The first thing that will strike you about the Motorola Razr is probably the weight of it when you pick it up. If you were one of the cool kids with the original, plastic Razr back in 2004, you’ll notice how dense this new phone is in comparison. This new device is made of glass, stainless steel, and plastic, weighing about the same as the OnePlus 7 Pro with its 6.55-inch screen. Those familiar with the old Razr will feel all too at home as they pop open the new one with a satisfying flick. This is the OG Razr, and everything feels tighter, with the same joy at slamming it shut when the call’s done.

Motorola Razr (2020)

What we love:

Small, and impressively so

Innovative design

Peek Screen/Quick View on the outer shell

Being able to flip a phone again

What’s not so great:

The $1,499 price tag

The middling level specs

Is it going to have longevity?

There aren’t many foldables out there at the moment; the Motorola Razr joins just the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Royole FlexPai, and the Huawei Mate X. What’s truly unique is that the Razr is the first Android phone to harness the old-school, clamshell design of the early flip phones. Back before phones were big slabs of glass, Motorola was defining mobile phone technology, could this new piece of hardware rewrite the rules on how we use our phones again?

Motorola Razr. Image credit: ixbt.com

Patrick Holland was able to do a test run on the Razr, using it as his primary handset for a week. Some points he, and plenty of other potential users, want addressing include why the phone’s heft $1,499 price doesn’t bring with it the fastest processor, the longest battery life, or a top-spec camera array. Without the folding feature, it’d just be another mid-tier Android handset with nothing to make it stand out. There is something here that a lot of phones don’t have, and that’s a personality. Holland noted that the phone was the most personal phone he’d ever used.

With every flip, the phone derives more value. Although, even with this wonderful quirk, it’s probably not the phone nearly anyone should be buying yet. As cool as the design is, it needs roadtesting by those who do invest to see how it works on an everyday level. It’s definitely heading in the right direction, but it gives the vibe that the sequel might actually be the one to splash out on.

With plenty to talk about, maybe some common questions should be covered first.

Do you get squeaking or cracking?

In a word, yes. The unit that Holland was given to trial squeaked upon folding, making a crunchy, muffled sound, which isn’t what you want with your cool, new flip phone.

In an earlier test situation, CNET was given three handsets for the day, and even at six months old they didn’t make any weird, scary noises, or if they did they weren’t loud enough for comment to be passed on them. Should a potential buyer be worried about the noises? Probably, yes. Although it might seem like it just needs breaking in like some new running shoes, it’s not quite the case.

When Motorola was asked about the creaking in the Razr, they said, “Its dynamic clamshell folding system is comprised of several moving parts including: a flexible OLED display module, metal support plates, and a state-of-the-art hinge system. When folding and unfolding Razr, you may hear a sound, which is natural from the mechanical movement of the phone. Razr has undergone rigorous durability testing, and the reported sounds in no way affect the quality of the product.”

Does the sound really affect the phone? Holland describes it as not quite matching the sound of a record skipping, but not something that he’d want to live with; it just sounded faulty.

Is there a crease in the screen?

Unlike the Galaxy Fold, no there isn’t a screen crease. There’s actually been a special hinge system designed by Motorola to make sure that the display keeps curled rather than fully folded when it’s closed, stopping the perma-crease issue.

Watching videos allows you to make out the steel plates that have been used to reinforce the back of the screen and keep things nice and tight, they’re only just noticeable though. The design means that the middle area of the screen doesn’t get the same steel-plated backing, so it looks something like a nice tight bedsheet being visible between the cushions. As well as being visible, this lack of backing can be felt as you scroll over the screen, and offers a regular reminder of exactly how delicate the phone’s display is.

Is it going to last?

Hard to say with this one. The manufacturers have put a video out showing buyers how they can look after their Razr, claiming that the “screen is made to bend; bumps and lumps are normal.” Holland didn’t come across these expected lumps and bumps, but they don’t seem normal or comforting, one on your body normally prompts a doctor’s visit.

Holland did put the handset through its paces, taking it out in the snow, on two airplane journeys, a fair few cab rides, into a hotel, putting it into a range of pockets, a backpack, a busy house, and in the presence of a cat. It was also photographed and filmed in plenty of locations and held up. During this time, there was sometimes a build-up of lint or dust in the space between the folds. The Zero Gap hinge that Motorola has designed leaves a space the thickness of a playing card, but it was enough for stuff to creep in there.

With just a week’s worth of testing, coming to a conclusion on durability isn’t really feasible. When people have been using it for months on end, tech watchers will get their answer, this is the only way trust is going to be built in the technology, much the same as glass-screened smartphones needed to prove their value.

When CNET tested it, it broke though?

