I admit it: I'm a foldable phone skeptic. Even putting aside Samsung's botched Galaxy Fold launch, I'm unconvinced that people need — or will want to pay thousands of dollars for — a chunky, hinged phone that unfolds into a tablet.
But Motorola's foldable Razr is almost here, and even with its very high $1,500 price, it might have just made me a believer.
The new Razr isn’t a giant phone that unfolds into an even bigger tablet. It’s small, fits perfectly in a pint-sized pocket, and then unfolds into a 6.2-inch phone. Somehow, it’s the best of both worlds: the size I need and the size I want.
Editor's note: After a slight delay to the rollout schedule for the Motorola Razr, the foldable phone will now hit stores on Feb. 6. We've updated this hands-on with information on pre-ordering the Motorola Razr.
Motorola Razr release date and price
Preorders for the foldable Motorola Razr were originally scheduled to go live in December, but Motorola decided to "adjust Razr’s presale and launch timing," citing demand that "has quickly outgrown supply predictions." All that's been sorted out now, and the Motorola Razr is ready for its debut: pre-orders begin Jan. 26, with the phone arriving in stores on Feb. 6.
The new Razr will cost $1,500 and be available through Verizon, Walmart and Motorola's online store. At Verizon, you can buy the phone in monthly installments, paying $62.49 per month over 24 months.
Verizon is also offering a deal on the Razr that could save you a substantial amount of money if you're switching over wireless service to the carrier. Trade in an eligible phone, and you can get up to $500 in bill credits (spread out over 24 months) on the Razr; you'll get another $200 in the form of a prepaid Mastercard for switching to Verizon. Current Verizon customers can get up to $300 in bill credits for their trade-in.
The Feb. 6 launch date for the Motorola Razr is interesting, in that it comes just a few days before Samsung holds a Feb. 11 product launch. While the Galaxy S20 is likely to be the main focus of that Unpacked event, it's also a possibility that Samsung will show off its Galaxy Fold follow-up, the rumored Galaxy Z Flip. That phone's expected to also have a flip phone-style design, so February is shaping up to be an interesting month for foldable phone fans.
Motorola Razr: 2020 vs. 2004
The Motorola Razr V3 debuted in 2004 and instantly became an icon. The flip phone was superslim and came in multiple colors; later versions featured iTunes built-in for playing MP3s. But mostly, people just loved the clamshell design, which snapped shut with a satisfying click when you finished a call. That's what we used our Razrs for: phone calls. It was a simpler time.
The new Razr is just as thin (14 millimeters) when closed as the original was. And the phone is still as satisfying to close, though it doesn't snap in quite the same way. But the original's tiny screen (by today's standards) and dial pad are gone. Instead, Motorola put a 6.2-inch, foldable display in this year's Razr. When you flip open the device, the plastic OLED screen unfurls to become perfectly flat.
I owned a dark-blue Razr when I met my now-husband in college, and when I shattered the screen, he had to call me on my dorm room phone and leave messages with my roommates. Like I said, it was a simpler time.
But now that we're in 2020, people don't leave messages with roommates, and few people use their phones primarily for phone calls. Using a classic Razr today would be nostalgic but frustrating. Motorola knows this. That's why the new Razr isn't a blast from the past. Instead, it's a throwback to the future. After all, a lot has changed in the past 15-plus years.
Motorola Razr tech specs
|Display||Interior: 6.2 inches (21:9) HD (2142 x 876) pOLED | Exterior: 2.7 inches (4:3) OLED (600 x 800)|
|OS||Android 9 Pie|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 710|
|Exterior camera||16 MP (f/1.7) with Night Vision|
|Interior camera||5 MP (f/2.0)|
|Size||Unfolded: 2.83 x 6.77 x 0.27 inches | Folded: 2.83 x 3.7 x 0.55 inches|
Motorola Razr design
The new Razr retains the design sensibility of the classic Razr. It's a flip phone with a small exterior screen, which shows the time and notifications (more on that later). Both Razrs are superslim, with giant chins. The new Razr uses that chin for a fingerprint sensor.
The Razr comes in just one color, a smoky black, which is disappointing for those of us who were obsessed with the classic Razr's variety of hues. But the most important feature of my old Razr was its size.
The new foldable version fits perfectly in my pocket, just like it used to. My 5.8-inch iPhone is no match for the tiny pockets sewn into basically all women's jeans.
The new Razr's back is textured, which I don't love, but it does add visual interest to an otherwise basic black phone.
Motorola Razr durability
Motorola approached the foldable Razr from a completely different perspective than Samsung did with the Galaxy Fold, and it seems to have worked to Motorola's advantage.
Whereas the Galaxy Fold is essentially two phones stacked on top of each other that unfold into a tablet, connected by a gapped hinge, the Razr is basically a 6.2-inch smartphone that bends in half so the two pieces sit flush against each other. The lack of a gap is the result of two stainless steel hinges connected to sliding support plates. The plates support the display and keep it rigid when it's fully extended. The hinges then push mechanical elements, including the plates, out of the way to close. You don't see any crease in the display from the effect, unlike with the Galaxy Fold.
