Moto turns foldable phones on their head with Razr, and gets it right!
Returning to “small is beautiful”
It has been a few days since Motorola took the wraps off its new Moto Razr. And while the reaction is still coming in from all over the world, what cannot be denied is that it has turned the concept of foldable phones right on its head. And in my opinion, Moto has got it right as well.
For, the other foldable phones that we have seen thus far have tried to compress a tablet into a phone’s form factor. The idea has been to deliver a bigger display within a normal – or what passes for “normal” these days – smartphone’s frame. Whether it is the much talked of Galaxy Fold or the Huawei Mate X, the core idea has been – a normal smartphone when folded, a tablet when opened.
The new Moto Razr does not follow this philosophy. Instead, it goes for a “smaller when folded, normal when opened” approach. Which is totally contrary to what its competitors are trying to do.
The Razr is not going to give you a tablet-sized display when opened up, but a reasonably normal one – 6.2 inches to be precise. Yes, at around 172 mm, it is on the longer side, but then we have used bigger phones – the Mi Mix 2 was 174 mm, and much wider as well. Interestingly, the new Razr can be used when semi-folded as well and that rather interestingly (given the fact that it is not very wide), opens the door to single-handed use, something a lot of us thought had left the smartphone building when the iPhone SE departed.
There are some nice functional touches too. The external display of the new RAZR is more of an extended notification area rather than trying to be a “normal” phone display. Apps, therefore, are more likely to behave themselves on the Moto Razr than on other foldables, because they do not have to perform on two radically different displays, and will not be transitioning from opening on a smaller screen to a larger one. In fact, they are going to be mainly opening on one display, albeit one that has a slightly unusual resolution (2142 x 876).
And of course, the very fact that you can see notifications and use some controls (like taking selfies and controlling music) from the external display means you might have to open the phone less often, which is actually not too bad a thing really. And even if you do have to open it, opening it seems a whole lot less complex and fussy than some of the other foldable – you can actually open it with one hand. But of course, all this is just based on the videos I have seen. Real-world usage could be very different.
What I really love about the new Moto Razr, however, is that it goes right back to the old Razr in making a phone that’s super portable. Yes, like the original Razr, it looks very stylish and yes, you can flip it shut to end a call. Like the original Razr, the latest one too is a design marvel. And like the first one, its initial pricing too is niche – it costs more than the base models of the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. But what makes it special is that it tries to improve functionality, just like its predecessor.
For, believe you me, the original idea behind the first Razr was to not just have a stylish phone, but one that was good at handling calls and which had a spacious keyboard (messaging and calls were what phones mainly did in 2004). Motorola, being the master of phone design, figured out that the best way to improve call quality would be to place the earpiece as close to the ear and the microphone as close to the mouth of the user – kind of duh common sense, right? But well, in 2004 doing so would have meant making a large phone. And the world was not as kind to large phones as it is now. So Motorola decided to use the flip form factor – the idea was to elongate the phone when on call and yet keep it compact enough to be carried very easily.
The new Moto Razr does exactly the same thing – it allows you to open the phone for better normal usage and yet stay remarkably compact enough to be carried. It does not try to be a tablet or a notebook. It just tries to be a phone that is potentially easier to use. While others have focused on what a phone could fold OUT to, Moto has focused just as much on what a phone could fold IN to.
I do not really know if this sort of design will go mainstream, but honestly, it appeals more to me than the tablet-phone hybrid model than others are peddling. Simply because it makes a phone easier to use and carry. It would be kind of nice to be able to use a phone comfortably with one hand. Or have one that slips easily into one’s pockets.