The Motorola Razr is back again. And this time, it addresses two of the biggest drawbacks of current flip-style foldable phones: narrow lid screens and high prices.
The company has just announced the Razr Plus and the Razr (2023), the former of which has a huge roof screen that takes up almost the entire front of the device. The Razr Plus launches on June 23 for $1,000 and is available for pre-order from June 16, while the regular Razr (2023) arrives later this year for an undisclosed price. The standard Razr will cost significantly less than the Razr Plus, according to Motorola executives, which is remarkable considering that 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 some other markets, with the Razr 40 Ultra going on sale immediately in Europe for €1,200.
The Motorola Razr and Razr Plus are another sign that foldable phones are evolving. Roughly four years after foldable devices became widely available in 2019, phone makers like Motorola are gaining a better understanding of how these devices can be practical rather than just a gimmick. While the Razr Plus looks promising, Motorola still has daunting competition from Samsung, which dominates the foldable phone and smartphone market in general.
The Motorola Razr Plus’ main screen is the biggest draw
The first thing I noticed about the Razr Plus was its gigantic front screen. It measures 3.6 inches, making it technically bigger than the screen on your iPhone 4 from over 10 years ago.
The title screen is designed 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 short time I spent with the Razr Plus, I typed location names into the Google Maps search bar and started composing a message in Gmail. You can even view 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 internal 6.9-inch screen, it’s nice to see more functionality on the flip. This makes the external display much more useful than a device like the Galaxy Z Flip 4, which lets you see the time, date, calendar and other information, but doesn’t offer the full app functionality of the Razr Plus.
Apps continue where they left off when switching between the main screen and the main internal display. If you open an app on the internal screen and close the phone, a button will appear on the lid display offering an option to restart the app.
Motorola’s approach reminds me of a smartwatch UI; apps and widgets on the cover screen are visible, responsive and interactive, but also look good on a smaller screen. Jeff Snow, Motorola’s product manager for premium and flagship devices, said the company drew inspiration from wearables.
“Especially the clock face,” he said. “We wanted this experience where you can have something that’s not static; it’s kind of moving and represents a little bit of a different character.”
The 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. It has a 12-megapixel primary camera and a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera, along with a 32-megapixel front-facing selfie camera.
It also lacks the dedicated telephoto camera usually found on non-folding 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 this trade-off is likely necessary to make room for the Razr Plus’ large roof-mounted screen.
Motorola is positioning the phone’s bendable form as a key feature. In addition to propping up the phone when it’s folded in half to use as a built-in kickstand — a move Samsung popularized with the original Z Flip — there are some other tricks I see as useful.
The Razr Plus can turn into a miniature video camera when folded in half and held to the side, for example. The external screen can also be used to preview the photo you’re taking when you take a photo, allowing the subject to be seen as you press the shutter button.
Motorola Razr Plus processor and other details
The Razr Plus’s hardware falls somewhere between what you’d get with a high-end smartphone and a reasonably priced mid-range phone. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip, which is designed to power premium phones, but it’s not as new as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor in other 2023 phones like the Galaxy S23 line.
The phone’s 6.9-inch screen has a high refresh rate that goes up to 165Hz, which should provide smoother animations and scrolling depending on what’s on the screen. That’s unusually high for phones in this price range, which typically have a 120Hz refresh rate. While the Razr’s crease is still visible, it’s more subtle than the Galaxy Z Flip 4’s and doesn’t feel as noticeable to the touch.
Motorola also says the front and back of the device are covered in Corning Gorilla Glass Victus and it’s IP52 rated for durability, which should make it water-resistant according to Motorola. The International Electrotechnical Commission website describes this rating as offering protection against vertically falling water drops when the device housing is tilted at a certain angle. Most flagship phones support a higher IP67 rating, but the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the Razr Plus’ biggest rival, has an IPX8 rating, which means it can be submerged underwater but has no nominal dust resistance. The new Razr also has a gapless hinge that allows it to close completely when closed, similar to the Google Pixel Fold.
The regular Razr is similar to the Razr Plus, but with some important differences. The lid’s screen is significantly smaller – 1.5 inches compared to the Plus’ 3.6 inches – and the phone is powered by Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, which is designed to bring premium features to more affordable devices. It also has a 64-megapixel primary camera compared to the Razr Plus’ 12-megapixel primary camera, although Motorola says the Plus should take better photos in the dark thanks to its aperture. There’s also a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera and a 32-megapixel selfie camera.
Both Razrs support 30W wired charging and 5W wireless charging, though the regular Razr has a larger 4,200mAh battery compared to the 3,800mAh battery in the Razr Plus. You also get three years of OS upgrades with both Razrs, which is on par with Google but not as long as Samsung’s promise of four generations.
But then 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 mid-range phones, focusing on camera and battery size in its more affordable phone and scaling back in other areas that are typically more geared towards productivity and gaming, such as the screen and the processor.
Foldable devices develop in 2023
Overall, the new Razrs signal that foldable devices may finally be starting to find their place in the mobile phone market. While foldable phones will still only represent a tiny fraction of the wider smartphone space in 2022 (1.2% of global shipments according to IDC), tech companies are at least thinking more creatively about how to use these bendable screens.
For Motorola, this is seen in the photography features of the Razr Plus and the flexible roof screen, while Google showed 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 if that larger roof screen will be compelling enough to make foldable phones worthwhile. But it will certainly give Samsung more competition before the next expected launch of the Galaxy Z Flip and Z Fold, which usually happens in August.