Motorola worked with Lenovo for four years and developed 26 prototypes before settling on the Razr's foldable display. Motorola is so confident in the hinge design that the company won't say how many folds the display can withstand before breaking, and won't caution buyers to treat the Razr's screen carefully.
A standard one-year warranty will cover screen replacements, and if a new screen is needed outside of the warranty, it will cost $299. Basically, Motorola thinks the Razr is invulnerable to the types of problems Samsung experienced with the Galaxy Fold that pushed back that phone's launch.
I haven't used the Razr extensively enough to assess its durability, but in my hands-on time with the device, it felt sturdy — so sturdy that I wasn't able to flip it open and closed with one hand. That's slightly annoying, especially compared with the ease of flipping a classic Razr open and shut, but it's a trade-off for a phone that won't break at the first sign of force.
Motorola Razr dual displays
Like the Galaxy Fold, the Razr has two displays: a smaller exterior glass panel and an interior plastic OLED one.
The Razr's 2.7-inch external Quick View display serves as a notification window for messages, emails and phone calls. You can quickly respond to texts with canned responses or dictate messages by voice. When you're listening to music, the playback controls are viewable on the exterior screen. The Quick View display is also integrated with Google Assistant; responses show up on the screen.
The Quick View display is designed to hand off tasks to the larger interior screen. I tested this by responding to an email. When I tapped Reply on a message displayed on the external screen, a notification directed me to continue the task on the larger one. I opened the Razr, and a blank email was waiting to be composed. This hand-off works with a limited number of apps, but Motorola plans to work with app-makers to expand its capabilities.
The idea of using the Quick View display to handle fast responses is compelling. Sometimes, I respond to a text and then find myself mindlessly opening Instagram and scrolling for several minutes for the second time in an hour. If my phone stays shut the entire time, the temptation might be nipped in the bud. (Wishful thinking? Perhaps.)
The 6.2-inch interior plastic OLED panel sits just beneath the device's stainless steel frame to prevent debris from collecting between the two. I noticed a sliver of a gap between the screen and the frame in the Razr I used at a Motorola event Wednesday (Nov. 13). It was just wide enough for me to wedge in the tip of my fingernail, but I'm not sure any debris could find its way inside. We plan to put that to the test with a full review. There's no plastic overlay that could be easily peeled back, ruining the screen in the process, as there was on the original Galaxy Fold. So that's a step in the right direction for Motorola's Razr.
Watching a trailer for Westworld Season 3 was an immersive enough experience with the larger screen's 21:9 aspect ratio, but the HD resolution and plastic screen detract from the overall video quality. This isn't a phone designed to show off dazzling cinematography.
Motorola Razr cameras
Motorola put a 16-megapixel camera lens smack-dab in the center of the Razr's front, which then becomes a rear-facing camera when you flip open the phone. A 5-MP lens is housed in a slight notch that swoops down from the interior display. Both cameras can take selfies, but the exterior lens is better and more fun to use. Simply twist your wrist to launch a selfie-cam preview on the tiny Quick View display.
The Razr's main lens has a Night Vision mode for better low-light shots, which we plan to compare with photos taken with the Google Pixel 4 and Apple iPhone 11 Pro. A Smart Recognition feature helps you frame your shots like a pro photographer would.
I haven't used the Razr's cameras extensively, but in my early tests, I'm underwhelmed. A smartphone today — particularly one that costs $1,500 — absolutely must include capable camera lenses. We'll see how the Razr stacks up to the best camera phones.
Motorola Razr performance and battery life
The new Razr is built on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 710 chip, which is designed for power efficiency over raw performance. The Android flagships that came out when Motorola first previewed the Razr use the Snapdragon 855, and this year's models will have Snapdragon 865. The new Razr won't be able to compete with phones with those chips, which is disappointing for a $1,500 device.
Motorola execs say the Razr is a design-focused phone, and as such, sacrifices were made. The Snapdragon 710 is a serviceable CPU, which should help maximize the Razr's 2,510-mAh battery. And the 710 powers the camera software's artificial intelligence features, including Night Vision and Smart Recognition.
But we're not expecting the Razr to dazzle us with its performance or battery life.
The 2020 Razr is the smartphone embodiment of the classic Jetsons cartoon: adorably retro and almost too futuristic to be real. And yet I don't find it gimmicky. I think Motorola is onto something here. The company didn't just ransack its greatest hits for profit or develop cutting-edge technology for technology's sake. I'm intrigued, and slightly impressed.
Still, the Razr is too expensive for most people, and Motorola's design-first approach left other areas — like processing power and cameras — lacking.
The original Razr debuted in a different world more than a decade and a half ago. The iPhone hadn't yet changed the way we use phones. But the new Razr could change the way we use them again.