Despite gushing nostalgia, I fear the new device may end up a flop. Motorola has struggled in the 15 years since the release of the original Razr, with the US company’s mobile division crushed by the rise of the iPhone and Samsung.
The rise and fall of Motorola Mobility remains a corporate horror story of Silicon Valley. After struggling to boost sales, Motorola sold its mobile division to Google in 2011 for US$12bn. The deal was an utter disaster. Just two years later, Google sold Motorola to China’s Lenovo for US$2.9bn.
Since then, Motorola has tried various gimmicks in an effort to return to what was once a must-have brand, such as launching phones with “modular” components, cameras and extra battery packs.
It has made, in its defence, other solid mid-range phones at a reasonable price. But their sales have been consistently hammered by the rise of cheaper Chinese phone-makers willing to spend billions on marketing to expand across Europe.
The new Razr looks polished and ready for the market in a way that Samsung’s clumsy Galaxy Fold, first announced in April, never did.
However, this phone is only expected to have around 200,000 units in its initial run. Its price is also going to be prohibitively expensive. It is, essentially, an experiment.
Folding phones still feel very early in their development and there are considerable questions over durability. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold launch, for instance, was marred by devices almost immediately breaking when used by gadget reviewers.
Motorola has also sacrificed processing power to achieve its sleek design while paring back on cameras at a time when consumers are often picking their phone based solely on how well it can take a photo.
The company says it has designed a special type of hinge that should avoid such breaks, but whatever the case, a folding phone is going to be at risk of mechanical failure. It’s also not clear what new apps or features the Razr will enable.
At best, the new Razr will appeal to gadget enthusiasts and those after a hit of nostalgia. That’s not necessarily a bad strategy, and nostalgia tech has definitely been ramping up in the last two years (Nokia’s revamped 3310 is one example), but it’s not a sure-fire way to catch up with Samsung as the leading Android phone maker.