto G5 Plus, which uses the fingerprint reader as a mini trackpad instead of the screen itself.

The rumors also posit that Google Assistant will be a big part of the device, and that there will be a feature to trigger it when the phone's closed.

In recent years, Motorola has a great reputation for how it uses Android OS on its phones. The software is close to stock, save for a handful of shortcuts added by Motorola.

Since the Razr isn't a "phone that turns into a tablet," it avoids the software chaos that both the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X have to grapple with in order to make their devices user friendly. If Motorola shipped the Razr with nothing but Android 9 Pie and a few add-ons, it should get a warm reception.

Now playing: Watch this: Can Motorola's Razr top Galaxy Fold by going smaller?
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The Razr would be the 'cheapest' foldable

When Motorola released the original Razr in 2004, it cost $450 with service, which is around $725 when adjusted for inflation. The new foldable Razr may cost $1,500, according to the Wall Street Journal. That's more expensive than pretty much any other phone sold today.

But compared to the Galaxy Fold, which costs $1,980, and the $2,600 you're expected to pay for the Mate X, the Motorola Razr is a "deal" as far as foldable phones go.

TCL says it will plans to make drastically cheaper foldables, and Huawei has also said it's working on some, too. But there is nothing definite, yet.

Then again, the Razr has a familiar name and design that may sway people to open their wallets. Motorola will also limit manufacturing to only about 200,000 units, according to the same report. This limited availability will likely push more people to take a chance on the phone.

Will any of this come to to light? Or are all these rumors and drawings just a fun fantasy? We'll have to wait until this summer to find out more. So check back often when we update this story as more details are revealed.

Motorola declined to comment on this story.

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Motorola Special Edition Black Razr V3 (AT&T)
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