An attendee demonstrates the Lenovo Group Ltd. Motorola Razr smartphone during an event in Los … [+]
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Motorola’s decision to delay the 2019 Razr (to meet unexpected demand, it claims) may prove to be costly with Samsung’s next foldable phone lurking on the horizon.
Even without the benefit of sales figures it’s clear to see that the Lenovo-owned company has experienced a bit of a comeback recently thanks to its re-hashed 2004 flip phone, the Razr.
At the very least it has gone from not being part of the broad smartphone conversation to being an almost central figure. Capable phone lines like the Motorola One and Motorola Z rarely factor into the head-to-heads that Samsung, Apple and Google dominate.
The Razr changes – changed – all of that. Motorola was in a unique position to revive its fortunes with the new flip phone – benefiting from former 2004 glory that never properly waned and a new, exciting technology. Also, the Razr’s clamshell shape is, in my opinion, the best design currently possible for foldable phones. That will change as manufacturers experiment with increasingly bizarre form factors (if the patents are anything to go by) but for now the modern take on an old classic appears to have captured the public’s imagination.
But the popularity bounce that led to the Razr’s pre-order demand forcing back its release date could well be short lived. Menacingly staring down from atop of the hill is Samsung’s next foldable phone, which is rumoured to launch late February. It also happens to be a clamshell device and, I’m confident, will improve on Motorola’s handset.
Reviewers – myself included – are yet to test the Razr in any significant way. But, based on specifications alone, we can make some early assumptions. The small 2510mAh battery is supposed to power a 6.2-inch screen (when fully extended), which it may not be able to do for a significant amount of time. The phone’s camera ability is untested and its Snapdragon 710 processor places it firmly in the mid-range when it comes to performance.
Lasting power, camera skills and performance are all areas Samsung typically excels at. I suspect that its next foldable will have – at the very least – Samsung’s industry leading camera setup. A smaller battery may be unavoidable and it’s anyone’s guess whether Samsung goes mid-range with the processor or cutting edge, although leaks about prices may suggest the former. But I’d be willing to bet that Samsung has bettered Motorola’s specs in every department – even if the improvement is minimal – because the smartphone industry is brutal like that.
What this means for Motorola is that it could, feasibly, launch its flagship foldable phone at the same time as the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world. A company that launched the first major foldable phone and commands the public’s attention at its yearly pre-MWC launch event. That kind of competition is typically not good news for the smaller player. I’m sure the original December 26th launch date for the Razr was partially decided upon with an eye on Samsung’s February releases.
This is where Motorola may have to get creative. How? Genuinely competitive pricing, improving on its already excellent warranty policy or bundling other freebies with the Razr to entice people away from Samsung’s lure are all viable options. I don’t know if Morotola has a line of Moto Mods – the add-on hardware that gives its devices new abilities – for the Razr but, if it does, they could be a game changer. Extra battery life, camera skills and a 5G module will make the Razr a much more tantalising prospect – especially if they’re bundled-in with the main device.
A lot of factors can swing how well a smartphone sells; pricing, availability, marketing, avoiding day-one disasters and so on. But, on balance, you’d back the most popular smartphone maker in the world to come out on top in a head-to-head. Samsung’s decision to launch a clamshell shaped foldable phone was always going to be a problem for Motorola, but the Razr’s delayed launch may ultimately prove to be very costly.
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