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Why the Motorola Razr’s display won’t break as easily as the Galaxy Fold’s

Published Nov 14th, 2019 5:33PM EST

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One of the more remarkable things about the original iPhone was how quickly it made established handset makers irrelevant. In seemingly the blink of an eye, the iPhone set the blueprint for what a modern-day smartphone should look and act like. In the process, entrenched players like Motorola and Nokia quickly found themselves scrambling for scraps.

Motorola in particular represents an interesting case-study, if only because the company was behind one of the more popular and iconic phones of the pre-iPhone era — the Razr. Boasting a svelte design, the original Motorola Razr was a bonafide phenomenon and ultimately become one of the best selling mobile phones in history. Now, about 15 years after the original Razr hit the market, Motorola has decided to leverage the nostalgia surrounding the device with a new foldable smartphone it’s calling — wait for it — the Razr.

The name of the device aside, Motorola’s new Razr is an intriguing device because it presents us with a slightly varied take on the foldable smartphone. Whereas existing foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X fold in on themselves horizontally, the Razr folds in on itself vertically. What’s more, whereas the Galaxy Fold and Mate X are designed to be smartphone/tablet hybrids, the Razr is a regular smartphone that just so happens to fold into a more compact form factor.

Of course, the foldable smartphone era hasn’t exactly got off to an encouraging start. For starters, it remains unclear if there’s actually a demand for foldable smartphones. Second, and equally as important, it remains to be seen if foldable smartphones are as durable as a modern-day smartphone needs to be. To this point, you might recall the embarrassing PR disaster that saw Samsung delay the Galaxy Fold launch on account of displays that were far too prone to breaking.

That said, Motorola believes that it’s come up with a clever display and hinge design that should help it avoid some of the problems associated with foldable displays.

In a fascinating and in-depth look at how the resurrected Razr was developed, CNET reveals that the device has been years in the making and is the result of more than 20 varying prototype designs.

It wasn’t an easy process. Early prototypes had the phone with giant hinges jutting out from each side, giving it Dumbo-like ears that would’ve ruined the aesthetics.

Finally, the designers were able to accomplish a complete fold with what they call the zero-gap hinge. As with the earlier prototype, the hinges remain at the side, but not as far out. In fact, you can see some of the gears exposed, getting a glimpse into the mechanics of the construction, similar to a luxury watch. It also added space for the display to bend inward. If you could look into a cross-section of the phone when it’s folded, you would see the screen bend in an intricate teardrop shape rather than a flat fold.

While we’ll have to wait to see if the revamped Razr lives up to the hype, the hinge mechanism on the Razr — from what we’ve seen on video — certainly looks a whole lot smoother than what we’ve seen on rival devices. If you head on over to CNET, you can see a few animations of the hinge in action and it looks remarkably smooth.

One video review worth watching can be seen below:

As a quick aside, one thing that will likely hinder the Razr’s ability to gain real traction is that it’s starting price is $1500, making it more expensive than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. And lastly, the device is a Verizon exclusive forever, which is to say it may simply be — in the best case scenario — a highly regarded niche smartphone.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.