Don't flip out: Motorola's Razr returns in 2020 as a $1,499 foldable

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu November 14, 2019

Motorola hasn't released a true flagship device in quite some time, but that changes now. The Razr is back and keeps the classic flip phone design with a foldable twist. The new Motorola Razr is essentially a normal smartphone that you can fold in half.

The Motorola Razr will be $1,499 at full price and will officially launch in January. In the US, it will be exclusive to Verizon (preorders kick off on December 26), and in Canada, it will be available unlocked.

It's the second major foldable announced recently, following Samsung's Galaxy Fold, which is available right now for $1,980.

So what makes the Motorola Razr special?

Return of the flip phone

The Razr definitely has one of the more unusual designs of any phone this year. It's a flip phone design that uses a new hinge and what Motorola calls a "Flex View" display. It's a 6.6-inch pOLED 2142x876 display with a 21:9 ratio. It's fully foldable in a top-down format, unlike the Galaxy Fold, which closes from left to right or right to left.

With the clamshell form factor, the main display is protected when it's closed; when it's open and in use, there's an additional layer to protect against scratches. Motorola also designed the display with movable metal support that should make it feel firmer than other plastic OLED displays. We'll need to test this in person. One note: There is a chin on the bottom of the display that will give you memories of flip phone days. It contains the fingerprint reader and will likely be a nice spot to get a grip on the Razr.

The clamshell outer shell is made of stainless steel and screams classic Razr. It comes in one color (Noir Black), which will certainly be a disappointment for those who had the classic Razr in pink or silver. There is a Quick View 2.7-inch gOLED 600x800 display on the front above the main 16-megapixel camera. It feels like an original Razr on steroids. And when closed, it's quite compact, at just 72 by 94 millimeters, and 14 millimeters thick. Unfolded, it keeps the same width, but grows to 172 millimeters tall (6.7 inches).

Most importantly, the hinge that powers the foldable experience is zero gap, and Motorola made it in house. We've seen what can happen when these flexible displays are exposed to dust, and this is designed to keep it tightly sealed. As a whole, the Razr has a water-resistant nanocoating that should be splashproof. However, in typical Motorola fashion, there is no IPX rating.

When unfolded, the main Flex View display will look familiar to anyone who has used an Android. The Razr is running Android 9 Pie with a custom Motorola user interface that keeps things simple. Moto Actions are here and make use of gestures for easy access to core features. You can open the camera with a simple twist, and placing the phone face down will engage the "do not disturb" function. These are features that Motorola has become known for, and they stick with the themes of giving you the power to do more, while remaining easy to use.

Things are different on the front with the Quick View display. Essentially, it's a much smaller window into the Razr that still provides access to several applications. It has continuity features, as applications open on the Quick View will appear on the main Flex View screen. The Quick View display lets you control music playback, engage with the Google Assistant, take selfies, see notifications, and, of course, easily view the time. I'm quite intrigued by this and look forward to testing it, but on paper, it seems similar to the Galaxy Fold's approach.

A 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 720 processor with 6GB of RAM powers the Razr. It seems like an odd choice, given we already have newer versions, but we haven't tested the Razr. Chances are, the phone has been in development for some time, but still, it's an odd choice. That is paired with 128GB of internal storage, and there is no micro SD card slot. The non-removable 2510mAh battery can be fast-charged with the included 15-watt TurboPower charger. And like most new smartphones, it opts for a USB-C port, the only one on the Razr.

The main camera, a front-facing 5-megapixel camera, rests under the front's Quick View display, but above the main display when unfolded. And that's most of the story with the Razr. It's an eSIM-only device, which means there is no physical SIM card slot. It has a fingerprint reader for securely unlocking and for authenticating mobile payments.

Buyers will score that Turbo Power charger, a USB-C cable, a USB-C to audio jack dongle, Razr earbuds, a carrying case and, of course, the phone itself.

We have some time before the Razr officially launches in January. But preorders will be available from Motorola, Walmart and Verizon in the US come December. It's going up against a lot more than just the Galaxy Fold: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, Galaxy Note 10, Galaxy S10 and Pixel 4 are just a few other competitors.

I'll leave you with one last note. The Razr has a big plus: You can hang up calls by flipping the phone closed.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.