Motorola is resurrecting the Razr phone on November 13, with official invites already out there for the press. No launch happens without the Internet getting an early peek into the proceedings, and today we’re getting news from venerable leaker Evan Blass and the Dutch site Mobielkopen, which both independently dropped Razr images on the Web today.
First off, well, the phone looks like a Razr. The device has the form factor of a clamshell flip phone. When closed, there’s a small screen on the front and a camera bump for the primary lens. The Razr’s trademark chin is back, and this time it houses what looks like a fingerprint reader on the front and a USB-C port on the bottom edge. Disappointingly, there is no fully exposed picture of the inside of the device, but the pictures confirm this as a flexible display phone, since you can just barely make out a continuous, top-to-bottom display in one photo.
A lot about these images is suspicious, though, and I don’t mean their authenticity. I’m talking about Motorola’s exact plans for the foldable Razr phone. A foldable Razr phone is supposed to be unveiled next month, right? So then why are these images so… ? Usually, leaked images are official media produced by the phone manufacturer meant for promotional use on places like their website or on retail sites. These leaked Galaxy Note 10 images from July are a good example: you get straightforward, brightly lit photos that show the phone in all its glory, from every angle. After all, the phone is a real thing, for sale, so there’s no need for an air of mystery anymore.
In the Razr images, though, the phone is cloaked in darkness. None of the images shows off the most important and intriguing part of the device: the flexible screen. These feel more like “teaser images” rather than “product images,” which doesn’t make sense for a phone that is supposed to be unveiled on November 13. If Motorola really is going to show off a foldable Razr phone in all its glory on the 13th, you would think the key hero image of the display would make it into this batch of leaked pics.
For more evidence in the “we’re not really getting a launch any time soon” folder, one of the images seems to be for Motorola’s website and has the text “register now” under the Razr logo. Companies often do this when they don’t have a product to sell and, instead, will take your email and get back to you. I’m starting to suspect on November 13 we’ll get a “Razr Phone: Coming in 2020” announcement and another light tease job.
And honestly, a later launch would make the most sense. Motorola is not a high-end smartphone company anymore. It’s last top-of-the-line smartphone was the Moto Z2 Force in 2017, and since then the “Z” phones have been demoted to mid-rangers. Motorola also doesn’t have the supply chain in place to beat its bigger competitors to market in foldable smartphones. Samsung had its display division make a major investment in foldable smartphones, so it gets to be first with the Galaxy Fold. Huawei has China’s up-and-coming display supplier, BoE, to lean on. Motorola and Lenovo are just mid-range also-rans in the phone industry, and for them to suddenly rocket into the market with a $1,500 fold smartphone, ahead of their competitors, seems highly unlikely.
What’s also not clear is how this design would work for a flexible display. Flexible displays can’t be completely folded flat without being damaged either immediately or over time, and we’ve seen various manufacturers deal with this in different ways. Samsung’s Galaxy Fold doesn’t fold flat. The hinge folds over in a large radius, leaving a gap for the foldable display to bend in, so it isn’t completely crushed into a crease. Huawei solves this problem by folding the display around the outside of the phone, so the most it has to deal with is a bend around the 11mm-thick body.
Included in the leak is a side view of the Razr when closed, and there just doesn’t seem like any room for a foldable display up in that. The phone folds completely flat, which seems like it would put a hard crease in the display and damage pixels. The Galaxy Fold, in comparison, is a wedge shape, because even Samsung’s best display experts can’t figure out a fold-flat display. The Razr also looks impossibly thin compared to the Galaxy Fold, which is literally as thick as two smartphones stacked on top of each other.
If we take this leak and the earlier rumors of a $1,500 flexible-display Razr phone at face value, then Motorola, a company that hasn’t made a high-end smartphone in two years, is suddenly a generation or two ahead of Samsung and Huawei. This design shows a phone that is dramatically thinner than the competition and seemingly uses more flexible display technology than even Samsung has on hand. That’s just not an outcome that seems very plausible, so I’m going to remain skeptical.