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Could a New RAZR Making Folding Phones Interesting? * Now Official!


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Last week the WSJ reported that (Lenovo owned) Motorola is planning on launching a $1500 RAZR phone with a foldable screen. Now we might have our first look with this IP drawing:

razr.0.jpg

So far the foldable phones we've seen have been less than impressive.

 

Samsung has teased their folding phone, but the concept leaves a lot to be desired. Essentially you end up with a very thick phone with an oddly small screen, that opens to a small tablet with an awkward, almost square, aspect ratio.

 

The RAZR, as pictured, might actually be kind of cool. It would end up being rather thick, but short, while folded. You should get that very satisfying feeling of flipping it open, and a screen with a pretty usable aspect ratio. I'd be shocked if the first generation is actually a good phone, much less worth $1500, but it does give me hope that folding devices are coming soon and might actually be worthwhile.

 

EDIT: The new RAZR has finally been revealed.vpavic_191112_3789_0023.jpg

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  • 3 months later...

According to some recent leaks, it seems that the patent drawings may have been rather accurate in what the new RAZR could look like.

gsmarena_002.0.jpg

 

Given Samsung's recent woes, I wouldn't be surprised if this gets delayed, but if they could get it out and make it work well enough, I certainly see the appeal.

 

I have real doubts that the hinge would be such that I could flick it open, and I'd be hesitant to slam it shut like I did my old RAZR, but it's still pretty nifty.

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1 hour ago, Nokt said:

I hope this doesn't become a trend. I have no idea why anyone would want a foldable phone. 

It puts a big screen in a smaller form factor. I think the appeal is quite obvious.

 

There seem to be some pretty significant drawbacks to early implementations, but I feel like folding devices are very much the obvious future.

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13 minutes ago, TwinIon said:

It puts a big screen in a smaller form factor. I think the appeal is quite obvious.

 

There seem to be some pretty significant drawbacks to early implementations, but I feel like folding devices are very much the obvious future.

I guess I should say, I don't want this becoming a trend anytime soon as there are way to many tradeoffs currently. There are a lot of reasons that I wouldn't want to use a RAZR or a Galaxy Fold even if they didn't break as easy as they have shown. 

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Motorola showed off the new RAZR and I think it looks pretty great. The screen doesn't seem to have much of a crease, and the clever hinges allow it to close all the way. The small screen on the outside seems far more useful (if purposefully limited) than the small screen on the Galaxy fold, and the very nature of a vertical folding phone just makes intuitive sense.

 

By all indications this won't be a good phone. The battery is too small, the camera isn't very good, it's not running a top of the line chip, it lacks face ID, has a meh screen resolution (and a notch), isn't IP rated for water resistance, and overall lacks the bells and whistles of the top tier competitors. Still, Moto admits this is a design first phone, and the design looks great to me. 

 

It's launching in January (with pre-orders in December) for $1500, and only on VZW for now (in the US). Far more than the Galaxy Fold, this is a design that I'd be really interested in. It seems like it should dodge some of the Folds' worst durability issues, but it's still a folding plastic screen, so I wouldn't expect it to survive long unscathed. Like many, I've got a soft spot in my heart for the old school RAZRs, and would welcome the day that a new version is worth buying.

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14 minutes ago, Jose said:

Ie your first phone a BlackBerry? :p

 

Galaxy S10. I need a second phone for business and I like the second phone being a different size than my personal phone, so it's easier to fish out of my pocket. I'm also not about to do a Note+ and a second full size phone. That's way too much clutter in one pocket. An S10 plus a Palm Phone has worked out pretty well, but it'll be nice to see email on a screen that isn't 3.3 inches.

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It's clearly a gen 1 device, but this seems more interesting that what Samsung did. Particularly that they managed to have the screen be completely flat in the open position. 

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  • 2 months later...

So it's out, and apparently it really sucks. The performance is bad, the cameras are bad, the screen is bad, the battery life is bad, and the hinge isn't great. MKBHD seems to dislike it even more.

 

Fear not for those that are interested in the concept though, because Samsung is making their own folding phone: the Galaxy Z Flip.

 

It has a folding glass(!) display, flagship internals, a decent camera, and does away with the Razr chin. It's still $1300, so you're still paying more for a worse phone just to get one that folds, but given that Samsung's own phones can get even more expensive than that, it's not a crazy premium and signals that the tech is evolving faster than I expected. The external screen seems much more useful on the RAZR, but otherwise the Z Flip seems to be far and away the better clamshell foldable.