Kind of. When a writer at CNET attempted to see how many times a Razr he’d bought could be folded, things didn’t end up perfect. The test used a folding machine but it didn’t work too well, the phone was still functional but there was something not quite right going on behind the screen. That was one test, and Holland reported no damage after a week of heavy usage.

Motorola was asked to comment on the test CNET carried out, and said, “[The] Razr is a unique smartphone, featuring a dynamic clamshell folding system unlike any device on the market. SquareTrade’s FoldBot [the folding machine we used] is simply not designed to test our device. Therefore, any tests run utilizing this machine will put undue stress on the hinge and not allow the phone to open and close as intended, making the test inaccurate. The important thing to remember is that Razr underwent extensive cycle endurance testing during product development, and CNET’s test is not indicative of what consumers will experience when using Razr in the real world. We have every confidence in the durability of Razr.”

If you’ve got concerns about the life of the phone, there is a decent warranty offered by Motorola. A display that picks up a defect when being used normally will see them repair or replace it for free. If it’s your own fault you’ve messed up the screen, it’s $299 for a replacement.

Razr’s flipping fun

Be prepared to have your relationship with your phone changed for good. On a normal, flat phone, most people would find themselves endlessly scrolling through social media feeds. However, the Razr seems to encourage a more purposeful use of the device, because you have to take that moment to flip the phone open you have a moment more to think what you’ll be doing with it. It seemed to keep Holland from checking his Twitter and Insta quite so often.

Image credit: fainaidea.com

Using the phone only needs one hand. After a day or two of practice, anyone should be able to flip it open and swish it closed with just one hand. There is, however, scope to make the user experience better. The screen is 6.2 inches tall and that means a second hand can sometimes be needed to change settings or do other functions at the top of the screen. It’s possible to use a shortcut to shrink things for one-handed use, but that makes the process unnecessarily cumbersome. You end up having to swipe at an angle to make the display shrink, do whatever function you were struggling with, then swipe again to go back to normal.

The Samsung One UI and One UI 2 has changed the way we use Android on larger displays, particularly optimizing for one-handed use. A point of improvement would be for Motorola to overhaul their UI specifically for the Razr if they want everyone to be using it with one hand.

Held vertically, the keyboard on the Razr is narrower than what you’d get on a standard smartphone. Even with this, typing two-handed was faster, Holland found. If you’re a swiper when you type, that keyboard set up works great on the Razr, and using the phone horizontally gives a much wider keyboard.

Notifications are changed forever with Quick View

The Razr has an outside display, quirkily called the Quick View display, and it’s one of the biggest leaps forward on this phone. It’s great for cycling through a list of notifications, it’s useful for Google Pay, it can pull the camera function up, and even get rid of emails. This was another feature that changed the way Holland interacted with his phone.

The Quick View is 2.7 inches and is covered with Gorilla Glass 3. Without the expected fingerprint smudges, it’s definitely got the premium feel. There are two ways that you can use it; when locked, it works like a Peek Display so that you can check out your notifications without opening it all the way. Using it when the screen is unlocked means you get to access a mini control panel that changes brightness, turns WiFi, Bluetooth, and the flashlight on and off, and helps you take selfies. You can also interact with your notifications; take a quick peek at messages or notifications in a very discreet way.

Tap, hold and swipe up to get more functions on any notification or icon, meaning that if you get a new email, you can tap on the Gmail icon, do an upwards slide to see the whole message and be able to Archive or Reply to it. 

There is definitely scope for more out of this feature. It’s not worth asking for the same as the Galaxy Fold, where the whole phone can be controlled with the outside display, that’s taking it a bit far. That’s not to say the Quick View screen can’t be a little more useful.

There are also some features that can be worked on. Holland found that when you set a timer on the Razr, the icon on the Quick View just showed up “Timer” rather than the actual time left.

The bumpy, lumpy, folding Razr screen

For watching films shot in a wide aspect ratio, the 21:9 ratio of the Razr’s inside screen is great. It’s reminiscent of the slimline displays you’d get in the Sony Xperia 1 and Xperia 5. The quality of the display is good; the colors pop and the contrast is crisp but it doesn’t edge over to being too sharp. There’s notch out of the display where the earpiece speaker is and the camera for video chatting. It seems to have been designed somewhat like the batwing logo of Motorola. 

Holland tested his phone with Blade Runner and The Dark Knight, both in the original widescreen, and the Razr’s display was completely filled. However, most of what you’re likely to watch on your phone is going to be at the 16:9 ratio, which is going to leave black bars at either end of the screen. Zoom could help, but you’ll miss other parts of the video then.

Just like the original Razr, the bottom edge of the screen has a curve. At this point, most apps you’re going to use don’t use up the whole screen so you’ll get a grey void at the bottom of the screen a lot of the time. It’s a space that’s desperate to be used effectively.

