Motorola’s new Razr gives me hope for the future of foldables

All right, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: After months of rumors and teasing, a snazzy new foldable phone is breaking cover — and promising to change the very way we think about mobile technology. Oh, but in reality, it’s expensive and almost certain to be laden with compromises, not least of all its subpar-looking and inherently fragile display.

It’s a familiar tale for anyone who follows tech news even a little, thanks to Samsung’s high-profile Galaxy Fold fiasco, and it’s starting all over again with the latest overhyped entry to the foldable phone fold: the new Motorola Razr, which brings the classic flip-phone form back with a 2019 twist and a $1,500 price tag. The phone goes on sale December 26th and is available for now only in the U.S. and only on Verizon — another throwback to a bygone era of mobile technology, though one that’s perhaps a tad less endearing.

Just like with the Galaxy Fold before it, it seems safe to say this isn’t a phone any serious professional would be well-advised to buy. But unlike Samsung’s initial effort, which struck me mostly as being innovation for the sake of innovation — a showcase for a flashy and technologically impressive new trick that solved no real problems and offered little in the way of meaningful real-world benefit — Motorola’s take on the foldable phone seems poised to address a genuine issue and to lay the groundwork, at least, for an interesting new kind of device.

Why? It’s simple: While the Galaxy Fold and its horizontal-folding arrangement mostly serve to provide a small-tablet-like screen in a normal-ish phone-sized body, the new Razr flips the script and instead aims to offer up a reasonably sized smartphone screen in an exceptionally compact frame.

And that seemingly subtle distinction makes all the difference in the world. I mean, think about it: Even if we discount all the asterisks surrounding the Fold, the phone’s folded-out 7.3-in. display doesn’t really let you do anything meaningfully better than you could do with a standard large-screened device — like Samsung’s own Galaxy S10, for instance. What does going from a 6.4-in. screen, à la the S10, to a 7.3-in. screen on the Fold really change, practically speaking? Is being able to have three apps on your screen at the same time instead of the standard two something most of us would actually take advantage of often? What need is this addressing?

The new Razr, on the other hand, attempts to address the very real desire some of us have to own a device with a reasonably sized screen but a compact body that’s less unpleasant to lug around in our perpetually overstuffed pockets. I know I’m not the only one who enjoys having a spacious display but resents having to carry a massive rectangular slab in my britches. With a 6.2-in. screen that folds up into a 2.8-by-3.7-in. body — giving you almost all the display space of a phone like the Galaxy S10 in a form that’s significantly smaller — the dilemma of wanting a decently sized screen without an annoyingly bulky body could finally be solved.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.


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