Motorola Razr first impressions: Made for phone lovers
The Motorola Razr is Motorola’s flagship offering in the folding phone segment.
The Razr relies on midrange specifications to attain the slim form factor.
You can buy the Razr in the US by paying $1,500.
You may have probably heard a lot about the new Motorola Razr. It’s been out in the international market for a while and it even ended up having a very capable rival in the form of the Samsung Z Flip. The new Razr has created a general notion of not being a very feature-rich phone and one should only buy it if nostalgia takes number one preference. It doesn’t sound promising then for a phone that asks you to shell $1,500.
I was sceptical too when Motorola invited me to experience the new Razr in-person. The Razr is coming to India as Motorola’s re-entry into the premium smartphone segment and a folding phone seemed like a big gamble that has already gone south. The doubts multiplied when Samsung announced its Z Flip with better specifications at a cheaper price. However, my preconceived notions about the Razr might have been a bit wrong.
As soon as I took the new Razr out of its rather cool-looking box, all of the worries and logic went out of the window. This is the Razr – ‘The’ Razr that most of us 90’s kids grew up. That stunning slim design with the iconic shape when its folded just made me keep looking at it for a while. The fact that it’s also a folding phone hits you long after that. The important thing is that this is a successor to the Razr phones from the last decade and Motorola seems to have made the phone cool again.
Design: Get ready for ‘Oohs’ and ‘Ahhs’
I remember the first time when I saw the Motorola Razr. It was 2006 and my English tutor had got the Razr in a shiny new pink colour, with all of its slim profile glory, the stunning keypad and the futuristic small outer display. It was at that moment I found love for technology. I wished to become something in the future that would keep me surrounded with such cool things, and also prayed that the Razr keeps on existing so that I could buy one someday.
Turns out that both my wishes came true. The new Razr is as cool as the one I saw back in 2006. That moment of Motorola letting me take it out of the box has been permanently etched in the memory and I will carry it to the grave. The new Razr looks as exciting as the original Razr and I can say that it’s the best-looking smartphone I have ever seen.
Motorola said that it started with the original Razr’s design and tried to fit in new smartphone components in it. The result is a device that’s got slightly bigger dimensions but retains those iconic lines and curves.
In its folded state, the Razr is as big as a small wallet with a few coins. It’s quite slim for a folding phone and welcome change from the bulky phones of today – it fits in my hand entirely. Motorola had made clever use of materials to keep the weight low while maintaining the premium feel. Hence, you get a Gorilla Glass 3 covering at the front that houses the Quick View display as well as the protruded main camera. The chin is made of plastic and so is the rest of the rear panel. That said, it’s good quality plastic and Motorola has ensured stylish design elements to keep it look interesting.
The entire bottom of the phone has a nice mesh-like texture to make it look like a giant speaker – it does have the loudspeaker placed there. You also see a USB-C port but there’s no headphone jack, like the original RAZR V3. However, I wished Motorola had avoided putting the capacitive fingerprint sensor on the chin. I would have loved it to be put at the back under the Moto dimple or hidden in some other clever way. The hinge feels well-built and it doesn’t look weird at all like the Samsung Fold. The hinge has lesser gaps, which is also reassuring.
Flip open the phone and you see an evolved iteration of the original Razr’s interior design. The new Razr has a big 6.2-inch flexible OLED display that dominates the entire inside of the phone. Obviously, the thick bezels are noticeable and so is the big notch. Thankfully, the top of the display is curved and that reduces the presence of the notch by a large margin. The chin is thick and it sticks out especially when you look at chin on the Samsung Z Flip.
That said, even with this design handicaps from conventional smartphones, the Razr looks attractive. The display is plastic and you can feel it not as strong as glass when you press your finger against it. The display also loved picking up scratches and I wonder how long it remains useable after you take it out in the real Indian outdoor conditions, i.e. sweaty hot days, humid monsoons and windy winters. Yes, Motorola did not let me take it outdoors – damn all the missed opportunities to become an instant local star.
The hinge is what makes the new Razr possible and it is a clever one. It uses a clever combination of plates and gears to make the folding action seem rigid. To avoid a crease, Motorola lets the display bend with some space in between – that’s also the reason you see the bottom of the display sliding into the chin.
With all this folding magic and the iconic design hiding it, the Razr ends up being as heavy as any of the conventional premium phones adorned with glass bodies. At 205 grams, it is certainly not as light as I had hoped it to be. Samsung’s Z flip is lighter than the Razr. Maybe that’s the price you have to pay for that stunning design.
User experience: Feels just like any other Android phone
Flip phones have always looked cool but when it comes to practicality, they haven’t been on top of the priority list. The Razr is essentially a flip phone that brings with itself all the typical flip phone issues and then adds a dollop of issues that phones with flexible display bring with them.
