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Motorola's Razr is a Verizon lifetime exclusive

Scoop: If you want a Razr in the US, you need to sign up with Verizon Wireless.

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Verizon has a lock on the new Motorola Razr. 

James Martin/CNET

Does Motorola's new foldable Razr smartphone intrigue you? Well, you better be a Verizon Wireless subscriber. 

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Verizon has locked up the Razr as a lifetime exclusive in the US, according to Brian Higgins, vice president of product and consumer device for the carrier. That means you won't be able to buy the phone without going through Verizon. The device is up for pre-order on Dec. 26, but will be released in January.

Pre-orders for the Razr in Europe will also start in December, with the phone launching in January.

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Exclusive agreements are more of a throwback to an older era when wireless carriers locked up different devices for themselves. Nowadays, bigger players like Apple or Samsung opt to sell their devices across multiple carriers, although one-off exclusives from smaller companies like OnePlus still opt to strike these deals. 

There are also phones, like the Galaxy S10 5G, which have a window of exclusivity — around a month or so. But the Razr will remain with Verizon for as long as it's around. 

The Razr, of course, is a unique product with its foldable screen and $1,500 price tag. It was never meant to be a mass-market option, which is why a deal makes sense. As part of a CNET exclusive on the Razr, Ruben Castano, vice president of design for Motorola, said it made sense to work with Verizon early because of the phone's use of eSim technology, which replaces the physical cards you insert into devices to activate your number. 

The deal continues a long-standing relationship between Verizon and Motorola, which made a vast majority of the Droid smartphones that were exclusive to the nation's largest wireless carrier. Motorola hopes the new Razr gets it back into the flagship phone category

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The new Razr is bigger than the original to accommodate the larger fold-out display. 

James Martin/CNET

For Verizon, which got a glimpse at an early prototype roughly a year and a half ago, the Razr stood out from a pack of foldable concepts shown off at the time. While other prototypes blurred the lines between tablet and phone, the Razr was clearly intended to be a smartphone. 

That, plus the revival of the Razr and Motorola names and the quality of the build had Verizon ready to lock it up. 

"It's one of those devices you put down at the dinner table and it's an eyecatcher," Higgins said.

Higgins said this wouldn't receive a huge marketing campaign, since it's more of a niche device for early adopters. But it will get the full merchandising push in its stores, he added.  

The deal is similar to the original Razr, which arrived as an exclusive with Cingular Wireless (now AT&T). But the Razr turned out to be a smash hit, and over time, multiple variants arrived on every carrier at lower prices. 

Higgins said the exclusivity agreement only applied to this Razr. And if the clamshell design doesn't appeal to you, he hinted at more foldable devices to come in 2020. 

You just have to be a Verizon customer.