 

A glass screen is by far the biggest deal here though. I didn't expect folding glass to come so soon, and even if it turns out not to be "real" glass or hold up perfectly, from the early hands on it seems to be a huge step in the right direction.

 

If I could dream my perfect foldable device into reality, I honestly don't know what shape it would take, and I'm not really willing to pay a premium for it anytime soon, but it's still so cool.

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Turns out that the "ultra thin glass" on the Galaxy Z Flip is probably not really glass after all.

It seems to scratch very easily, just as you would expect from plastic.

 

Samsung put out a statement saying that there is a plastic protective coating on the screen, and that is what is being scratched here. Since that layer isn't user removable or replaceable, that feels like a distinction without a difference to me. If you can permanently scratch the screen with your fingernail, I don't care what the layering is like, I just know I'll have to live with every defect. Samsung will replace the plastic for free one time, and do a one time total screen replacement for $119, so that's something.

 

Still, it seems the era of folding glass isn't here quite yet.

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I was only ever interested in this tech because I like the idea of having a phone that can turn into a tablet. Or rather a good-sized e-reader that fits in my pocket.

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12 hours ago, TwinIon said:

Turns out that the "ultra thin glass" on the Galaxy Z Flip is probably not really glass after all.

It seems to scratch very easily, just as you would expect from plastic.

 

Samsung put out a statement saying that there is a plastic protective coating on the screen, and that is what is being scratched here. Since that layer isn't user removable or replaceable, that feels like a distinction without a difference to me. If you can permanently scratch the screen with your fingernail, I don't care what the layering is like, I just know I'll have to live with every defect. Samsung will replace the plastic for free one time, and do a one time total screen replacement for $119, so that's something.

 

Still, it seems the era of folding glass isn't here quite yet.

 

If it's comparable to what comes preinstalled on the S10 I'm not surprised, the thing bangs up REALLY easily and I'm not the only person I know who has this complaint. Shitty thing is in the case of the S10, it's technically user replaceable but it's basically impossible to get anything comparable to what comes from the factory so it's also de facto not replaceable.

 

I'd just take the thing off and rock a naked screen, as I did for several phones prior to this without a problem, but the curved screen means you're just asking for trouble doing that; all of my previous phones were flat screens, as god intended.

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15 hours ago, Rev said:

I was only ever interested in this tech because I like the idea of having a phone that can turn into a tablet. Or rather a good-sized e-reader that fits in my pocket.

 

How about this?

 

https://www.engadget.com/2020/02/18/tcl-prototype-phone-slide-out-display/

 

So there's a working version of this somewhere. I'm curious. Is this a folding display that rolls up in the phone or is it two sheets of glass that just sit side by side?

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So here are my after 24 hours impression of the razr. It's nice. It's not the fastest phone, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that games on their phones. It doesn't have the best camera, so I wouldn't recommend it for anyone that takes serious photos for Instagram or whatever. If you mainly use your phone for browsing the web, watching videos, reading comics, email, and texts, and calls it's more than quick enough for any of that. I think people's impression that the phone feels all lumpy and weird are wildly overblown. How hard are people pressing on their phones when scrolling and typing? Even on my primary phone, the S10, I barely touch screen with any pressure at all. I guess if you're playing Fortnite on your phone, you're putting more pressure on the screen than any time I ever would. I just don't find phones very good platforms for gaming outside of adventure and puzzle games or even Fire Emblem Heroes-like games. I mean, you can see the crease of the bend at certain angles, but I also pretty much exclusively look at my phone headon, so I don't know why that would at all matter.

 

The camera is also perfectly adequate, but then again, I usually only use my camera for grabbing blurry pics of toddlers that refuse to sit still. In my case, it's mostly for taking pictures of servers, so I can remember a serial number when I get back to my desk. In that case, it works perfectly.

 

That whole screen lifting away from the body thing seems crazy to be concerned about. The phone closes flat and opens flat. There's zero reason this phone ever needs to be halfway open for anything longer than the half second it takes to open and close it. Even then, it only lifts away for a very small fraction of the half second it takes to open the phone. I mean, sure, it can stay like that if you purposefully hold it like that, but then you're working against the hinge. It only really want to be open or closed. That motion, itself, is very satisfying. It does creak when  you open it, but that seems to be from the sound of the plastic bending. I don't know how big of a deal that is.

