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Market Insight

Motorola banks on nostalgia with compact foldable razr

November 13, 2019

Gerrit Schneemann Gerrit Schneemann Senior Analyst, Smartphones, IHS Markit

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Motorola is reviving its razr brand for its first foldable display smartphone. Unlike other foldable smartphones on the market, Motorola is using the foldable display to make the device more pocketable.

The device will not reach users until early 2020 and Motorola hopes that lovers of the razr brand will feel nostalgic enough to buy the newest version for around $1499.

Finding balance

With the razr, Motorola is trying to find balance between innovative technology, in the display, and a known form factor with certain physical restrictions. Bringing back the razr brand and form factor gives Motorola an anchor point and a reason-to-be for its foldable display.

The focus on recreating the form factor allows the company to make some tough hardware decisions. The device, for example, is powered by a Qualcomm 710 Snapdragon chipset and will not support 5G networks at launch. Both can be expected of the latest super-premium Android flagship devices at the end of 2019 and early 2020. However, including a higher-powered chip or 5G connectivity would push the space requirements for batteries, antennas and cooling beyond the razr form factor.  

 

Motorola razr specifications

OS

Android 9

Chip

Qualcomm Snapdragon 710

Memory/Storage

6GB/128GB

Display

Main: FlexView 6.2” foldable pOLED HD (2142x876p), 21:9 CinemaVision

External: QuickView 2.7” gOLED (600x800p)

Batttery

2510 mAh, non-removable

Camera

Main: 16mpx

Secondary: 5mpx

Price

$1499

Availability

For pre-order in December 2019, store availability in January 2020 (depending on market)

 

New take on foldable

 

Motorola is taking a different approach to foldables compared to Samsung and Huawei. The Fold and Mate X are about productivity and content consumption. The goal is to present a larger screen in a portable form factor to do more. They are premium, because of the larger screen, 5G connectivity and the promise of potentially replacing one or consolidating multiple devices into one.

For Motorola, the classic form factor is the essential part of the product. It is premium because it includes the foldable display and makes a large-screen smartphone more pocket-able.  

The appeal, for some, will come from having access to a familiar form factor, but with modern features, like a foldable touchscreen screen.

Looking at the device in a vacuum, without considering the razr brand, Motorola is smart to use this form factor for its foldable device. The company does not have to worry as much about the software aspect, the user experience and transitions between the displays, of the device as Samsung and Huawei have to with their current devices.

There is no question about the interface when the razr is opened - it's just a normal Android interface. Samsung and Huawei must work on how to fill the larger screen effectively - more resources are needed at this stage to justify the larger screen from a usability standpoint. Developers must buy into each platform. For Motorola, there's no question around developer support for its foldable. 

With the razr, Motorola is stretching its current portfolio beyond the mid-range devices it has been focusing on. The launch of the razr also falls into this transition period for Moto where a lot more focus has been placed on the One-branded devices. The razr is an outlier. It will be difficult for Motorola to move its user base this far up the pricing ladder. Further, the razr is lacking a multi-lens camera, which has been a key development for all OEMs over the last year. 

Nostalgia

Motorola banks on enough early adopters really wanting a razr form factor to justify paying the ultra-premium price. However, some of the hardware component choices will provide publicity pushback Motorola will have to address head on. Brands like Sony and Blackberry have tried to push premium pricing with mid-range hardware components with limited success. Motorola is laying the groundwork with this launch, and with the enhanced out-of-box experience the company will present to buyers, along with enhanced warranty coverage for the device.

We have seen with Nokia (HMD Global) that nostalgia can move buyers, but it is essential for Motorola to do more than just release the razr. More devices need to follow, otherwise this will be a one-off without real impact on Motorola's overall view of its product portfolio.

With availability starting early 2020, Motorola is set to miss the 2019 shopping period. On the other hand, if the device can be delivered at its current scheduled delivery date, Motorola will pre-empt the numerous smartphones to be launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February 2020.

In the US, Motorola will rely on its key carrier partner Verizon. In other markets, a mix of carrier and retailer partners will be used to roll out the device. After a year of focus on profitability in the smartphone business, Motorola will be required to support this device with significant marketing. If not, only few nostalgia buyers will find their way back to the form factor and the razr brand.

Organization
Motorola
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