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Home / Technology / Motorola's foldable Razr: In a new edition of a flip-phone symbol

Motorola's foldable Razr: In a new edition of a flip-phone symbol

David Beckham. Paris Hilton. Bono. Anyone who was anyone in the early 2000s owned a Motorola Razr. With its smooth edges and metal keyboard, it stands out from many conventional flip-phones. And it was not just for the elite. In four years, the stylish, ultra-thin handset sold 130 million times to become one of the most popular and well-known pieces of technology of all time.

Then came Apple's iPhone and destroyed it along with the memory of so-called dumb phones.

More than a decade later, Motorola, which invented the mobile but works in the dark of the mobile device, is experiencing a comeback with a revamped Razr. It combines the retro clamshell design with Google's Android software and an innovative foldable touch screen display that gives the classic flip phone a new twist. CNET reviewer Jessica Dolcourt describes the Razr after an early and detailed look as "Streamlined, absolutely pluggable, nostalgic, with a sharp futuristic edge."

"Motorola President Sergio Buniac said in an interview before today's launch.


With $ 1,500, the new Razr is too expensive to handle even premium cell phones like that But the Bunjac and the company are hoping that its ability to stand out from the crowd, will get Motorola back on track and delight consumers with Foldable.

We could use the jolt Foldable Mobile phones arrived early this year with great hype and high expectations, designed to revitalize the wireless world and represent a potential change in the way we use our mobile devices. "The new category should also serve as a bridge to the nature of mobile devices Serving sci-fi technology that we see in movies like Minority Report or shows like Westworld.

That did not happen. Concerns about the durability caused by the early defects of the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the delayed launch of the Huawei Mate X were even more exciting. Even Motorola missed its original goal of a summer start for the Razr . The company will pre-order as of December 26, and Verizon will launch the phone in January as a lifetime exclusivity in the US. It will come out somewhere else next year.

Outstanding prizes do not help. The Razr costs five times the average Moto G7 cell phone. And that's still a bargain compared to the $ 1,980 Galaxy Fold or $ 2,400 Mate X.

  timberwolf-2019-2678 [19659011-2678] timberwolf is new to a reinterpretation of the classic ultra-thin flip-phone.

Angela Lang / CNET

Unlike the two devices that are positioned as the future of their respective franchises, Motorola resorts to one of its best-known icons to enter the market for super-premium smartphones. It is to be hoped that the nostalgic chords it draws on, combined with a seamless 6.2-inch display (when unfolded) and a compact design (when folded) not only for the Razr, but also for attract attention to its larger cell phone stall.

Motorola, which accounts for around 3% of the mobile phone market, is on the upswing. The company now specializes in cheap phones, so the price remains a question. It is unclear whether this name, beloved by an older generation of consumers who grew up with flip phones, is even registered by a majority of younger users who own the first iPhone as the iconic phone [19659002ansehen] Then there is the question of durability.

Motorola and Lenovo have great ambitions with the Razr. They have completed a unique bet on foldable screens, which makes the device smaller than Samsung and Huawei devices that fold into larger tablets, "says Avi Greengart, analyst at consumer research firm Techsponential." All that Motorola Doing to overcome the clutter and remind people that they are still making desirable phones will only help. "

Back to the Future

says Mike Jahnke, global industrial designer at Motorola.

  timberwolf-2019-4127 [19659022<timberwolf-2019-4127[19659023<MikeJahnkeglobalerIndustriedesignerbeiMotorolaworksonboththeoriginalandnewRazr

James Martin / CNET

I'm talking to the 21-year-old Motorola veteran at the telephone manufacturer's headquarters in the historic Merchandise Mart building in Chicago. Jahnke is wearing a purple patterned bow tie and a matching sweater, which pops up behind him in front of the different colored Razr phones.

As one of the designers of the original Razr, Jahnke tells stories about run-down celebrities when requesting special variants of the folding phone. The device was lifted as a status icon after Motorola made the bold move to put a special black edition of the Razr in the pouches of the Academy Awards 2005. Shortly thereafter every power player had to have one – just to his liking.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova had her own Signature Edition. Motorola created versions for the Miami Ink TV show and Dolce & Gabbana. Bono requested a red variant for his charity Product Red.

After initial deployment as the $ 600 exclusive supplier to Cingular, Motorola added new carriers and variants and lowered its price.

Motorola, according to Neil Shah, took on the then daunting task of making a flip phone cool and accessible.

Until 2006, the company owned more than a fifth of the world market for mobile phones. a counterpoint research analyst. The Razr produced a series of counterfeit, thin phones from competitors such as Samsung and Sanyo's Katana. Motorola tried to track the success of the Razr with cell phones like the Rizr or the Slvr, which had a similar aesthetic. Football legend David Beckham was the face of the Razr 2.

