My non-review of the Motorola RAZR (2020)

Credit: Chris Velazco, Engadget

Well friends, I told you that I was excited about the new Motorola RAZR when it was first announced a few months ago. After all, the original was a real favorite of mine and I still think it could potentially have been the best dumbphone ever built.

So after I couldn’t get close to one at CES, I tried to get a review unit sent to me at launch time. After all, I get review units of stuff all the time. Sometimes I publish the reviews if I think you’ll want to know about them.

And here I am, without a review unit.

I guess it was a long shot anyway

The new RAZR is a Verizon exclusive. Since Solid Signal is an AT&T dealer, they must have thought I was a bad fit for a review unit. But then after several web searches it looks like most of the big web sites didn’t get review units and some just ended up buying the phone.

So I, like you, set off to find the best or worst reviews of this phone.

AndroidCentral says: “a creaking disappointment.”

This review from AndroidCentral confirms practically everything I’d feared about the phone. Although the unboxing experience seems really great, using the phone is a massive disappointment according to those folks. The biggest problem is that the folding screen itself makes a very uninspiring noise when it opens and closes. This has to make the whole experience feel worse.

When you think back on a RAZR phone, I mean the original one that looked like this:

there are three things that you might remember. The first is that it had really stellar battery life compared to phones today. Back then it was pretty common to get a week on a charge but today that’s practically impossible. The new RAZR doesn’t come close. You won’t get a full day on a charge according to them — you’ll be reaching for that power bank sometime about 11 hours in. That’s pretty bad performance even by today’s standards.

The second thing you might remember about the old-school RAZR is the satisfying noises. It was silent to flip open and closing it gave an incredibly satisfying FWAP. Finding out that the phone sounds like a rusty gate when you open it … man that just hurts.

Finally, the 2000s RAZR was durable. It wasn’t super amazingly durable by the standards of the day but it didn’t care if you dropped it or flung it or whatever. A lot of the phone was made of high-grade aluminum and what wasn’t made of metal was a high-quality plastic.

According to this review, there’s no feeling of confidence in that screen. Even though it’s been tested to 27,000 open/close cycles in a lab, reviewers just don’t seem confident in its real-world durability.

The Verge couldn’t even get one

I can’t feel too bad about being left off the list since a much more well-funded site like The Verge didn’t get a review unit either. They had to go prowling around Verizon stores in Manhattan and even so it wasn’t easy.

What’s interesting about their non-review is that they really don’t give you a lot of hands-on. I ended up wondering if their reporter even actually got to take one out of the store. They spend a lot of time, like I am, relying on other people’s impressions.

So what can I say that hasn’t been said before?

Well it’s the internet, folks. Chances are everything’s been said before. But here’s my opinion about this whole mess:

Motorola was the king of cell phones in the pre-iPhone days. Chances are every iconic phone you think of until 2006 was a Motorola. Every influencer on TV had one. Zack Morris had one. Niles Crane had one. Carrie Bradshaw had one (at least one.) There was Motorola, and then there was the cheap phone you got for free. Oh sure, Nokia had a moment but it was here and gone in a flash. Motorola really owned that market at that time.

And then, smartphones came. They did try to get in on things with some early Android hardware, but they were still hanging onto the old “real keyboard” motif which people just plain stopped wanting. Motorola quickly became “just another” Android phone maker and eventually they company was sold and sold again.

This was Morotola’s chance. Not only had Samsung totally biffed it, but the new RAZR seemed like it was getting great press. People who never wanted a foldable and who would never have been caught dead with a flip phone were still interested.

But now it seems like just another foldable phone that won’t last and sacrifices specs for style. Folks, you can’t do that in 2020. If someone’s laying out $1,500 big ones for a phone it has to excel everywhere. And it looks like this RAZR doesn’t. The specs seem positively mediocre and a lot more like what you expect from a mid-level phone two years ago.

I have a feeling that the door is closing fast on Motorola’s chances to get relevant in the ’20s. I only hope that door doesn’t creak as bad as the RAZR seems to. If I ever get one in my hands I’ll let you know if that part is true.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.