Buy Motorola's foldable Razr? Here's our advice before you pre-order

Motorola's Razr is the closest thing to a real-world foldable device yet. Here are four things to consider before preordering Razr on December 26.

Foldable phones: Full of potential or just plain foolish? TechRepublic's Karen Roby sits down with ZDNet's Jason Cipriani and Jason Perlow to explore the future of foldable devices and the smartphone industry. View the latest round of Jason vs. Jason.

Motorola Razr is the closest thing to a workable, real-world foldable device with pre-orders starting Dec. 26. Should you consider it?

Motorola Razr Front Display Camera.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

In the US, the Razr will be available for $1,500 in early January with global availability in early 2020. If you've read up on Razr here, here, here and here you've gotta admit you're enticed by the design and possibilities.

The Razr warrants more consideration than what has emerged so far in the foldable category, but it still may make sense to wait. Bottom line is that the foldable device category may be more than a science experiment thanks to Motorola.

Here's your decision tree and variables to consider before forking over $1,500.

Motorola Razr is closer to what a foldable device should be

Motorola has come closer than any other smartphone maker to a workable foldable device that makes sense. It has been a rough year for foldable devices. Initially, the concept from the likes of Samsung and Huawei sounded promising. The reality is that foldable devices were pricey beta tests. Motorola, however, has a design that has a hinge much like the original Razr. The hinge separates the screen from issues that Samsung had with the Fold.

Another consideration here is that Motorola is now owned by Lenovo. If there's any electronics manufacturer that knows how to test hinges it's Lenovo. 

motorola razr open.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

In addition, the Razr also minimizes itself relative to the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, which open like a book and want to be a tablet at times. The real world use cases align more with the Razr approach. 

What's unclear is whether Motorola's Razr is refined enough to plunk down $1,500 for a device that's exclusive to Verizon. It's also unclear whether Samsung will have a foldable clamshell soon too. 

  • If you have something else to do with $1,500 and don't care about that first mover early adopter look, monitor the Razr and just say no.
  • But if you're a bleeding edge buyer, the Razr warrants consideration when available.

The specs need work

If you're buying the Razr embrace it as a vanity play on some level. The specs are lacking, battery life unclear and the camera may need work. But damn it's kinda cool.

The new Razr has Qualcomm's Snapdragon 710 chip not the 855 or 855+. The battery is 2510 milliamp-hour, but that's smaller than many flagship devices and the Razr has to power a 6.2-inch display and an outer 2.7-inch display. Color me skeptical on battery life.

Storage at 128GB is skimpy and Razr has Android 9 Pie, not the latest version. Motorola will upgrade to Android 10 and is good and generally keeps up with Android's cadence. There is a 16-megapixel external camera on front and back and a 5-megapixel internal camera.

Motorola obviously made some trade-offs to price the Razr at $1,500. Other foldable devices run you $2,000 or more. The big question is whether these tradeoffs and specs matter.

    Motorola Razr.jpg

    Motorola
  • If specs matter to you, hold off on Razr.
  • If it's more about the cool factor and joy of flipping open a device, well you're still in the buying mode. 

Nostalgia plays well, but...

The marketing of the Razr will be interesting give how nostalgia plays well these days. Razr was an iconic phone before Apple's iPhone and Lenovo's Motorola unit has retooled it, modernized the design and given it new life.

In other words, Razr will be evaluated as a modern take on an icon relative to phones that have an older brand yet don't offer much new. HMD's Nokia and BlackBerry phones come to mind.

  • If nostalgia matters, well Razr's old-school mode that virtually replicates the device from the early 2000s will lure you in.
  • If nostalgia just means you feel old, move on.

There's no 5G

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Like other devices, the lack of 5G on the Razr is a tough fact to swallow. Razr is a $1,500 device with a novel design, but you'd be holding it for 2-years most likely on a network and processor that's slower.

The odd part here is that Razr is a Verizon exclusive. Verizon is working the 5G rollout and expanding cities almost monthly. Razr could be the 5G headliner for Verizon.

Why not 5G?

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It's hard to pack in another 5G processor as well as the antennas to make the Razr work.

That said it wouldn't be surprising to see a Razr Pro or similar device with upgraded specs and 5G at some point in 2020.

  • If you think 5G is the most hyped hoax of 2019 and don't think it'll matter for two years, then ponder a purchase.
  • If you want future proofing, move along and punt until 2020 when Qualcomm's new chips will likely give smartphone makers new connectivity options.

Bottom line: There are many reasons to wait and see how the foldable category develops, but since when has logic trumped gadget lust and those first few weeks of having a device no one else has?