You may have seen videos on YouTube showing people flipping open the Razr – that’s not as easy as it looks. The hinge has quite some resistance to it and it prevents you from ‘flipping’ open the Razr’s lid. You will have to use two hands to get to the main display and even then, your fingers will have to do some digging to get hold of the panel. This is tough and I can imagine how difficult it would be when you want to reply to a message or check an email on the move. Thankfully, the 2.7-inch Quick View display comes to help for showing contents of notification but even here, you are restricted to just seeing messages. I would have liked Motorola to let users reply to messages with some clever variation of the keyboard or maybe by using a voice assistant.
Once you are inside, the Razr feels pretty much like any other Motorola phone. You are greeted by a clean iteration of stock Android and it gets as good as stock Android can get. The Razr is currently on Android 9 Pie but Motorola said it will roll out the Android 10 update soon. Android Pie in itself is smooth and on the Razr, it feels no different. I was flipping around menus and apps, and the Razr did not show signs of struggle. You should note that I was using the phone with no Google account logged and no third-party apps installed. Hence, with a fully loaded Razr, the experience could be different.
Motorola has been criticised for using a two-years-old Snapdragon 710 chipset and like you all, I too have my reservations on this. After all, a $1,500 phone should offer the best-in-class chipset. When I asked, Motorola said that Snapdragon 710 offered them the best combination of keeping the thermals under control while providing maximum performance. Until I use the Razr for a few weeks, I cannot nod to this logic. Maybe the stock Android experience has been optimised well enough for the hardware and it could work as promised. 6GB of RAM should be enough for a fair bit of multitasking while the 128GB storage should store everything.
The display becomes an important part of the Razr’s user experience. Motorola is using the 10th generation flexible OLED display but one of their product managers has been using a prototype unit with the 3rd-gen display for seven months and it showed no scratches or squeaks. The resolution is HD+ only but in its 21:9 aspect ratio, it feels sharp. The panel isn’t very bright though and the auto-brightness calibration definitely needs some work. At full brightness, the display feels good to look at, with typical OLED properties such as punchy colours, high contrasts but a limited viewing angle. When the display is partly folded, you cannot see any distortion in the hinge section. However, the plastic display is soft and it can register scratches from fingernails easily. When the folding happens, you can see a slight gap that may let debris inside. Additionally, the infamous squeak while closing the phone is slightly disturbing but you will have to listen to the hinge action in a quiet room carefully to be bothered about it.
Motorola hasn’t developed any special app to use the flexible display in any other way. However, the Moto Actions are present and you can do the chop-chop action to switch on the camera. The Moto Display takes place on the Quick View panel and it shows all the notifications in brief. But as I said before, Motorola should have let the user respond to messages and do some basic functions from this display. There’s also a Retro Razr mode that you can engage to get the ‘OG RAZR’ feels. It basically activates a launcher that resembles the RAZR V3’s interiors and only lets you use the buttons of navigation.
If you love taking photos, the Razr may disappoint you. The main camera that you see under the Quick View display is a 16-megapixel dual-pixel shooter with F1.7 lens. You can use this as the main rear camera to take photos or use it via the Quick View display while closed to take selfies. This implementation seems nice but the camera quality itself isn’t good – especially not for a $1,500 phone.
The image quality is sub-par – unacceptable for a premium phone. Images indoors turned out be blurry and there’s the classic reddish hue on human skins present. Motorola said at the time that the software build was a beta version but international reviews of the Razr haven’t shown better results. The 5-megapixel inner camera is also average at best – just useable for making video calls.
I couldn’t test the battery life in the short while I had with the Razr. The 2510mAh battery should be just enough to make it to the end of the day and the 15W charger should refill it quickly.
Is the Motorola Razr a phone for the sensible?
No. Not at all. The Motorola Razr is not meant for the sensible who values logic over everything. A logical person would instead spend the same money on an Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max or a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra for a better deal. These phones are much better phones in every aspect and are exceptional pocket assistants for getting through a day.
So, who is the Razr for?
It’s for those who want to celebrate the idea of mobile connectivity fused with exceptional style and portability. It is for those who want an accessory to compliment their lifestyle. It’s for those who keep the phone on the desk while sipping coffee on the work desk. It’s for those who love flaunting. It’s for those who marvel the idea of a flexible display. In short, the Razr is for those who love smartphones. It exists because someone wanted to make a good looking phone for someone who cares about style. It exists for people like me who want a good phone and not a device with ugly DSLR-like cameras bulging out of the back like a tumour. For these abovementioned kinds, the Razr is supremely exciting.
I don’t know whether Motorola will hand me a review unit of the Razr and until then, I cannot give a verdict on it. I don’t know the pricing too but if it’s anything above Rs 1,10,000, it could be a hard sell as the Samsung Z Flip is a better phone overall with a more posh appeal. The Razr appeals to the style gurus and those who love the nostalgia factor.
For now, all I can say that it feels solid in the hand but it is delicate. It’s high on style but you will need to get used to the flip form factor. Interested in buying one? Go ahead but ensure your hands take special care of it.