While we continue to wait for Motorola to officially announce its rebooted Razr, I want to take some time to remember another phone from a long time ago. That’s right, I’m talking about the original Motorola Razr: the last flip phone that anyone gave a damn about.
This month marks the 15th anniversary of the world being introduced to the Razr, and in the years since its release, we’ve seen phones evolve from two-piece clamshells to sleek glass bricks. But now with the imminent arrival of devices like the Galaxy Fold, it seems the flip phone is making a new age comeback.
While the Razr never had the legendary toughness of a Nokia 3310, the Razr was the “it” phone years before the iPhone existed. In the mid-2000s, it felt like everyone had one, and if you didn’t, you almost certainly knew a bunch of people that did. The Razr was thin, stylish, and forward-thinking in ways Motorola itself may not have even realised at the time.
It had two screens: one out the outside not much bigger than a postage stamp (with a hilarious 96 x 80 resolution) for checking notifications (before they were even called notifications), and another slightly larger screen on the inside for navigating the phone’s UI (with a higher, but still comical 176 x 220 resolution).
There was also a front-facing camera that could capture both selfies or traditional pics depending on if the phone was open or not. In comparison, it took Apple three years to put the first front-facing camera on an iPhone, something that didn’t happen until the iPhone 4 was released in 2010, nearly six years after the Razr’s debut in 2004. Just imagine how things might be different today if Motorola could have predicted the selfie boom and invested more R&D into its early mobile phone cameras.
Meanwhile, the Razr’s light-up keys felt like a vision straight out of sci-fi. Numbers weren’t divided into individual keys but instead used a radical swoop to separate various functions. And the cool blue (or white depending on the model) backlight made me feel like I had a prop from Blade Runner in my hands. The phone even shook up the gadget world’s colour barrier, as it was available in a rainbow of shades including red, purple, blue, and of course, an unforgettable shade of metallic pink.
While the phone’s menus and screen resolution seem archaic by modern standards, it’s totally usable and easy to navigate even in unfamiliar hands. And despite measuring less than half an inch thick at its thinnest point, the Razr still managed to feature a removable battery. How’s that for sophistication?
However, one thing the Razr didn’t have was durability. Personally, I owned three Razrs between 2005 and 2008 when I finally got an iPhone 3G. The first died after I fell out of a canoe. The second met its end when I intentionally went for a swim before removing the phone in my pocket. (Forgive me, it was the mid-aughts, and apparently putting cargo pockets on board shorts was cool.) But the third is still with me to this day, and after pulling it out of a drawer and plugging it in, it fired up immediately.
But aside from easily being damaged by water, the Razr was a fragile gadget. It often felt like looking at it wrong was enough to make its battery pop out, and I can’t even recall the number of Razrs I’ve seen with cracked front screens. But that was the price people willingly paid for a device so light and sleek it practically disappeared whenever it was dropped into a pocket or purse.
I have a lot of memories stored on this phone: pictures of my childhood dog, texts I can’t bear to unearth (including a few that will remain forever unread), even a demo version of Tetris, which I never unlocked because I wasn’t entirely sure how to pay for it. And while the Razr as a whole was incredibly fragile, somehow my phone survived being flung 9.14m down the highway after I rolled my Ford Explorer during a torrential thunderstorm in the middle of nowhere, Pennsyltucky. And the phone has the pics to prove it.
Looking back, it’s no wonder Motorola sold more than 130 million Razrs in the span of just five years or so. The phone was a phenomenon. It took the design of the StarTAC and updated it in a way the blew people’s minds 15 years ago. And with Motorola rumoured to be working on rebooting the Razr for 2019 with a foldable screen, there’s a chance they could recreate that magic again.
Look, I’m still a bit sceptical that people will fork over $1000+ for a revamped Razr in 2019, even one with an extra fancy display. But if there’s any phone that deserves a second (third?) chance at life, it’s the Razr.