From Samsung to Motorola to Google, almost every major Android phone maker has released a foldable phone. But there is one big thing beyond Android: Apple. And according to Motorola, that’s prompting some iPhone users to switch.
Specifically, Motorola has seen 20% of new Razr users come from Apple products. This data point is from 2021, after the release of the previous generation Razr.
“This is definitely the family where we have the most iPhone users switching to us,” Allison Yee, head of Motorola’s North American product operations, told CNET ahead of the company’s Razr Plus launch.
Flip phones still represent a fraction of the global smartphone market, but the category is growing rapidly as tech giants look for the next big evolution of the mobile phone. Market research firm International Data Corporation estimates that global shipments of foldable devices will increase by more than 50% in 2023 compared to 2022. Motorola’s Razr line faces the most competition from Samsung Galaxy Z Flip series, although Samsung has not released its sales to specify the percentage of iPhones converted.
This year is shaping up to be an important time for foldable devices with the arrival of newcomers including Google and OnePlus, giving Motorola and other early movers like Samsung more competition. However, Apple is still noticeably absent from the foldable phone race, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities, known for his predictions for Apple products, tweeted in April 2022 that he doesn’t expect Apple to release its first foldable gadget before 2025. A study by Counterpoint Research suggests that there is certainly demand for a foldable iPhone, at least in the US. Among those surveyed, 39% named Apple as their preferred foldable phone brand, while 46% named Samsung – one of the earliest and dominant players in foldable phones. Only 6% say Motorola.
The new Razr Plus and 2023 Razr are the company’s latest attempts to change that. The $1,000 Razr Plus, announced Thursday and hitting the market June 23, has a giant rooftop screen that the company is betting will set it apart from rivals like the Galaxy Z Flip 4. Motorola is also releasing a cheaper version of the Razr more later this year for an undisclosed price that will be cheaper than the Plus model.
But whether it’s competition from Samsung or, ultimately, the long-rumored iPhone Flip, Motorola isn’t focused on its competitors.
“It’s not about what our competition is doing,” Yee said. “It’s more about what the consumer needs are, what the consumers want, rather than really focusing on the competition.”
While first-timers like Google are entering foldable phones in 2023, companies like Motorola and Samsung are already considering what could be next. Both companies earlier this year showed concept devices with removable or sliding screens that could be expanded if needed sooner. Motorola’s solution involves a smartphone-sized device that can unfold to expand its display with the push of a button. It’s still a concept, and Motorola hasn’t said when or if this foldable phone will become a real product.
But Jeff Snow, Motorola’s product manager for premium and flagship devices, said he could eventually see it becoming a “branch” of the Razr we know today. While both the Razr and the shrink concept aim to make phones more portable, they accomplish that goal through different means. The Razr’s clamshell shape allows it to fold up, function as a regular phone when open, or serve as something in between when opened halfway. The movable concept changes its shape differently by expanding and contracting the screen.
“It’s a little bit of a different experience,” Snow said. “But we see it becoming part of the same category.”
Motorola is also evaluating larger foldable devices like the Galaxy Z Fold, although Yi said he could not comment on future products. Snow also said that there is “merit for this form factor,” but the company will need to make sure it doesn’t compromise the normal phone experience while still providing improved performance and content consumption.
“This space is taking off,” he said. “That is something we will pay attention to.”
So far, the Razr Plus is Motorola’s biggest attempt to stand out in a crowded market, especially as Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the global smartphone market. The combination of improving technology and wider awareness of foldables makes now the right time for a new Razr, according to Yi.
“Sometimes you see the technology is ready, but the market isn’t ready to accept it,” she said. “And consumers are not willing to adapt or adopt. But in this case, we really think it’s the right time.”