Opening and closing the phone sees the display slide ever so slightly up and down behind the raised chin, which can look a little dated when you first look at it. This is one of the things, though, that makes it feel like the old school Razr, and there is a bigger purpose to it as well. The phone’s antennas are housed there and it’s also a great grip point when you’re watching horizontal videos.

It’s possible to use two apps in split-screen mode and use up the full display, but it’s still going to need to you use a second hand to reach the top end of the top app.

The life cycle of the Razr so far

The Razr has two batteries, split over the two different halves of the phone, with a total power output of 2,510 mAh of power. Holland ran some tests on the battery, including running a looped video in airplane mode using 50% brightness. The Razr was able to keep this up for a pretty decent 13 hours and three minutes. Compare to the Moto G7 that has a  3,000-mAh battery which only lasted 12 hours, 51 minutes in the same test.

Under normal use, the Razr made it through most of the day with Holland, although he found he needed to add a little juice around dinner time to see it through to the end of the day.

The processor in the Razr is the Snapdragon 710 processor and it has 6GB of RAM. In Holland’s performance tests it did well when set against the Pixel 3A from Google, Samsung’s Galaxy A50 and the 2018 Huawei Honor 10. Here are the results: I ran it through several performance tests where it fared as well as the Google Pixel 3A, Samsung Galaxy A50 and 2018 Huawei Honor 10. See the results below.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Motorola Razr ———————> 2,803

Samsung Galaxy Fold ———————> 7,719

Google Pixel 3A ———————> 2,533

NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

Motorola Razr ———————> 1,836

Samsung Galaxy Fold ———————> 3,377

Google Pixel 3A ———————> 1,632

NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multicore

Motorola Razr ———————> 5,955

Samsung Galaxy Fold ———————> 10,712

Google Pixel 3A ———————> 5,199

NOTE: Longer bars indicate better performance

When using it as normal, some apps were a little hesitant to open, like the camera. It’s not got the whiz and pep that you want. For gaming, Holland played Alto’s Odyssey and PUBG Mobile. In gameplay, the phone got hot really quick and PUBG sometimes stuttered. When working with photo and video editing, the Razr performed well.

Taking everything into account, Motorola has done well with the power-to-performance ratio in the Razr. A stronger processor and bigger battery would be great, but there has to be a balance in any phone.

One standard camera

Although there are two cameras, you’re probably only going to use one of them, that’s the 16-megapixel one that has an f1.7 aperture and also doubles as the selfie camera. It’s not bad, but it’s nothing like what you get with the Pixel 4, iPhone 11, or the Samsung Note 10. Take photos in good lighting and they’ll be sharp and impressive, but move into medium-to-low light levels and things aren’t so great. There’s no optical image stabilization so the Razr has a longer shutter speed instead, but that just gives your picture motion blur. There’s a video option, it does what it needs to do but you’re not going to be using it for a next blockbuster.

The same as other Motorola phones, there is an AI scene detector that will set optimum camera settings for shots of food, the moon, or nightscapes. There’s a Night Vision option that is a little better for photos taken in lower light but it doesn’t measure up to the same setting on the iPhone 11 which is half the price.

The main camera works as the rear camera when the phone is open and doubles up as the selfie camera once you close the phone. It’s not the worst thing in the world to have just one camera, but it really needs to be better, especially when the Motorola One range of phones are so good at cameras.

There is a second camera, with a 5-megapixel sensor just above the main display inside. This is really there for video chatting; it’s capable of selfies but the quality ain’t great. A wider field of view is offered by the second camera so selfies can be easier to frame.

All about the buttons

On the raised chin area you’ll find a fingerprint reader. When folded, this sits flush against the Quick View display. Above this reader is a home button that works with Moto Actions. A small improvement would be to use the One Button Nav on the fingerprint sensor like was possible of the Moto G5 Plus. It’s an odd feeling to go over the fingerprint reader so you can use the home button.

There was a major design challenge with where to put the volume control button, plus the sleep-wake button that functions in open and closed configurations. They do feel like they’re positioned well but they’re pretty small and not so easy to distinguish even with a different texture on the wake button.

The buttons aren’t easy to find when the phone’s closed, and it would be better if there was more movement or feedback in them.

Musings on the Motorola Razr

  • In the US you can only get it on Verizon, the UK has it on EE only for now, and in Australia it’s AU$2,699.
  • You can’t put a SIM inside, you only get an eSIM.
  • The storage is 128GB and no chance to expand.
  • There’s a fair bit of bloatware, why does bloatware still exist?
  • It comes with Android 9.0 Pie and there should be at least one Android OS upgrade.
  • The speaker at the bottom is loud but lacks quality, and it points down rather than towards you.
  • There’s nanocoating to protect from splashes but no official IP rating for water or dust resistance.
  • Check out the Retro Razr keyboard and put the sound on when you launch.
  • The Razr has a cartoon face of a person you take a picture of on the Quick View display.

