Don’t expect 2019 to be remembered as the Year of the Foldable Phone, after some high-profile launches of foldable phones earlier this year fizzled out.
But there’s still one last product launch this year that could give us a better idea of whether devices with foldable screens have the bright future that phone makers are predicting.
This Wednesday (Nov. 13), Motorola is holding a press event in Los Angeles, and all signs point to the company unveiling a rebooted version of its iconic Razr phone, now with a foldable screen. Invitations to the event included a GIF of a device snapping shut, along with the not-so-subtle promise that “you’re going to flip.”
Rumors of a new Razr phone with a folding screen have been circulating since earlier this year, when The Wall Street Journal first reported that such a device was in the works. That initial report and subsequent leaks point to Motorola reviving the clamshell design that was popular with smartphones before the original iPhone ushered in the era of candy bar-esque smartphones — only in this version of the Razr, the entire inside of the phone will be a screen that folds in half when not in use.
It’s a rumored look that’s generated a lot of interest, particularly among people who churn out concept designs. But Motorola’s rumored Razr will arrive after a couple other heavily hyped foldable phones have stumbled. Samsung’s $1,980 Galaxy Fold Foldable Phone launched in September to tepid reviews, and that was after the phone maker delayed launching the Fold when screens broke on review devices. Huawei similarly delayed the launch of its foldable Mate X phone, restricting the October release to just China and in limited numbers.
Can the reimagined Razr succeed where those other foldables have failed to make much of a splash? There’s reason to believe Motorola and its Razr are well positioned to change people’s perceptions about foldable phones.
It’s a comfortably familiar design
It’s difficult to remember a pre-iPhone world, but Motorola’s Razr was the flip phone to have 15 or so years ago. Assuming Motorola’s upcoming phone takes that look and updates it with a foldable touch screen, a reborn Razr could strike a chord with mobile users who have long memories.
“Folding phones are a new form factor, and the Razr was an iconic form factor, so I think that people are hoping when you combine the two, you get something special,” said Avi Greengart, lead analyst with Techsponential. “The idea of a big screen that folds down into a smaller package is appealing.”
It would certainly be a different approach from the foldable phones we’ve seen thus far. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold opens and shuts like a book — a familiar enough interaction, though not something we’re necessarily used to with smartphones.
The Mate X goes a weirder route, folding in the opposite direction of the Fold in what Huawei describes as a Falcon Wing design. It looks cool in person, but it doesn’t have the comforting familiarity of a flip phone. More