For decades, the concept of a folding screen has been in science fiction. In recent months, this technology has taken a few timid steps into reality thanks to manufacturers like Samsung or Huawei who are trying to create the smartphone of tomorrow. A mobile capable of transforming into another device, such as a tablet, while remaining easy to carry. The last Galaxy z fold 2 is the perfect example and brilliantly pushes the boundaries of mobile technology.
Motorola’s approach is different. Rather than imagine the future, the manufacturer has fun playing on nostalgia to titillate consumers. Its 5G razr, a small evolution of first razr of 2019, is also inspired by the design of the iconic flip phone released in 2004, itself a member of the illustrious “Razr” family. Two styles that were thought to be incompatible then coexist, retro and ultra modern. Can we create a successful folding smartphone based on the past? We tested the Motorola razr 5G for a week.
razr: A fake competitor of the Galaxy Z Flip
First, let’s address the issue of competition. Razr is often opposed to Galaxy z flip from Samsung, generally making fun of Motorola. We ourselves have often compared the two devices, pointing to the much inferior characteristics of the razr.
After a week with the device and more than a month with the Korean’s, we can now say that this comparison is completely unfounded. The two devices have nothing to do with it, both technically and in the concept itself. Where Samsung wanted to design a true high-end device capable of folding (and which is therefore aimed at the most geeks among us), Motorola bet everything on the folding design and did not really worry about the characteristics. of his device. The intended target is rather an affluent population sensitive to “fashion” products, but not very tech-savvy. A clash between the two devices therefore does not really make sense, these two devices are not intended for the same market. Fans of new technology will have to look to the Galaxy Z Flip. Point.
During our few days with the smartphone, we were surprised by the number of people who asked us about the razr 5G. What do they have in common? The device reminds them “An old telephone”. Few remember its name, but all are intrigued by this funny thing that clicks when you close it. We also feel that Motorola has paid particular attention to this experience. No folding smartphone folds or unfolds as easily as this 5G razr. All you have to do is give a slight blow with your thumb to open it and press your back with your index finger to close it (you quickly master this gesture). The screen rotates very quickly and the hinge makes a noise identical to that of the old flip phone. This feeling is very pleasant. We also love to hang up with this device, it feels like an American movie.
All this is explained by the design of the folding screen that Motorola has. Contrary to what Samsung offers, the razr 5G’s 6.2-inch OLED display, completely covered in plastic, conforms to the curvature of the device’s hinge. Added to this an ultra flexible design of the screen, Motorola avoids any trace of bending. On the other hand, the slab reflects the light enormously. Our laboratory may have measured a very correct maximum brightness of 569 cd / m², we have been regularly hampered in use. Under the rays of the sun, you are quickly blinded by the reflections of the plastic.
On the other hand, and it’s almost a red card, this folding screen suffers from a huge design flaw. When we open or close the screen, a void appears at the hinge. We were able to easily slip a paperclip in to pull at the screen, with the risk of tearing it off when going harder. If a small piece of debris gets stuck between the screen and the hinge and gets stuck inside, the razr 5G is at risk of breaking within seconds. This is all the more regrettable as this design flaw was already present on the first razr and therefore Motorola deliberately chose not to remedy it. Which lets us think that this razr is more a technological demonstration than a really successful device. We suspected it, we now have a clear head.
A little too wide screen borders
Because of its size, the razr’s unfolded screen appeals to lovers of small smartphones like us. Unfortunately, its thick borders spoil the experience. Motorola mixes the 2020 folding with the 2017 notch and 2004 bezels, creating a hybrid device to say the least curious and unattractive. Obviously you get used to it in the end, but you really have to be very nostalgic to fully appreciate this design. The chin of the device, which takes the codes of that of the flip phone of yesteryear, is a real embarrassment when you want to close an application with a simple swipe of the finger on the screen, from bottom to top. . It’s not very ergonomic.
Another design flaw in our view, the location of the fingerprint sensor just doesn’t make sense. Located on the lower back of the device, it requires you to twist your index finger each time you try to unlock it. That’s really silly, especially since the first razr of 2019 had it on the front. Ultimately, we much prefer to configure the device’s unsecured 2D facial recognition. It is faster. Finally, the extremely small power and volume buttons are not easy to control.
Let’s find a bright side to this design, the razr is an extremely thin (7.9 mm) and very light (192 grams) folding smartphone.
A strangely convincing Quick View screen
Here too, we can speak of a pleasant surprise. The 2.7-inch mobile “cover” screen isn’t as trivial as we thought. In fact, it might even be the main asset of this smartphone.
