The Motorola Razr is Back! Forget Nostalgia. It’s All About the Future!

At an event in LA that screamed lifestyle rather than tech, Motorola revealed the heavily rumored Razr. A foldable smartphone that takes the name of the most iconic phone Motorola ever sold and projects it into the future.

When unfolded, the Razr reveals a 6.2″ foldable OLED display while the external QuickView display is a 2.7″ OLED, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The Razr runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 and has a 2510 mAh battery. There is a single 16MP camera at the back of the phone and 5MP at the front. It offers no wireless charging, but TurboPower is at hand for fast charging.

To some extent, the specs do not really matter as the Razr sells itself on its innovative folding design rather than the sum of its features. I would imagine that the design and component choice did drive some decision both in terms of price and in terms of optimizing a slim design with decent battery life and speed. I would also reserve judgment on the quality of the camera until testing it more extensively as we know Qualcomm has some good AI capabilities wrapped into the Snapdragon 710.

In the U.S., the new Motorola Razr will be available exclusively on Verizon with pre-order starting on December 26, 2019 and shipping in January 2020, for $62.49 a month for 24 months on Verizon Device Payment (0% APR; USD 1,499.99 MSRP).

What the Razr Means for Motorola

Motorola struck the perfect balance between leaning into the Razr brand while looking ahead. Gen Z and Millennial will not be as familiar as Gen Xers are with the Razr name. This means that Motorola needed to create a new buzz in its own right to appeal to a broader audience and one that might be the most attracted to a foldable design. Although we have had a couple of phones that embraced nostalgia over the past couple of years, the new Razr does not fit that mold. I think the decision of building on the Razr franchise is much more pragmatic than people give Motorola credit for.

The first generation Razr, as a brand, was synonymous with higher-end, great design and to some extent, a design over specs formula. For the Razr reboot, Motorola is counting on repositioning its brand in the higher-end of the market thanks to the aspirational folding design. This is really not about nostalgia, it is about having limited resources when it comes to building a totally new brand franchise. Using the familiar and successful Razr name gets Motorola some buzz out the door.

Having had the opportunity to spend some time with the Razr, there is a lot that Motorola should be proud of. The zero-gap hinge perfectly aligns the display without creating a crease or a dip in the middle of the screen. From my experience this solves a few problems:

  • It makes the device feel less delicate and increases the quality feel
  • It gives you the impression that you are actually touching glass even though the display is plastic
  • You don’t have to force your brain to ignore a crease in the middle of the screen to enjoy the content displayed

Motorola’s early reveal will help to spread the momentum over a few months as we wait for the Razr to ship in January 2020. I expect Motorola to bring more foldable designs to market over the next 12 to 18 months as competition in this space intensifies.

The Question of Price

I saw some commentary on the $1500 price tag of the Razr that compared it to flagship products such as the Samsung Galaxy S10+ and the iPhone 11. Such comparisons, as well as the conclusion that the Razr price is too high, seem to build on a like-for-like specs comparison but totally ignore the cost associated with delivering a foldable design. Plus, just because the Razr is smaller than the Galaxy Fold, it does not mean that making it requires less skill and investment.

Production and R&D cost aside, the price must also reflect the newness of the technology, as well as the positioning Motorola had in mind for the Razr. After all, nobody thinks of something cheap as aspirational. The packaging fully reflects the positioning and the price point as the box the Razr ships in turns into a stand that functions as a speaker.

The Quick View Screen and the Power of Triage

I would have called the external screen of the Razr the quick action screen because viewing is not all you can do with it. The Quick View screen can show you information such as text messages (which you can reply to), new emails, incoming phone calls, mobile payment cards, music controls, and a camera viewfinder. You can even talk to Google Assistant by saying, “OK Google.”

For me, the Quick View screen is the perfect solution for detoxing. Similar to the external screen of the Fold but slightly more functional, I can triage inbound messages and notifications without being unnecessarily sucked into the phone.

What Razr Means for the Market

I am not sure the Razr really solves a pain point for consumers. While some might complain about how big some phones are becoming, the benefit of the larger screen is certainly valued by many.

What I think the Razr does is inject some positivity back into this segment after the issues Samsung has faced. The inward folding solution protects the screen, and the design does not require developers to rethink their apps for a larger screen nor users to rethink how they use their phones. In other words, you can enjoy the Razr familiarity and uniqueness all at the same time. This will undoubtedly drive out of the box satisfaction.

I would expect demand to exceed production for the Razr, but volumes will remain low given price point, design and carrier exclusives. But if the Razr is not a one-off high-end product, I do expect the brand to receive a good boost. Because the Razr is more about Motorola’s brand than creating demand for foldable designs, I also hope to see Lenovo opening the purse strings a little so that the Razr can get a serious marketing campaign. After all, Motorola has built a foldable to rebuild their brand.

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Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

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