Rebooted Motorola Razr returns as Verizon exclusive

The original Razr was a fan-favorite and eventually sold 130 million units. (Verizon)

Motorola has brought back its Razr handset, and while it retains the nostalgic clamshell design, the rebooted phone also features a foldable touchscreen display.  

Motorola on Wednesday unveiled the new handset with its 6.2-inch display, hinge design and hefty $1,500 price tag. The device is exclusive to Verizon in the U.S. and preorders start Dec. 26, with availability coming Jan. 9.

The new Razr features an external ‘Quick View’ touchscreen display where users can respond to notifications, take photos, and play music, among other things, without opening the phone.

Lynnette Luna, principal analyst at GlobalData Technology, noted that the Motorola Razr was “a massive hit 15 years ago,” and said with the reboot, Motorola “has done a rather clever thing.”

The original Razr V3 went on sale in 2004, and became a fan-favorite in the world of flip phones, with 130 million handsets eventually sold

“It is playing on that nostalgia while at the same time capitalizing on a trend toward foldable smartphones,” said Luna, adding Motorola appears to have solved a main drawback with current foldable phone models that have a creased screen where the phone folds.

Avi Greengart, tech analyst and founder of Techsponential, got hands-on time with the device ahead of the unveiling, and confirmed that the hinge design allows the Razr’s screen to “rest completely flat without any visible crease” or even the feeling of a crease. This is helped by the screen’s teardrop shape when closed, he noted, and the handset has “a satisfying snap” when closed quickly.

Greengart indicated some people may look at the price or the spec sheet and not see the immediate appeal.

“This is about more than strictly technology, it’s about creating a beautiful object of desire that solves a real problem,” he said. Problem being, consumers want a large phone but have small pockets.

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“The engineering and design on display are really extraordinary,” Greengart said, adding that the device is more narrow and easier to hold despite the square shape when folded that appears wider. He noted the new Razr is the same width as the smallest model of Apple’s new models, the iPhone 11 Pro.

Motorola is offering what a solid warranty, that includes any screen damage normal wear and tear, but he noted it’s not waterproof or sandproof, so the new Razr is certainly not a ruggedized device.

“If you treat it with any amount of reasonable care, and keep it away from water and sand, it should be fine.”

Priced in the luxury-goods range, the new Razr is geared toward mainstream users who are willing to pay more, but not necessary tech early-adopter, according to Greengart.

“If you’re looking at this and trying to figure out which version of the Snapdragon processor is inside, this phone is not for you.”

Luna said latest version could gain favor with fans of the original Razr, as well as new customers.

“This phone should appeal to both those consumers who loved the Razr, and there are many, and those looking for a newer iconic phone design. However, the device has mid-range specs and the price is expensive at US$1500,” she said. “Moto-Lenovo is hoping the unique design will trump specifications.”

GlobalData doesn’t see the new Razr turning Motorola’s market share around however, according to Luna. “This is clearly a niche device and it will be interesting to see if consumers are more interested in design than device specifications,” she said.

While there are “undeniably compromises” to the rebooted Razr’s design, Greengart called Motorola’s decisions purposeful, noting the company spent a lot of time developing the hinge and how to make a large phone disappear into consumers’ pockets.

That thin design means giant batteries are a no-go though and in turn requires a processor that won’t overly tax that smaller battery, so battery life is something to keep an eye on, he noted. The phone also doesn’t support 5G.

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Still, Greengart doesn’t see those factors posing issues as long as the phone performs well (He said the Razr was “certainly snappy” during his hands-on use.) and the battery lasts all day, as Motorola is promising.

“People who are buying this phone will be well served by the decisions Motorola made,” Greengart said.

And the new Razr, while tapping into nostalgia, is not purely a marketing piece.  Motorola expects to sell a lot the of new Razrs and make money doing so, he noted, but it could also help boost brand profile.

“Strategically, the new Razr is probably more important for Motorola simply to remind people that Motorola’s around,” Greengart said. “And if you can’t afford a $1,500 phone the company offers a wide range of mid-tier and lower phones, including some extremely strong values in the G series.”

So is the latest Razr a successful reboot? “Extremely so,” said Greengart. “This is a very exciting phone."