 

This phone is also heavy. Like, it has a noticeable amount of heft to it. Motorola tried to balance the weight of the phone, but I'm not sure they really succeeded here. I mean, it is perfectly balanced at the hinge. The hinge is just not in the middle of the phone. The phone is top heavy from the actual middle of the phone. It doesn't really affect your use of the phone since it's so narrow that you'll get a good grip, regardless of anything else. It just reminds you of how heavy the phone really is. The plastic back lightens the phone and does mess with the balance in this regard, but I'm also not sure coming with full aluminum here would have been wise. The phone is already some 25% heavier than my S10.

 

Oh yeah, and anyone complaining about the size of the power button on this thing needs to stop. There is zero reason to ever press the power button. I don't even know why Motorola bothered. The fingerprint sensor can turn on and shut off your phone. There is literally zero reason for it other than to look at the time on the outside screen without unlocking it. However, even then, the outside display automatically turns on when the phone is moved so...still unnecessary. The volume rocker is too little. I would have rather they dropped the power button and just gone with a larger volume rocker.

 

It's really expensive, so it's really only for people that like the form factor or were eligible for a steep corporate discount. The screen seems like it won't like abuse, so don't let kids play with it. It seems like it should be fine in the hands of any responsible adult that can actually appreciate that it isn't a cheap phone. I guess that rules this phone out for a large number of people, right there. I don't think I'd make this my primary phone, either. That has less to do with how much I care about this phone's shortcomings compared to my S10 versus the fact that I sometimes give my phone over to my kids to watch a video on at like, say, their doctors office. I'll be upgrading my S10 to the S20 when that one comes out.

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1 hour ago, Ghost_MH said:

The camera is also perfectly adequate, but then again, I usually only use my camera for grabbing blurry pics of toddlers that refuse to sit still. In my case, it's mostly for taking pictures of servers, so I can remember a serial number when I get back to my desk. In that case, it works perfectly.

 

Try installing GCam: https://www.getdroidtips.com/google-camera-motorola-razr-2019/

 

A lot of phones get significant camera performance boosts over their stock cameras this way, phone camera performance is generally more bound by software than hardware nowadays.

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Just now, Jason said:

 

Try installing GCam: https://www.getdroidtips.com/google-camera-motorola-razr-2019/

 

A lot of phones get significant camera performance boosts over their stock cameras this way, phone camera performance is generally more bound by software than hardware nowadays.

 

Cool. I'll give it a shot.

 

One thing I noticed after using this phone for a day compared to reviews is that it reminded me of how tech reviewers are really weird people. I think I've said this before here, but any review of a Wear OS watch is bizarre. I have an Armani Connect. It's one of Fossil's Gen2 Wear OS watches. it looks nice, it's thin, the battery lasts like 24 hours, it gives me alerts, and let's me answer short messages from whatever chat/SMS app I have installs on the phone. Most reviews, however, decry Wear OS as this awful and weird thing that gives everyone cancer and I can't, for the life of me, figure out what people are doing on their watches that I'm obviously not doing to face those frustrations. The bumpy screen on the razr is one of those things. It's only noticeable if you're really pressing hard on the screen. It doesn't exist for any real world use. Even then, the bump in the middle of the display and I only scroll my finger over it while scrolling through something, so why does it matter? The keyboard is nowhere near it and that's the only thing that might be an issue. I'm pretty sure it's a gaming thing. I don't know how much people are gaming on their phones. Maybe I'm just a minority here along with those folks that don't install apps on their smart watches and only use them as fashion accessories and for checking notifications without pulling out your phone.

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https://www.inputmag.com/tech/our-motorola-razrs-plastic-display-is-already-breaking-peeling-at-the-fold

 

I'll start paying attention when one of these phones is released and then in customers hands for a year or more without things like this happening...

 

I don't trust the tech yet. These guys are all just racing to be first and I really don't feel like folding phones are ready for prime time. I'm glad the industry is working on it, and I think this will eventually be cool... but it still feels too early to be putting these in the hands of consumers. You're REALLY taking a risk by buying any folding phone at this exact moment in time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In case anyone is interested, here are my week and a half later impressions of the razr.

