By John P. Mello Jr.
Feb 11, 2020 10:54 AM PT
Motorola’s new foldable Razr phone has been garnering mediocre notices from early reviewers.
“If this phone didn’t fold in half, it would be a solid mid-tier Android phone,” Patrick Holland wrote for Cnet.
Even harsher was Adam Ismail’s verdict in Tom’s Guide: “Between the Razr’s questionable build quality, underwhelming performance, middling camera and awful battery life, the folding gimmick — neat though it may be — isn’t enough to save this device.”
Most reviewers found the Razr’s performance underwhelming for a phone priced at US$1,500.
“To get it so thin, and for it to be able to work without overheating, the company made too many compromises on performance,” Sascha Segan wrote for PCMag.
“Everything here is subordinate to the design,” he added, “resulting in a phone that looks and feels like a $1,500 statement piece, but sure doesn’t perform like one.”
Although the Razr wasn’t as peppy as he would have liked it to be, “Motorola found a good power-to-performance ratio with the Razr,” Cnet’s Holland maintained.
A Phone With Personality
Despite its deficiencies, Holland said, the Razr has something most phones these days lack: personality.
“And as Jules says in Pulp Fiction, ‘Personality goes a long way,'” he wrote. “The Razr feels more personal than any phone I’ve used.”
Personality can go a long way in the smartphone market, agreed Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research, a technology market research and consulting firm in Foster City, California.
“We’ve reached an era where phones are incredibly personal. That’s why I think you’re going to find a bunch of people who like the Razr. It’s radically different from all the other phones that are out there,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“In an era when people like to reflect their personality in their phones, this phone does that,” O’Donnell added.
Nagging Durability Issue
Although Motorola has assured the public that it thoroughly tested the Razr’s durability, doubts remain.
“Are these things going to last three years like people expect them to?” asked Frank E. Gillett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, a market research company headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“The target audience seems small to me — people who value a tiny phone in their pocket above all else,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“The only way to know is to use it for months on end,” Holland acknowledged.
The best evaluation of the phone’s durability will come once it has been in the hands of consumers for a significant time, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm based in Phoenix, Arizona.
“The mechanical repetitious testing of the phone does indicate some care should be taken with it,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I expect it is more fragile than most phones, but there are people excited by the new form factor that are willing to take a chance on it.”
The Razr’s battery life disappointed reviewers. For a phone its size, the battery is on the small side.
“Ultimately, the Motorola Razr battery size means it has a lower potential maximum battery life compared to other phones, regardless of how you use it,” Nirave Gondhia wrote for Android Central.
Although he could get through most of day on a single charge, Holland noted, he had to plug in around dinner time.
PCMag’s Segan got six hours, 54 minutes, of video playback time on his review unit.
“More scarily, though, other applications consumed more energy than the video player,” he added. “Thirty minutes of playing Asphalt 8 hit the battery by 10 percent, working out to just five hours of gaming on a charge.”
Reviewers also were annoyed by the noise made by opening and closing the phone.
“How bad is this sound?” Holland asked in his review. “It’s not ‘record skip’ loud, but it’s not great either. If I bought this phone, I’d think something was wrong and want to swap it.”
Segan performed his own durability tests on the Razr, opening and closing it 1,000 times without damage.
“But after a mere 200 flips — and to this moment — the phone now makes a loud creaking noise when it’s opened or closed,” he wrote. “It didn’t do that at the start; it opened and closed quietly and smoothly. Now it practically quacks, to the point that I want to get out some WD-40.”
While reviewers raved over the engineering behind Razr’s flexible display, the screen itself received mixed assessments.
“The Razr’s display quality is good,” Holland wrote. “Colors pop nicely and the contrast is crisp without looking overly sharp.”
According to Android Central’s Gondhia, “the Razr’s display lacks the punchiness or peak brightness of a Samsung phone, and opts for a more neutral profile vs. vividly displaying colors like other displays.”
Tom’s Guide’s Ismail knocked the screen’s brightness.
“At a peak brightness of just 386 nits, the Razr’s screen is far too dim compared to leading flagships from Apple and Samsung, which routinely achieve nearly twice that these days,” he wrote.
“Motorola says ‘bumps and lumps are normal,’ and you’ll certainly feel them when scrolling,” Ismail added. “Our unit has a circular depression right in the center of the top half, and whenever I ran my index finger over that divot, it was never a great feeling.”
The 16 megapixel, f/1.7 camera in the Razr was another sore point for reviewers.
“Photos taken in good light are sharp with impressive contrast. But as soon as you’re in medium-to-low light things start to fall apart,” Holland wrote.
“Without optical image stabilization, the Razr compensates with a longer shutter speed, which leads to motion blur,” he continued. “Video is there. It’s fine. No one will be making a film for Netflix with the Razr.”
Segan described photos he shot with the Razr as soft and indistinct — enlarged versions of lower-resolution pix taken with a Pixel 4 or iPhone 11.
“As the light goes down,” he wrote, “the Razr’s performance declines further, with photos getting dim and noisy. Ultimately, I felt like I was taking pictures with a $250 phone, not a $1,500 one.”
Foldable Wave Coming
Shortcomings aside, the Razr is breaking new ground for the smartphone market. “I believe that the Razr is helping to open the way for foldable devices that previous efforts largely failed to do,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, a technology advisory firm in Hayward, California.
However, the Razr’s use of older components could hurt it in the very near future, as Samsung readies to launch its own flip phone, the Z Flip.
“Unless a substantially upgraded Razr is in the works, the Z Flip’s introduction is likely to present significant challenges to Motorola,” King told TechNewsWorld.
Meanwhile, consumers can expect more foldables in their future.
“Foldables will eventually become mainstream,” Technalysis’ O’Donnell predicted.
“They will be what most people will have, because people are looking for larger screens in smaller physical spaces, and the only way to do that is with a foldable display,” he said.
“Folding form factors and dual screens are hot design innovations,” noted Tirias’ Krewell, “for not just phones, but for PCs this year, too.”