Seven months after releasing its classic Razr in the form of a foldable phone to rival Samsung, Motorola is back with a second-gen version. The new model sports better specs and a refined design — plus 5G — for slightly less than the original, which definitely wouldn’t upset me if I had just purchased the first one in February.
I understand almost nothing about the way Motorola is launching the new Razr, which actually does look like an appealing phone. A remote press presentation I watched highlighted some of the new features, most notable of which is the addition of 5G. The company had to work some engineering magic to add 5G antennas to both sides of the phone without increasing its size, and also upped the battery capacity from 2,510 mAh to 2,800 mAh to make up for its power-hungry 5G modem.
The new Razr’s design has also been refined to be durable as well as more useful. Motorola made some tweaks to the stainless steel hinge and pulled the display more tightly across the metal support plates so things are overall a little more smooth, though the screen itself is the same five-layer laminated POLED used in the first-gen model. In the video I watched, the phone seemed to open and close quickly without the creaking some experienced in the older model, though because I haven’t used it in person, it may have just been a video trick. Motorola also moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone, which makes more sense with its more compact design and also allows the chin to taper.
One of the Razr’s best features is the 2.7-inch touchscreen QuickView display, which allows you to interact with the phone without opening it, and Motorola has improved it in this new version. You can now swipe on it to quickly access things like the camera, contacts, apps, and the home screen. It’s also compatible with apps like Google Maps and Spotify, so you don’t have to open the phone to get directions or control music playback. Only eight apps are actually optimised for that screen, but you can choose to add whichever app you want to the app panel — it just might not look that great when you try to use it on the QuickView display.
In addition to a beefier battery, Motorola has upgraded other internals like the processor, which is now a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G (a step below the flagship Snapdragon 765 but better than the first Razr’s Snapdragon 710). The exterior camera is now a 48-megapixel lens that offers some creative shooting solutions, like displaying a cartoon on the QuickView display to make subjects laugh. The same camera also now supports group selfies, Portrait Mode, and a spot colour feature to make black-and-white images pop. And though you’ll mainly use that external lens, an interior 20-megapixel front-facing camera still lets you take video calls when the phone is extended.
All that is to say: The new Razr sounds better than the old one. When a box emblazoned with Motorola’s Razr logo appeared on my doorstep last week, I was curious to test out the second version of the rebooted foldable phone. I got to try the original Razr at an event in LA last year, and while there were clearly kinks to work out, I had high hopes. At least Motorola is doing something a little different, and, like most of us, I am not immune to nostalgia for the electronics of my youth. I unabashedly love a Razr. Motorola had promised some “party favours” to use while watching its press event today, and perhaps naively I assumed one of the favours tucked inside this absolutely massive box would be the new phone.
But then I opened the box. Where the Razr could have been nestled was a stack of informational cards about the device, highlighting its features. “Huh,” I thought, lifting the stack to see if a phone was tucked underneath somewhere. I found a package of batteries, a string of lights, and hardcover notebook filled with blank pages, prefaced with a QR code. “A scavenger hunt!” I thought, scanning the QR code with my phone. “This is pretty neat.”
The code took me to a YouTube video playlist, which provided instructions on how to make a phone holder for the Razr and a string of lights out of origami (hence the blank notebook). But there was no phone.
There would never be a phone. The Motorola team later told me they won’t be conducting a reviews program for the new Razr, despite all of its promising new features. Instead, they sent me a very large box of nothing (though I neglected to mention the included Sugarfina champagne gummy bears, which I will never turn down). It makes me wonder if the new Razr, which looks like it could be a good foldable phone, is actually not a good foldable phone.
Normally I wouldn’t assume that, but given the trouble Motorola had with the Razr’s launch in February (very few stores seemed to actually stock the phone, and the rollout appeared extremely messy for a flagship device), I can’t tell if Motorola is bad about capitalising on the hype around the Razr or if the Razr is just not good.
Mainly I am convinced that Motorola doesn’t know who its audience for the Razr is. Last year’s launch event was targeted toward influencers, who posed with the phone but almost certainly didn’t plunk down $US1,500 ($2,061) of their own dollars to buy it. The new Razr’s launch event was comprised almost entirely of a “short film” (a commercial) featuring Julia Garner (an actress I love) leaving work to dance around the desert with some beautiful model friends and some beautiful cars. The Razr made a few appearances, each more perplexing than the last: Garner tucked the phone into her boot so the plastic screen could rub against the shiny vinyl, which definitely makes sense, then she and the models each put a Razr up to their ears and huffily snapped it closed. At the end of the mercifully short video, Garner takes a call on the Razr, then drives off into the night.
Motorola wants to sell the Razr to attractive Instagrammers and those who follow them. But people who will actually buy an expensive foldable phone are early tech adopters with some extra money. Those folks want to read a review (preferably on their favourite website, gizmodo dot com) of a pricey phone with new technology to figure out if the screen is gonna crack or flicker, or if the hinge gets debris in it and stops folding, or if the camera sucks. Those influencers? They are almost certainly still using their iPhones.
The new Razr is $US1,400 ($1,924) — that’s $US100 ($137) less than the first-gen model, which as I have mentioned previously, came out just seven months ago — and will be available to buy universally unlocked through Motorola, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon sometime this fall. You can also buy it through AT&T and T-Mobile, which is great! The original was a Verizon exclusive, which makes absolutely no sense.
When the first-gen Razr reboot launched earlier this year, readers reached out to share their stories of using the device (or trying to to buy in-store) with me. Some were pleased with their devices; some reported flaws and, worse, broken screens. Others still had planned to buy the phone but couldn’t find it in stock anywhere. If you bought the first foldable Razr earlier this year, do you like it? If not, do you plan to buy the new one?
Shoot me an email ([email protected]) with your thoughts on this delightfully strange device launch.