Motorola’s $699 Razr phone is the mainstream foldable we’ve been waiting for

Describe what's shown in the image.

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ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The Motorola Razr is the most affordable foldable phone this year, with a price of $699.
  • Some notable compromises include a smaller external display, a lower-end processor, and a weak camera system.
  • The Motorola Razr handles day-to-day activities fairly well, and can even run more graphics-intensive tasks if needed.

It’s been on my mind since the very first foldable: at what point will these shape-shifting phones be affordable enough for everyone to buy? The first iterations were understandably expensive because of the R&D and materials that manufacturers had put in — and also because of innovation — so it was only a matter of time before processes became more streamlined and the price for entry dropped, right?

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But that’s hardly been the case, with the more recent OnePlus Open being priced at $1,699 (only $100 less than Samsung and Google’s phone-to-tablet foldables) and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 still costs a penny short of $1,000.

That’s why Motorola’s new Razr (2023) is such a big deal. It’s the first foldable phone to retail for less than $700, not only undercutting the next “cheapest” foldable by $300 but also the base models of more traditional phones like the Samsung Galaxy S23 and Apple iPhone 15. If Motorola can nail down the essentials at this price point, the Razr may well be the foldable I recommend to most people.

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For starters, it’s easy to mistake the Motorola Razr for the Motorola Razr Plus that was released back in June. The two phones are very similar, including the folding mechanism, general form factor, software features, and charging technology (30W wired, 5W wireless). 

Review: Motorola Razr Plus (2023): The best flipping foldable right now

But seeing the two physically together paints a clearer picture. The 1.5-inch OLED panel on the Motorola Razr is one of its big compromises, as it’s simply not as functional or glamorous as the one on the Razr Plus. That can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your smartphone values.

Motorola Razr Plus 2023 front display

Outer screens compared: Motorola Razr Plus (left) and Motorola Razr (right)

June Wan/ZDNET

For example, having a smaller external display limits the information you can see at a glance. In most cases, incoming notifications and text messages are just too long to be read completely, and a good chunk of tasks require you to use the inner screen to get them done. 

You also can’t freely open apps and browse the web from the outer screen — that was something I commended the Razr Plus for — as Motorola limits you to basic widgets like the weather, contacts, and voice recorder.

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On the other hand, a smaller screen means you’re less likely to get distracted when the Razr is not in use — or doesn’t need to be used. Motorola even has a “Unplugged” feature that limits your access to more distracting apps like TikTok and Instagram, so this is as close to a feature phone as a smartphone gets.

Flip the screen open and you’re met with what is basically a standard mid-range Android phone in 2023. The processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, is not the latest and greatest, but it’s good enough to get me through a day of Slack messages, emailing, capturing the occasional photo and video, and navigating around the city, with some lag and slower load times here and there.

Review: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5: Three features I love (and two that I still wish for)

I’ve also been testing the Razr’s performance with a Nintendo DS emulator (DraStic) — because why wouldn’t you simulate a foldable gaming console on a foldable phone — and the device has kept things running fairly well. In most cases, the Razr only gets warmer to the touch after about 15 minutes of gameplay at 60fps.

On paper, the Razr’s 64MP dual camera system should yield more flattering photos than it does, but Motorola’s image processing is its biggest Achilles heel.

Motorola Razr Portrait Mode Sample

The lack of a dedicated telephoto lens means the Razr has to create an artificial bokeh effect, which can sometimes blur subjects more than it should (see the top of this Halloween desk contest entrant’s headphones).

June Wan/ZDNET

In most cases, colors appear more washed out and not as saturated (or lifelike) as I’d prefer, and the 13MP ultrawide lens, while capable of capturing a wider field of view than the main sensor, lacks detail in shots.

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But the Razr being foldable means that it beats even the most expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max in one regard: hands-free pictures. Motorola put the same sturdy hinge on the Razr as it did on the Razr Plus, so you can set the phone down — something you’d typically need a counterweight or tripod for — and capture photos and videos from a distance. 

Motorola Razr front camera

June Wan/ZDNET

Having the external display also means that you can take fantastic-looking selfies by leveraging the rear cameras instead of the front-facing one. Again, something only a foldable phone can do.

ZDNET’s buying advice

Shopping in the mid-range market can be difficult because it’s all about how manufacturers balance specs and features, and how those values align with your personal needs. In the case of the Motorola Razr, its foldable form factor alone makes it stand out from a sea of glass slabs, and the $699 price makes it the most accessible option of its kind.

Of course, you’ll have to be okay with its compromises, including the just-average camera system, smaller external display, and 128GB storage limit. Otherwise, this is as good as a foldable gets at this price point, and I fully expect competitors to match Motorola’s offer as soon as next year.

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