(Bloomberg) – Motorola is restarting the iconic Razr flip phone as a 6.2-inch smartphone with a collapsible display that gives the Lenovo-owned brand a unique selling point against Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.'s finest.
The first Razr, launched in late 2004, became a cultural icon in the United States, sold 130 million units and was the face of the telephone industry before Apple launched the iPhone 2007. Motorola's new model has also taken some fame, as it will be the first the real collapsible phone on the market – all other devices so far could be more accurately described as a collapsible tablet – and company executives have told Bloomberg that they are confident their design will not succumb to the sustainability issues that pushed back Samsung's Galaxy Fold launch.
Razr for 2019 is no bargain, but compared to $ 1,980 Galaxy Fold or Huawei Technologies Co.'s $ 2,600 Mate X, it is the cheapest member of the most expensive modern phone category. The compromise that users will need to accept with Razr is in some of its specifications: it has a small battery of 2,510 mAh and runs the older Android 9 Pie operating system on Qualcomm's sub-flag Snapdragon 710 chip. It lacks the 5G option and a good memory of its rivals. Apart from the US and Europe, it will also be sold in Latin America, Asia and Australia.
Motorola President Sergio Buniac said he does not see the launch as a "silver bullet" to rock Motorola's sales to Apple and Samsung numbers. In recent quarters, Motorola has transformed its mobile business from a winding unit in China's Lenovo into profitability in many markets, he said. The new Razr is intended to continue it even without strong sales. Buniac said he hopes for "a little more" demand than supply, while Lenovo Chief Operating Officer Gianfranco Lanci said "it will bring more awareness to the brand, especially in key markets such as North America."
Motorola's focus on folding phone design is significantly different from the first round of folding units. Instead of a vertical hinge that makes it open like a book, the new Razr opens and closes like a classic flip phone. Closed, the phone is a square that is about half the size of an iPhone 11 Pro Max, and Motorola has used the collapsible technology to make one of the most portable phones on the market. In the process, it has taken back the act of turning the phone closed to hang up calls, which is something that most premium consumers haven't done in at least a decade.
Samsung plans to introduce its own square folding phone as its second Galaxy Fold device at the beginning of next year. Until then, Motorola seems to be alone in offering a standard smartphone that can collapse into a pocket-friendly clam.
"We wouldn't put the product on the market if we didn't think it was ready," Sa Buniac emphasized Motorola's belief in the reliability of its special hinges and fold design. Samsung's Galaxy Fold had problems with air bubbles popping up beneath the screen and small particles got stuck under the screen. Buniac said of a so-called zero-gap design. "Our expectation is that we will have a reliable product, and when we launch you will see, but we are convinced of what we have achieved."
on test with Razr, the phone felt and looked impressive, its screen felt delicate, but the unit's design manager Ruben Castano said "We feel we have really developed a robust solution", pointing to stainless steel construction plates between the bottom of the inner screen and the device's interior. He says the layer will help prevent particles like sand from entering the device's electronics and breaking the screen, as well as a 2.7-inch external touch screen for quick access to common functions and control of notifications.
Like Samsung, Motorola will offer 24-hour swaps under standard warranty for display errors, and it will charge $ 299 if the issue falls out of warranty in the US The phone will be sold via Verizon Wireless as the exclusive launch carrier in the US and will be available in the Verizon and Walmart stores from January.
Razr's interior display looked impressive with a high-resolution panel whose folds were more subtle than the one on the Galaxy Fold. As Razr develops, Razr works like most other Android phones and runs a full touch screen version of Google's operating system. The external screen is designed for easy interactions such as answering calls and texts, but just like the front screen of the Galaxy Fold, it's not something most consumers are likely to use a lot. The new Razr is a flip phone in the heart and that's how most people will want to use it.
Castano said that Motorola began working on a collapsible design around 2015 and that its biggest challenge was being able to match the first Razr's ability for the phone to close completely without a gap. Like the original Razr, the 2019 model has a chin at the bottom that contains electronics like the LTE antenna. it also has a notch at the top of the main screen, lacks headphone jack and will only be available in black and with 128 GB of storage without any additional upgrade options. Its camera and battery specifications are overwhelming, although Motorola promises "full battery life" without specifying an exact number of hours.
Motorola's other big task will be to prove itself on the super premium end of the market that has long been dominated by Samsung and Apple. Since the first Razr, the Motorola brand has worn many hats, after working as an intermediate calculator for iPhone with Verizon Droid, going through a $ 12.5 billion Google acquisition and finally getting into Lenovo's hands. It now has to rebuild its own brand identity.
But Razr's shortcomings may well not mean. This device is designed to appeal to those who are nostalgic for the flip-phone era, for which specifications may not be prioritized, as are the early adopters of new technology, which are more tolerant of first-generation shortcomings.
To contact the author of this story: Mark Gurman of Los Angeles at [email protected]
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vlad Savov at [email protected]
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