Motorola Razr Plus (2023) Hands-On: Bigger Screen, Bigger Competition for Samsung
With the Razr and Razr Plus, Motorola tries to popularize foldable phones by targeting screen size and lower prices.
Lisa EadiciccoSenior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
The Motorola Razr is making another comeback. And this time, it's addressing two of the biggest shortcomings of current flip phone-style foldables: Cramped cover screens and high prices.
The company just announced the Razr Plus and Razr (2023), the former of which has a giant cover screen that occupies nearly the entire front of the device. The Razr Plus launches on June 23 for $1,000 and is available for preorder starting June 16, while the regular Razr (2023) is coming later this year at an undisclosed price. The standard Razr will cost significantly less than the Razr Plus, according to Motorola executives, which is notable considering most foldables have been priced around $1,000 or more. The phones are branded as the Razr 40 Ultra and Razr 40, respectively, in Europe and certain other markets, with the Razr 40 Ultra going on sale immediately in Europe for 1,200 euros.
The Motorola Razr and Razr Plus are another sign that foldable phones are evolving. Roughly four years after foldables became widely available in 2019, phone makers like Motorola are gaining a better understanding of how these devices can be practical rather than just gimmicky. Although the Razr Plus seems promising, Motorola still has daunting competition from Samsung, which dominates the market for foldable phones and smartphones in general.
Motorola Razr Plus' cover screen is the biggest draw
The first thing I noticed about the Razr Plus was its giant front screen. It measures 3.6 inches, making it technically larger than the screen on your iPhone 4 from more than 10 years ago.
The cover screen is meant for much more than just checking the time or reading notifications; you can interact with apps and even type using a full keyboard. In the brief time I spent with the Razr Plus, I typed the names of locations in Google Maps' search bar and started drafting a message in Gmail. You can even browse your TikTok feed without opening the phone, which is surprising given the app's vertical format.
While you'll likely be reading emails and browsing social media on the phone's interior 6.9-inch screen, it's nice to see more functionality on the cover screen. It makes the outer display much more useful compared to a device like the Galaxy Z Flip 4, which lets you see the time, date, calendar and other pieces of information, but doesn't offer the full app functionality of the Razr Plus.
Apps also pick up where they left off when switching between the cover screen and main inner display. If you open an app on the interior screen and close the phone, a button will appear on the cover display offering the option to relaunch the app.
Watch this: Razr Plus and Razr 2023 Hands On: First Look at Motorola's New Foldable
Motorola's approach reminds me of a smartwatch user interface; cover screen apps and widgets are glanceable, customizable and interactive, but they also feel appropriate for a smaller screen. Jeff Snow, Motorola's product manager for premium and flagship devices, said the company drew inspiration from wearable devices.
"Especially the clock face," he said. "We wanted that experience where you could have something that is not static; it's kind of moving and it represents a little bit of a different character."
Motorola Razr Plus is a flexible camera, just like other foldables
The cameras are also a big deal on the Razr Plus given its flexible design. However, don't expect the resolution to match what you'd get with a similarly priced high-end phone like the Galaxy S23 Plus or Pixel 7 Pro. There's a 12-megapixel main camera and 13-megapixel ultrawide camera, along with a 32-megapixel selfie camera in the front.
It also lacks the dedicated telephoto camera typically found on nonfolding phones in this price range, which may be an important consideration for photography enthusiasts. However, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 also lacks a telephoto lens, and that trade-off is likely necessary to provide space for the Razr Plus' large cover screen.
Motorola positions the phone's bendable shape as the main draw. In addition to propping up the phone when folded halfway to use it as a built-in tripod -- a move Samsung popularized with the original Z Flip -- there are some other tricks I could see being useful.
The Razr Plus can turn into a miniature camcorder when folded halfway and held sideways, for example. The outer screen can also be used to show a preview of the photo you're taking when snapping a picture, enabling the subject to see themselves as you hit the shutter button.
Motorola Razr Plus processor and other details
The Razr Plus' hardware falls somewhere in between what you'd get with a high-end smartphone and a reasonably priced middle-tier phone. It runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip, which is designed to power premium phones but isn't as new as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor in other phones from 2023 like the Galaxy S23 lineup.
The phone's 6.9-inch screen has a high refresh rate that reaches up to 165Hz, which should provide smoother animations and scrolling depending on what's on screen. That's unusually high for phones in this price range, which typically have 120Hz refresh rates. While the Razr's crease is still visible, it's more subtle than the one on the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and doesn't feel as noticeable to the touch.
Motorola also says the front and back of the device are coated in Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, and it's rated for IP52 durability, which should make it water repellent according to Motorola. The International Electrotechnical Commission's website describes that rating as offering protection against vertically falling water drops when the device enclosure is tilted at a specific angle. Most flagship phones support a higher IP67 rating, but the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the Razr Plus' biggest rival, has a rating of IPX8 meaning it can be submerged under water, but lacks any rated dust resistance. The new Razr also has a gapless hinge, enabling it to shut completely when closed, similar to the Google Pixel Fold.
The regular Razr is similar to the Razr Plus, but with some important differences. The cover screen is significantly smaller -- 1.5 inches compared to the Plus' 3.6 inches -- and the phone runs on the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, which is designed to bring premium features to more affordable devices. It also has a 64-megapixel main camera compared to the Razr Plus' 12-megapixel main shooter, although Motorola says the Plus should take better photos in the dark, thanks to its aperture. There's also a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera and a 32-megapixel selfie camera.
Both Razrs support 30-watt wired charging and 5W wireless charging, although the regular Razr has a larger 4,200-mAh battery compared to the 3,800-mAh battery inside the Razr Plus. You also get three years of operating system upgrades with both Razrs, which is on par with Google but not as lengthy as Samsung's four-generation pledge.
But again, it's really the sub-$1,000 price that's going to make the regular Razr stand out. Motorola seems to be following a pattern we've seen in other midrange phones by focusing on camera and battery size in its more affordable phone and scaling back in other areas typically geared more towards productivity and gaming, like the screen and processor.
Foldables are evolving in 2023
All told, the new Razrs signal that foldables may be finally starting to find their place in the mobile phone market. While foldable phones still only accounted for a sliver of the broader smartphone space in 2022 (1.2% of global shipments according to IDC), tech companies are at least thinking more creatively about how to put those bendy screens to use.
For Motorola, that shows in the Razr Plus' photography features and versatile cover screen, while Google showed off a new way to use Google Translate with two screens on the Pixel Fold.
We'll have to spend more time with Motorola's Razr Plus before we know whether that larger cover screen will be compelling enough to make foldable phones worthwhile. But it's sure to give Samsung more competition ahead of its next expected Galaxy Z Flip and Z Fold launch, which usually happens in the August time frame.