"Everyone else was struggling to catch up," said Roger Entner, Advisor at Recon Analytics. "The copycat devices have made the Razr a more iconic device."

A year later, Apple CEO Steve Jobs released his iPhone. And Motorola's slow and steady slipping into irrelevance began.

  image-01.png [19659034<image-01png[19659035<AnewRazrorigin

The next few years have been eventful, and Motorola has not found a worthy successor to the Razr despite Beckham's efforts. The company has split the end-user cellphone and wireless business into separate entities (both continue to use the Motorola name and the legendary "Batwing" logo). A decade ago, Motorola Mobility launched the first mainstream Android phone, Droid, backed by Google's massive marketing dollars and Verizon. Motorola once tried to bring back the Razr with the Droid Razr Profitability declined as Apple's and Samsung's assets increased, and in the fall of 2011, Google merged the business. Three years and even more losses later, Google Motorola unloaded to Lenovo, which is best known for its laptops.

Around the time Google took the reins, Motorola started fiddling with plastic as display material. Most phone manufacturers used glass because it offered more power and a first-class feel. However, plastic could bend and bend and proved surprisingly durable with a special coating.

Despite a long history of pioneering devices, from the first mobile phone, the DynaTac, to the first flip phone in the StarTac, it was the Droid Turbo 2 that could have provided the main inspiration for the new Razr.

I'll forgive you if it does not occur to you right away.

Launched as the exclusive Verizon product in 2015, the Droid Turbo 2 is the first phone to use this specially hardened plastic display called the Motorola Shattershield. It survived an impressive amount of torture before succumbing to a pickaxe. Later phones like the Moto Z Force used the technology.


From 2015 Motorola and Lenovo thought about Foldable.

James Martin / CNET

Around the same time, engineers and designers were looking for folding equipment and began working with their colleagues at Lenovo, whose Japanese unit brought their expertise in YOGA laptop hinge design. The teams showed the first fruits of this effort at Lenovo Tech World 2016, including a phone wrapped around their wrist. The working prototype is still in Motorola's design labs.

"The new Razr is a newly invented design and innovation icon," said Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing in a statement. "It also reflects the technical and technological capabilities that exist in our company."

Motorola has undergone more than 20 different prototypes internally and settled on a phone by the end of 2016, becoming a smaller device. Motorola executives recognized the similarities between the clamshell design of the final prototype and the original Razr.

Suddenly the comeback started.


Motorola toyed with many prototypes before embarking on the final design.

James Martin / CNET

"We did not go straight to the Razr, but it made sense," says Ruben Castano, Vice President of Design at Motorola, as he stood over a large stack of prototypes of the new Razrs.] The team even has a page from the original design by Razr, in which components were pushed into the thicker chin at the base. This time Motorola had to add a lot of extra hardware, including antennas for 22 bands of cellular waves for 4G LTE (there is no 5G connection), a fingerprint sensor, wireless radio, GPS and more.

Motorola designers and engineers worked quietly on the project over the next two years. In 2017, Motorola brought an early prototype to Verizon, which used it as an exclusive snapshot.

"It's one of those devices that will leave you at the dining table and an eye-catcher," says Brian Higgins, vice president of appliances and consumer products at Verizon Wireless.

In January, a Wall Street Journal report published its return and its high price. After Nintendo's NES Classic and the Nokia 3310 candy bar phone, it was the latest cult product to experience a wave of nostalgia.

The timing was favorable. The excitement of folding phones reached a climax when Samsung launched its Unpacked presentation with a taste of the Galaxy Fold and focused on its Galaxy S10 smartphone. A few days later, Huawei was represented with the Mate X at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The market for these devices – despite their prices – developed rapidly.

Then, after a hasty launch, the first test devices of The Samsung Galaxy Fold began to break.

  image-02.png [19659063<image-02png[19659035<ClosingGap

If the Motorola executives freaked out about the Samsung incident, they would not have shown it when I got one after the asked others for their reactions.

"I do not see anything surprising," says Buniac. "That's what the new technology is all about solving problems."

Castano News told him that his team was on the right track as one of its early prototypes was similar to the Fold.

But Verizons Higgins acknowledged that there was an impact. "When the reports came out, I immediately returned to Motorola," he said, noting that the company had all specification tests run again.

Samsung finally returned with a reinforced Galaxy Fold, but the reputation of folding phones had received a hit.

What Motorola found confident was the unique hinge design it developed for the new Razr. The ultimate goal was to create a mechanism that would allow the screen to approach itself. But here's the dilemma: if you fold a sheet of plastic or paper flat, you inevitably get a fold.

That's why the in-fold Galaxy Fold has a big gap in the middle. That's why Huawei has positioned its folding screen on the outside. Increasing the fold radius reduces the load on the display and the likelihood of kinking.

This was not an easy process. Early prototypes had the phone with huge hinges that protruded from each side and gave it dumbo-like ears that would have ruined the aesthetics.

