- Motorola has announced a foldable, smartphone version of its iconic Razr flip phone, which will be available to preorder on December 26 and is scheduled for release in the US in January.
- With its sleek-yet-jagged aesthetic and metallic keyboard, the Razr was all the rage in the early-to-mid 2000s, before Apple’s iPhone came onto the scene.
- In-depth report from CNET, multiple executives and engineers at Motorola and its parent company Lenovo explained the new Razr’s development process – especially the design of its all-important folding hinge.
- The much-hyped Samsung Galaxy Fold was the first mainstream foldable phone, but its launch was delayed by five months after reviewers who tested it pre-release reported that its foldable screen was breaking after just a few days of use.
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If there’s one clear-cut way to decide if someone count as a millennial or a member of Gen Z, let it be this: you’re a millennial if you can remember when the Motorola Razr was the epitome of cool.
First released in 2004, the Razr was the pre-iPhone era’s iPhone: an ultra-glossy, ultra-glassy piece of kit that prized aesthetic appeal above all else. Its distinctive, razor-sharp edges and metallic keyboard helped it rise above rival flip phones, and its association with global stars like David Beckham only burnished its ultrahip brand.
It’s this bygone era that Motorola is looking to evoke with its new Motorola Razr: a foldable smartphone that reimagines its 2000s icon for a new generation. Announced on Wednesday, the new Razr will be available to pre-order on December 26 and is scheduled for release in the US in January.
Yet what’s so timely about the Razr’s comeback isn’t just nostalgia – it’s the fact that, to date, foldable phones have hardly set the world alight. Take the disappointment surrounding Samsung’s Galaxy Fold: the first foldable phone released by a major handset manufacturer.
The Galaxy Fold was a much-hyped piece of kit that was meant to represent ground zero for a whole new category of smartphone.
A prototype of its foldable phone was first revealed in November 2018 during Samsung’s annual developer conference in San Francisco, to huge hype.
After four months of silence, Samsung unveiled the phone in February, revealing the Galaxy Fold as the world’s first mainstream folding phone. The phone was due for an April release.
But a bona fide PR disaster struck. Many early reviewers of the Galaxy Fold reported that the phone’s foldable screen – the feature on which all that hype was predicated – was breaking after just days of use.
Samsung took back its review units and pushed back the phone’s release date to September.
Though the Korean tech giant made several modifications to the phone, the damage had already been done. T-Mobile, one of the carriers originally signed on to sell the phone, said it would no longer be selling it.
This whole saga is what Motorola has been keen to avoid with its own foldable hinge.
According to a new in-depth report from CNET, Motorola engineers and designers first started looking at foldable phone technology around 2015 and started collaborating with Lenovo, Motorola’s parent firm.
Over the next year or two, Motorola worked through more than 20 different prototypes before deciding on a phone that folded down into a smaller device.
Although Motorola’s vice president of design Ruben Castano told CNET that “We didn’t directly set out to do the Razr,” he and other execs saw how similar the final prototype’s clamshell design was to the original Razr. It was this similarity that sparked the drive towards building an all-new Razr.
The Galaxy Fold debacle in April caught Motorola’s attention, of course. But Motorola was confident it could create a better hinge mechanism; one that would allow the screen to close in on itself, without creasing.
Eventually, the CNET report added, Motorola’s design team was able to execute a complete fold with what they call the zero-gap hinge, which lets the phone close with both sides fully flat – just like a flip phone. Though the hinge on early prototypes of the Razr was said to be wider than the phone itself, giving it the appearance of ‘ears,’ this has now been corrected, creating a clean overall look.
The hope is that the new Razr will be more durable than the Galaxy Fold. Huawei more openly panned the Fold’s design, with one of its executives Richard Yu describing Samsung’s design as “bad.”
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