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Motorola Razr Plus (2023) hands-on: Step aside Samsung, the new Gen Z flip phone is here

Motorola's new clamshell foldables deliver where the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 falls short. But key questions arise going into the full reviews.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Motorola Razr Plus 2023 All colors
June Wan/ZDNET

Foldables have existed for years now, but is it wrong to say that they are the new hotness this summer? Google's first phone-to-tablet Pixel will arrive in stores soon, and Motorola today is joining the fray with two shapeshifters of its own. Well, it's announcing two -- the 2023 Razr and Razr Plus (dubbed "Razr 40 Ultra" in Europe) -- but only the latter will be readily available this month.

Also: Gen Z embraces dumb flip phones, a smarter life hack than you'd think

This is technically Motorola's third stint at a clamshell foldable, with the original released in 2020, and a version two that debuted exclusively in China late last year. The two never saw the success that rival company, Samsung, has seen with its Z Fold and Z Flip models

But during an early-week briefing, a U.S. spokesperson made it clear that this 2023 Motorola Razr family marks a renewed focus for the brand, one that puts its past shortcomings to rest. 

After going hands-on with both Razr models, I'm cautiously optimistic. Motorola may finally have devices that are worthy of your money and can ultimately put a dent in Samsung's market dominance.

Meet the flagship, Motorola Razr Plus

Motorola Razr Plus 2023 opened and closed
June Wan/ZDNET

The Motorola Razr Plus is the more powerful foldable of the two; it's the flagship, with a larger 3.6-inch external display, a more capable Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, 256GB of storage, and a $999 price point that's in line with what Samsung charges for its flip phone. (The Moto is technically $100 cheaper if we're comparing the two at the same storage size.)

Also: The Galaxy Z Flip 4 solves these two big problems for me

Flip the Razr open and you're met with slab-phone fix-ins that are rather impressive: A tall 6.9-inch POLED display that ramps up to 165Hz, dual-firing speakers, a hole-punch 32MP selfie camera, and a system that runs on the latest version of Android 13. Really, the device is an in-display fingerprint sensor and better water and dust resistance rating (currently IP52) away from being perfect.

Motorola Razr Plus 2023 display

Camcorder mode gives you a firm hold on the phone while your subject gets a clear view of what's in the shot.

June Wan/ZDNET

Most users will be drawn to the Razr Plus model for that generous corner-to-corner external display. It's a feat that Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Z Flip series is rumored to finally adapt after four generations of neglect, and I'm glad Motorola is distilling confidence with its design here. Beyond the usual music controls, glanceable notifications, and alarm clocks, the Razr Plus' outer display features personalizable "panels". Think slides of apps and widgets compressed in a 3.6-inch screen.

Interacting with the display is akin to decade-old smartphones, back when three to four-inch panels were the norm, and things felt very natural. Without having to stretch my fingers too far, I was able to scroll through the local weather, reply to text messages with a full-sized, on-screen keyboard, play games(!), and even control Spotify settings beyond play and pause.

Also: Can Motorola's new $799 flagship phone entice enough Android users to make the switch?

And if you'd like to visualize where you fit within a TikTok recording or group selfie, the same display doubles as a viewfinder -- with the help of a hinge sturdy enough to remain still and at an angle.

Motorola Razr Plus 2023 folded

Personalization is at the core of the external display.

June Wan/ZDNET

Despite this major feature win in the clamshell war between Motorola and Samsung, one thing keeps me in "neutral" with the Razr Plus: Battery life. Yes, the phone has what the company claims to be the thinnest design of any flippable; the lack of a visible gap when the two halves are folded together is telling enough. The external display is also gadgetry bliss thanks to the 144Hz refresh rate. 

Also: The best Motorola phones

But if there's anything I've learned from reviewing specced-out compact phones, it's that a 3,800mAh battery may not be enough to keep the lights turned on all day. I'll hold off on any conclusions -- including how the cameras fare -- for when the Razr Plus arrives for testing, so stay tuned.

The "meaningfully cheaper" Razr

Motorola Razr 2023 Cream and Lilac
June Wan/ZDNET

Along with the Razr Plus comes a less-flashy model, simply named 'Razr'. Motorola says the phone will be released at a later time this year for a "meaningfully cheaper price". How much less? My guess is around $800.

That's because the framework on which this variant was built is the same as the one on the Plus model; it isn't a significantly smaller, thinner, and lighter device per se, and the unfolded display is just as capable at 6.9 inches and 144Hz.

Also: Flip phones to digital cameras, Gen Z's love of retro gadgets is smarter than you realize

Instead, there are three key tradeoffs with the non-Plus model. The most apparent difference is the smaller external display -- the Razr has a 1.5-inch panel instead of a 3.6-inch -- that's still interactive but limited to single lines of text and buttons. It's the classic Galaxy Z Flip problem.

Motorola Razr Plus 2023 front display

Comparing the exterior displays of the Razr Plus (left) and Razr (right).

June Wan/ZDNET

The main 64-megapixel camera also has a smaller sensor than the one on the Razr Plus, so there may be a disparity in low-light performance and general capturing of detail. And lastly, the Razr is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chip which, objectively speaking, is less performant than Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 on the Plus model.

On the contrary, the downsizing of such features allowed Motorola to pack a larger 4,200mAh battery in the standard Razr. The space-saving external display is what the company credits for the endurance boost.

Bottom line

Another batch of foldable phones soon arriving in U.S. carrier stores means that consumers have options, journalists have new gadgets to rank against the market's best, and manufacturers -- I'm looking at you, Samsung -- finally have domestic competition. Stay tuned as we further evaluate the new Motorola Razr phones and deliver the final reviews.

Also: The best phones you can buy right now

You can preorder the Razr Plus in Infinite Black, Glacier Blue, or Viva Magenta from Motorola and select retailers for $999 starting on June 16. The device will officially go on sale on June 23. The standard Razr model will be available in Sage Green, Vanilla Cream, and Summer Lilac in North America in the coming months.

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