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You can see the exposed gears of the hinge on each side of the new Razr.

James Martin / CNET

Finally, the designers managed to achieve complete folding with the so-called zero-gap hinge. As with the earlier prototype, the hinges remain sideways, but not so far out. In fact, you can see some of the gears exposed and look at the mechanics of the design, similar to a luxury watch. It also added room for the message to bend inward. If you could look into a cross-section of the phone when it's folded, you'd see the screen bend in a complicated teardrop shape rather than a shallow fold.

Tom Schirtzinger, Motorola's Principal Innovation and Architecture Engineer, Strolled We went through the various components of the Razr and found that the display panel, which contained five layers, one of which was stainless steel, was only 360 microns thick.

Schirtzinger, who moved from college direct to the Motorola R & D team 23 years ago, said a similar hard finish was added to the Shattershield display was Razr display, so it can withstand the scratches that can get plastic displays. However, the team chose the coating back for more flexibility.

Motorola also added steel plates behind the display on each side of the bend point to reinforce the display and compensate for any wrinkles. A step that Samsung took with the enhanced Galaxy Fold.

"We investigated how this could fail and what it is responsible for," says Schirtzinger.

Bigger is not always better

Unlike Samsung or Huawei, who showed off their products early, Motorola has kept the Razr close to the waistcoat.

Motorola had originally set itself the goal to bring the Razr in the summer on the market. Asked about the delay, Buniac answers, "I'm Brazilian, so my summers come in January," before confirming that the company did not meet its deadline.

"Of course we want to be fast in the market, but we are not in a hurry or desperate to start, so we think it's the right time," says Buniac.

Beyond timing, the Razr sets itself apart from the Mate X and Galaxy Fold because the design allows the phone to switch from normal size to small. Laura Joss, global director of design research, says consumer surveys have shown the contradictory trend of people who want bigger displays, but not the massive appliances they need to accommodate them.

Motorola positions the Razr as the ideal compromise.

Thanks to the clamshell design, Motorola, like the original, could integrate a second 2.7-inch "quick view" screen when it was folded. It's designed to handle notifications, control your music, and work as a selfie ad because the 16 megapixel main camera is just below it.

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The Quick View screen provides easy access to notifications.

James Martin / CNET

Jeff Snow, General Manager of Innovation Products at Motorola, says he often does not even open his Razr, which he uses since July. Instead, he tries to scan his messages and other notifications on the tiny secondary screen.

Motorola is not the only one who thinks about this approach. Samsung showed a model of a horizontally folding phone at its annual developer conference last month. TCL demonstrated prototypes of foldable flip-phones during the Mobile World Congress .

Within a year flip-phones could become the new black.

Triggering nostalgia.

The original Razr design with these metal buttons and the 10-millimeter case still creates an emotional response when you hold one in your hand. It's a recall at a simpler time when we actually used our phones to make phone calls.

It's also a reminder that Motorola was once a titan of innovation and put massive sums of money into research and development that only Apple and Google can afford today.

Motorola hopes the new Razr will arouse some of these memories. It even has some of the little details, like the satisfying sound that the phone makes when you snap it shut – hanging it on someone has not felt so good in a long time.


The Razr is not a literal interpretation of the classic phone. But it shares many of the same characteristics.

James Martin / CNET

While the Razr brand is nostalgic for older consumers, reminiscences may not be enough to justify the $ 1,500 price tag.

"Nostalgia only takes you so far," says Ramon Llamas, an analyst research firm IDC.

Note: While NES Classic and SNES Classic were hits for Nintendo, Sony's own retro PlayStation Classic game was a flop. The exploitation of our pink memories is no guarantee of success.

The Razr brand may not even register with younger users if smartphones only delete dumb phones from our memories. Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies, said she would recommend Motorola to emphasize the new design and foldable trend rather than focus on a past fad.

"The Razr was all about design," she says. "People used the Razr because it was cool, not because it was great."

Motorola estimates that the Razr has the average lifespan of a smartphone, but does not specify an exact time. To reassure customers, the company offers a 24-hour processing time for the replacement of devices or displays, although it does not specify how long the warranty is still valid.

The business is booming after reaching four quarters of profitability after years of bleeding. Nevertheless, the year is closed with a market share of around 3%, mainly determined by low-cost telephones. This underlines that Samsung and Huawei are far from it. While Buniac is starting to focus on growing the business and introducing more premium devices, he has realistic expectations of the Razr.

"I do not see it as a miracle cure," says Buniac. "We see it as a journey that has just begun."

This time around, the new Razr is unlikely to have any celebrities opting for an exclusive edition. Asked whether Beckham would return with the new foldable version, Jhanke replies, "We would like to sell one to him."

This story was published at 20:11. PT.


Motorola hopes the Razr name resonates with some consumers Analysts believe the company should focus on the new design.

James Martin / CNET

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