Motorola Razr vs. Samsung Galaxy Fold

Motorola Razr vs. Samsung Galaxy Fold. Image credit: androidauthority,com

The only thing these two phones have in common is their folding display. The Razr is like a convertible with two seats and plenty of fun, whereas the Galaxy Fold is a chunky SUV filled with every bell and whistle you could want. 

The thought of a 6.2-inch phone fitting snugly into a pocket becomes possible again with the Razr. In contrast, the Fold is a small tablet that tucks up into a thick and tall phone. Functionally, the Fold still needs two hands to use it, the Razr you can manage with just one. When it comes to specs, the Fold is top of the range and has an array of six brilliant cameras, whereas the Razr has just about two, since you’re only going to use the one on the outside.

What Samsung did was take it’s Galaxy ten and make it fold, Motorola took a middling phone and packed it into nostalgia in a clamshell. The secondary, outer screen on the Razr has been well thought through and doesn’t try too hard to do too much, rather you can interact with it minimally to deal with your notifications, controls, and responses without flipping your phone open. 

The outside display on the Galaxy Fold is an awkward size and tries to do pretty much everything the inside screen can. This screen shares the 21:9 ratio of the Razr internal screen, yet it’s barely useful because it’s so small. The Fold lets you open nearly every app on the outside screen, and make use of them.

Pricewise, the Galaxy Fold costs $1,980 and the Motorola Razr sets you back $1,499.

Motorola Razr vs. the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

Sunday’s Oscars had the debut advert for the new Samsung clamshell foldable phone, which seems like it’ll be called the Galaxy Z Flip, although the name wasn’t brought up in the ad. The commercial showed us a phone with a square body that looked something akin to the Nintendo Gameboy Advanced SP when closed. The closing shot had a side-on shot and displayed a wedge-shaped gap between the fold that’s pretty much what the Galaxy Fold had.

Motorola Razr specs vs. Samsung Galaxy Fold, Huawei Mate X, Moto G7

Motorola RazrSamsung Galaxy FoldHuawei Mate XMotorola Moto G7
Display size, resolutionInternal: 6.2-inch, foldable pOLED; 2,142x876p pixels (21:9) / External: 2.7-inch glass OLED, 800×600-pixels (4:3)Internal: 7.3-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 2,152×1,536-pixels (plastic) / External: 4.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED; 1,680×720-pixels (Gorilla Glass 6)Fully extended: 8-inch OLED (2,480×2,200) / Folded up, front: 6.6-inch (2,480×1,148 pixels) / Folded up, back: 6.38-inch (2,480×892);6.2-inch LCD; 2,270×1,080 pixels
Pixel density373 ppi (internal screen)362 ppi (internal screen)414 ppi (expanded screen)403 ppi
Dimensions (Inches)Unfolded: 6.8×2.8×0.28 in / Folded: 3.7×2.8×0.55 inFolded: 6.3×2.5×0.6 in / Unfolded: 6.3×4.6×0.3 inTBA6.18×2.96×0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters)Unfolded: 172×7 2×6.9mm / Folded: 94x72x14mmFolded: 62.8x161x15.7mm ~ 17.1mm / Unfolded: 117.9x161x6.9mm ~ 7.6mmTBA157×75.3×8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams)7.2 oz; 205g9.7 oz; 276gTBA6.07 oz.; 172 g
Mobile softwareAndroid 9 PieAndroid 9.0 with Samsung One UITBAAndroid 9.0
Camera16-megapixel external (f/1.7, dual pixel AF), 5-megapixel internal12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)4 rear cameras12-megapixel, 5-megapixel
Front-facing cameraSame as main 16-megapixel externalTwo 10-megapixel, 8-megapixel 3D depthAt least one8-megapixel
Video capture4K4K (HDR 10 Plus)TBA4K
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 710Qualcomm Snapdragon 855Kirin 980 processorQualcomm Snapdragon 632
Expandable storageNoneNoNoUp to 512GB
Fingerprint sensorBelow screenPower buttonPower buttonBack
Headphone jackNoneNoTBAYes
Special featuresFoldable display, eSIM, Motorola gestures, splashproofFoldable display, wireless charging, fast chargingFoldable display, fast chargingWater repellent with P2i nano-coating; TurboPower charging
Price off-contract (USD)$1,499$1,980Converts to $2,600 (2,299 euros)$299