Everyone will copy the new RAZR design and soon we'll be sick of it again

Motorola RAZR
Motorola RAZR (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Before I bought the Motorola RAZR V3 on Cingular in 2005, I owned a Motorola V600, and it was suh-weet! It was a small clamshell phone with a color screen, and its polyphonic ring tones sounded like bird songs. My favorite feature was the RGB notification light ring on the outer shell that could be customized for different alerts and callers. It was the first phone that enticed me with cool features, but my next one would be a fashion phone. I would never own a feature-phone again.

At that time, the market was growing stagnant. New features like color screens, email and messaging, flashing lights, and crisp sounds were becoming table stakes, and phones were starting to seem repetitive. Enter the RAZR.

It was not the first phone to try to look cool, but it may have been the first to succeed at doing it. It was the first phone that could sell you on an aesthetic before features. Instead of specs and features, it sold you on a lifestyle.

Motorola Razr V3i

Source: Mobile Nations (Image credit: Source: Mobile Nations)

Not for long. While the phone was available for $500 or so with a 2-year contract agreement by the end of 2004, when I bought mine in late 2005 it was much cheaper, around $200 or so with a contract, and I got the matte black one that was by far the coolest.

Motorola would soon flood the market with RAZR phones. Every carrier had a RAZR, some in unique colors. There were higher-spec RAZRs, Dolce & Gabbana RAZRs, and then a RAZR V3i that was one of the only phones allowed to synchronize playlists with Apple's iPod-only iTunes software.

Then there was the RAZR Maxx. The RAZR 2. The RIZR slider phone (with the RIZR Z8 "banana phone" variation). The cheaper KRZR. Motorola milked the brand and the design language until the feature phone market was flooded and copied ad nauseam. Sanyo produced a surprisingly adept but unfortunately ugly "Katana" phone that was a close imitator. LG followed up with its own sleek, but less-sharp Chocolate series of feature phones, and these generated their own family and following.

What halted the RAZR's meteoric rise? Perhaps the iPhone, but the BlackBerry Curve, the T-Mobile Sidekick, and other QWERTY smartphones were already making some inroads into feature phone territory. Before the iPhone took its place in so many pockets, side-sliding quick-messaging devices were fomenting the popularity of messaging over calls. Motorola brought back RAZR branding on Android, and some were very good devices, but they didn't quite have the industry-leading design or overall pop-culture buzz the original so ardently earned.

The phone market is boring again, just like last time.

Fast-forward to 2019 and suddenly the phone market is boring again, just like last time. That is to say, we have the most amazing portable devices in our hands, and we're completely tired of looking at them. The features have exceeded our imagination, but we're simply bored of looking at these slabs of glass and no level of technological awe will change that.

Enter the RAZR. It isn't the first folding phone, but it's the first that understands the fold as more than a technological leap. Phone makers know that exciting new features sell exciting new phones, so they often invent the technology and features first and then find a way to fit them onto a mobile device. The Motorola RAZR integrates the technology in a way that recalls its heritage. This is a RAZR. It is a thin phone that folds smaller. In 2004 that was achieved with a laser-etched keypad and a sharp aluminum frame. In 2019 that means a smart way to fold a smartphone.

Motorola RAZR

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

There is no doubt we will see imitators, and quickly. Manufacturers are champing at the bit to find a new angle, literally, and the scattershot approach to folding displays thus far has seemed like more of a curiosity than the next direction for the mobile industry. However, Motorola has hit upon a way to seamlessly blend the new technology into the familiar. Users are not asked to take on new behaviors or accept new limits.

These phones will first be amazing, then they will be affordable.

The industry will learn from Motorola's concept and grow. Within three years, I would expect to see all of the major players except Apple offer a phone that strikingly resembles the RAZRs proportions and bend. These phones will be amazing, and then they will be affordable. The bending glass will become table stakes, a commodity for flagship smartphones. We will grow bored. And then?