On this “Quick View” screen, you can configure quick access to certain applications. All are not supported but we find for example Messages, YouTube or Google Maps. You can also force the display of certain incompatible apps such as Instagram and use them in a very small format. Thanks to the display of a virtual keyboard of comfortable size, you can answer your messages without opening the device. This avoids getting lost in your social networks, by contenting yourself with the essentials. We answer, and we turn off the device. We got into the game and loved the experience. Our laboratory measured a brightness of 453 cd / m2 for this screen, which is not much but can, most of the time, be sufficient.
The screen interface Quick View is pretty well thought out. On the left, you can quickly access the camera. On the main view, you can view its notifications. On the right, you have access to your favorite applications, while even further on the right, you can view all of your close contacts to quickly reach them. Unfortunately, software bugs spoil the experience. For example, it is impossible to add a contact and the quick shortcut menu (to lower the brightness for example) often appears without you having asked for anything … This is not very serious. There are also tasks that cannot be performed on the screen Quick View, such as unlocking their SIM card. Indeed, you have to open the device each time. Then again, it looks like Motorola hasn’t finished the job.
In the end, what use of the device?
In use, we found ourselves switching back and forth between the two razr screens on a regular basis. The small screen is enough to read the time, check notifications, respond to them, or quickly change music, while the large screen does everything else. The Motorola concept convinced us, too bad the device still looks like a prototype. A razr 3 or 4 could get really interesting anyway.
Disappointing characteristics… so what?
As the name suggests, the Motorola razr 5G is 5G compatible (yes, yes). The smartphone uses Qualcomm’s mid-range Snapdragon 765G processor, which may come as a surprise given its high price tag. We gladly forgive Motorola for proving in the end that it is capable of making choices by sacrificing what it deems non-essential. Wireless charging, fast charging (we are happy with 15W), stereo speakers etc. are not on the program … and probably would not have really interested the target of the razr anyway. Remember, Motorola is targeting an audience that reads Vogue, not 01net.
More negative point, the temperature. While our lab measurements did not find anything abnormal during testing (the device still climbs to 42.2 degrees and clamps its processor in full use), we were quite disturbed in use. Indeed, the 2800 mAh battery of the smartphone is located in its lower part, which creates a significant imbalance between the two parts of the device. The grip is initially more comfortable (since the lower part weighs heavier), but the device is ultimately very painful to use after several minutes in a row. Because if the top remains cold, the bottom heats up a lot. We quickly want to let go of everything.
In the photo, we hoped for better. It’s not so much the quality of the device’s 48 Mpix sensor that bothers us, but rather the lack of a second or third camera. At a time when ultra wide-angle and telephoto are democratizing, how can we be satisfied with a simple camera module on such a luxury product. The excuse of “lifestyle” should not be used here. People willing to spend 1,600 euros to have a chic smartphone while traveling like to take a photo of themselves.
As you can see, the photos taken with the razr 5G are neither exceptional nor downright bad. Day and night, the camera does well (although it often lacks sharpness in low light). Limiting yourself to just one camera unfortunately reduces versatility too much, which we lament. On the other hand, a positive element due to this extraordinary design, the 48 Mpix camera of the 5G razr is accessible even when the device is closed. Good quality square selfies are yours (it’s a bit difficult to trigger a photo via the button on the side, and gesture triggering isn’t always effective).
Finally, we welcome THE major novelty of the razr 5G compared to the razr 2019, the possibility of inserting a real SIM card. No need to subscribe to an eSIM-compatible operator plan to use the device.
Autonomy, a disappointment more than a disaster
Let’s end with an almost positive point: the autonomy of the Motorola razr 5G, without being good, is strangely adequate. With a 2800 mAh battery, the device was much less equipped than most smartphones of the moment (4000 to 5000 mAh batteries). We expected a disaster, Motorola finally managed to contain the damage.
The device resisted 12:11 in our versatile battery life test, which is average without being catastrophic like on the Google Pixel 4 (9:05 am). Unfortunately, we cannot say about the same level of video streaming where the 7:42 obtained by the smartphone only allowed it to withstand only 4 minutes longer than the Pixel 4, which is therefore the second worst result ever recorded by our laboratory. Finally, on the phone, we can hold 2:11 p.m. with the razr 5G. This is also the worst result ever measured in all categories. We usually easily go beyond 24 hours.
In use, however, the 5G razr did not seem so bad to us. There is a reason for this disconnect between our lab tests and reality, the screen Quick View. Indeed, many micro-tasks usually performed from the main screen have been transferred to the small screen of the razr, which consumes less. All our days still ended below the 20% mark.
On the recharging side, it takes 1h39 to go from 0 to 100%. Considering the small capacity of the device’s battery, this is quite disappointing.