 

The main camera sucks. It's fine in well lit areas. Maybe I just need to use the flash more often. However, I'm very spoiled by the low light performance of my S10 so I rarely use the flash on my main phone. I kind of wish Motorola had gone with a crappier phone and not been stuck with the camera bump. However, that's just me being bitter about the fact that I accidentally put the razr in my pocket with the camera side facing my S10's screen and wound up with a circular scratch on it. I keep both phones in the same pocket which is why I went with a smaller phone as my second phone. My previous second phone was the Palm Phone, which worked great, but was also so small I often avoided using it, much to the chagrin of anyone from work trying to get a hold of me.

 

Either way, I'm worrying less about scratching up the screen and it seems to be holding up fine. I sometimes forget that all phones had plastic screens because before we switched over to glass slabs. At least the razr closes flat with no real gap. I'm also less worried about the hinge now that I know how simple it is.

 

 

If thew only gears are those that are externally visible, then I'm not too concerned about crap getting in there. I can easily clean that out. I will say that I already have some chipped paint on the inside of those pins in the video thumbnail. That is, not chips on the sides of those pins that are outward facing, but the ones you can only see when the phone is open. Watching the tear down, that makes sense. The paint wear is exactly where those springs press up against the phone to hold it open or closed. If you look closely while the phone is closing, you can see the metal grinding up against the metal. I wonder if that means the hinge won't hold the phone open as tightly in the future. I'm not worried about holding it closed for the same reasons since the phone has some strong magnets in place to help is stay closed. It relies on the springs to keep it open, however.

 

Also, this phone is a wild head turner. My old Palm Phone was also a head turner on account of how small it is, but the second anyone sees this phone flip, I get questioned about it. However if that's all you care about, go get a Palm Phone. It's WAY cheaper and it's almost novelty small. It's hard to believe the size of the screen on that thing isn't that much different than the size of the first iPhone of HTC G1.

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@Ghost_MH Any particular reason you went with the Razr over the Galaxy Flip? Especially since you already have a Samsung phone it seems like a natural choice.

 

Also, what do you think about the outside screen? That's the one thing the Razr seems to have over the Flip that seems potentially useful, but also like the kind of thing that you'd need live with to judge.

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9 minutes ago, TwinIon said:

@Ghost_MH Any particular reason you went with the Razr over the Galaxy Flip? Especially since you already have a Samsung phone it seems like a natural choice.

 

Also, what do you think about the outside screen? That's the one thing the Razr seems to have over the Flip that seems potentially useful, but also like the kind of thing that you'd need live with to judge.

 

It's was ALL about the outside screen. Neither the razr or the Flip really have easy to open screens. I have a Wear OS watch, but that one is synced up to my personal phone. While I can switch my watch between two phones, it's a pain in the ass. I would love it if I could get both phone's alerts on my one watch, but that's just not possible. My use case is way to niche, it would appear. Seeing that neither phone is a quick flip to open, I went with the phone that has an actual usable outside display. It's worked great. Say, I get an email fro work. On the Flip, I'd get the Outlook icon and maybe the sender info. On the razr, I can actually read the contents of the email, archive it, delete it, or choose to reply. If I reply, opening the phone will drop me directly into the screen where I can go on to type up a message and send it.

 

The exterior display makes these flip phones work. Samsung understood that much with the Fold, but I think they went too conservative with the Flip. I may have chosen the Flip over the razr if it had an actual usable screen on the outside.

 

That said, the fingerprint reader on the chin also works really well. I'm not a big fan of those side power button fingerprint readers. It forces me to hold the phone in one specific way. I'm right handed, but keep my phone in my left-hand pocket. That means I'd have to take the phone out with my left hand and switch it over to my right to unlock it thanks to the sensor being on the right side of the display. I've tried doing the same with an index finger on my left hand, but that just feels all sorts of awkward. Either way, that means I can only use the phone that way since bringing up LastPass, my banking app, or anything else that needs biometrics can only be unlocked from that side of the phone. It also means the phone can't be unlocked while lying on a desk. I'll often have my phone on my desk while I'm working. If I get a text, I can just touch the sensor on the chin and quickly read the message without having to pick up the phone to get to the sensor on the side or flip it open just to read the message on a screen that isn't so tiny.

 

The tech in the Flip is certainly better than what Motorola has going, but it doesn't seem like a better everyday phone just from the user experience.

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