I predict keyboards. Full keyboards, with all of the letters. A QWERTY on every phone. Hopefully, by 2025, the 20th anniversary of Motorola's other iconic success, we'll see the next Moto Q, and we'll grow bored with it again. And so the cycle will continue.

17 Comments
  • I will probably get one for the heck of it. And my P20 pro is painful to hold nowadays..(dropped and shattered the back glass) so it will be a fun device to have even if it is a short run before i throw it on swappa
  • In before Apple copies this design and everyone praises them for inventing folding phones.
  • Apple would never copy a design like this. There is no premium in a phone like that.
    Chinese companies will probably copy it. Apple? No.
  • The price is. They will copy the price. Or double it.
  • Sure because Apple never copy features/design from anybody! Another Isheep found.
  • ABSOLUTELY. That tripe still irks me. Do iSheep really believe all that Apple lore bs? I guess if they say it enough they think the rest of us will forget it's not true.
  • Nothing really copied Razr back in the day. Flip phones already existed. If anything, Razr copied every other flip phone, but with their own twist. Basically flatter + longer and wider
  • Razr didn't copy every other flip phone because, Motorola the maker of the Razr also made the first flip phone, the Startac. Everyone else copied them.
  • Boom. Well done.
  • If I needed a new phone and they were 1000$ cheaper I'd get one. S9 is still fine and almost paid for. I admit I do want one though
  • I agree with the author 100%. I got halfway through the article and was already bored.
  • I know a company that used to specialize in querty keyboards.
  • Just letting you know, Samsung is releasing a foldable glass phone in Spring of 2020. This phone won't have screen crease because the cover is glass.
  • Don't think so Philip, you're only 1 guys opinion. Awkward form closed, awkward ratio open, notch, and a chin bigger than Jay Leno. Just tell everyone here how much Moto's paying you guys for that headline... but of course I'm only 1 guys opinion. There probably will be iterations no doubts and variations of folding devices to find those perfect proportions but that's what Samsung and Chinese manufacturers started, not Razr.
  • I agree. I don't think this design will become wide spread. But I think it's worth noting that Motorola is one of those Chinese manufactures... Google sold them to Lenovo. Google only bought Motorola for access to their patents and I think they maintained a license to them during the sale.
  • So you all understand there is no bias against Motorola. You are reading what I wrote using 1 of my 4 Moto Zs. Over the years I have purchased many Moto phones but probably won't be getting on board with new Razor for the following reason.
    It doesn't actually do anything different. Unlike the iPhone this is not a better phone . It's simply a new form factor.
    Why are they selling them?
    Because Samsung (for TV's)
    And Lenovo ( for licencing and monitors ) will be using the foldable phone screen technology and making rollable flat screens? Selling folding smart phones is a great way to get consumers to spend more and "pay down a technology cycle " .
    Why? Because they will be able to fill shipping containers with a higher number of TVs. Think about the size of the box of last TV you purchased. Now imagine 4 rolled and stacked in the same box. Add to that , Samsung will be able to sell bigger TVs that won't be limited to things like door ways. Soon you will be able to hang a TV on your walls that is floor to ceiling and 15 feet long. All with the logistical challenge of moving a Persian rug or hanging a poster. Lenovo could produce a gaming monitor that encircles the user providing a more life like experience. In short, the hype is driven by the ability of companies to increase profit of each cargo container shipped a year or two from now.
    Maybe buy Samsung, LG, Lenovo stock while it's cheap.
    We'll know if I'm right or wrong during CES 2020.
  • Honestly i don’t think the phone market or designs today are boring... we still have beautiful phones. If the form factor is the same, it is a very viable one And, outside for pure nostalgia (and durability ;)), no one thinks nthe old strange designs are better. When foldable phones will outgrow their compromises, we will get excited for itvthen just grow accustomed to it (which is different than being bored) « I would expect to see all of the major players except Apple offer a phone that strikingly resembles the RAZRs » Tes let’s hope so and that they will think different ;)