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Lenovo, Verizon to Reincarnate Motorola Razr as Foldable Smartphone: Report

By Richard Adhikari
Jan 17, 2019 5:00 AM PT

The Motorola Razr -- once the hottest flip phone available -- is being revived as a smartphone with a foldable screen, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Lenovo, Verizon to Reincarnate Motorola Razr as Foldable Smartphone: Report

It will be offered exclusively through Verizon in the United States, possibly in February, although the device is still being tested and the launch date is not firm.

Its starting price reportedly will be US$1,500.

"We can't comment on rumors and speculation about our manufacturing partners," Verizon spokesperson George Koroneos told TechNewsWorld.

That statement could indicate Lenovo is producing the foldable Motorola Razr for Verizon on an OEM basis instead of using carriers as distributors.

That might be wise, as "Lenovo has mostly been playing in the mid range and occasionally going higher with its own flagship devices," remarked Ramon Llamas, a research director at IDC.

Unlike Apple and Samsung, Lenovo may not have the chops to push a $1,500 smartphone, Llamas told TechNewsWorld. He's "a little skeptical."

Lenovo likely has been working on the Motorola Razr with a foldable screen for more than a year. At the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona last February, CEO Yang Yuanqing hinted that such a device was in the works.

New Razr's Likely Makeup

Motorola submitted a patent application for a folding phone with two screens to the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2016.

The patent, granted in March of 2018, was for "an electronic device having at least a three-part housing foldable between multiple use positions."

It also has a flexible display that extends at least along portions of the first and second housing parts, and across the movable coupled sides. The third housing part can be moved relative to the second housing part to cover at least a portion of the flexible display selectively.

Eye-Popping Prices

Consumers can pick up a laptop for between $230 and $2,200 at Best Buy, which raises the question of whether the rumored Razr might be overpriced.

"$1,500 is quite a bit, and rivals some people's mortgages," Llamas observed.

However, "I would have argued 15 years ago that people wouldn't pay much over $500 for a phone, and we have more than doubled that," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

At $1,500 the revived Motorola Razr "is in the same neighborhood as Apple's iPhone XS Max -- $1,449 with 512 GB," noted Ken Hyers, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

The upcoming Samsung Galaxy 'F' foldable smartphone "will be in the $2K range," he said.

Foldable display smartphones "will be very expensive into the early 2020s," Hyers told TechNewsWorld. "The foldable display technology is new. Manufacturing is extremely complex, and yield rates on the displays are not high."

Due to their cost and limited supplies, foldable display smartphones "will not be mass market products in 2019," he predicted.

"Barely over 1 million foldable display smartphones will ship this year, and less than 10 million in 2020," Hyers said. "Foldable display smartphones will be the ultimate unobtanium in smartphones for the next two years, and consumers who can get their hands on one will pay the high prices they command."

Yen for Foldables

"The foldable display smartphone is the first significant major change to take place in smartphone design in a decade," Hyers said.

Manufacturers gearing up to release smartphones with foldable screens this year include Royole, Apple, Huawei and LG.

Foldable displays can be used on smartphones, tablets, and "in certain configurations, small notebook PCs," Hyers suggested.

They "will cut across multiple categories, helping to justify [their] high price," he said."They are a genuine Swiss Army knife of mobile devices" that will appeal to both consumers and business users.

Release Date Speculation

The Motorola Razr might be introduced in February, but "I'd peg the release date as 1H 2019 -- and maybe 2H 2019," Strategy Analytics' Hyers said. "Motorola won't be able to source enough displays in Q1 2019 to support sales of the device in February or March 2019, and possibly beyond."

Also, Samsung "has a near monopoly on foldable displays and will take the lion's share of these for its Galaxy F," Hyers pointed out.

The timing of the announcement itself is fraught with hazards.

"A February announcement would align with a Mobile World Congress announcement, especially if Lenovo wants to take this global," IDC's Llamas noted. "But look at how Samsung's already doing its own Unpacked event in February. That may take the wind out of Lenovo's sails a bit."

On the other hand, waiting until September would pit Lenovo against Apple.

Market Reception

"Consumers that want a foldable display smartphone will not be brand loyal, particularly given the limited number of devices available," Hyers suggested.

That will make the Motorola Razr a threat, but Samsung "is somewhat safe as they'll have their own foldable display smartphone, the Galaxy F, and it'll be first to market and available in greater quantities than foldable from all other vendors combed in 2019," Hyers said.

Apple "is in more danger, as they won't have a foldable for several years yet," he pointed out. "Put another way, I use an iPhone, but if someone handed me a Razr, I'd switch."

The original Razr "was iconic," said Llamas, "and for many, it was the aspirational mobile phone to move towards. Unless the new smartphone can replicate that aspirational feeling, it may end up getting overlooked."


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology. Email Richard.


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