Lessons for Phone-Makers from Motorola Razr Plus’ Cover Display

Lessons for Phone-Makers from Motorola Razr Plus' Cover Display

The Evolution of Clamshell Foldables: Lessons from the Motorola Razr Plus

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Motorola made waves in late 2019 with the release of the Razr, the first clamshell foldable phone. It was an exciting but pricey device that introduced the world to a new era of smartphones. However, it wasn’t long before Samsung stepped up to the plate with the Z Flip, offering a better folding experience at a slightly lower price of $1,380. Since then, Motorola and Samsung have been engaged in a battle of one-upmanship, each releasing updated versions of their clamshell designs.

Now, nearly four years later, Motorola has once again taken the lead with the new Razr Plus. This device features a “Peek Display” that spans half the outside of the phone, providing users with a larger exterior screen for apps and features. But it’s not just about size; Motorola has ensured that the interactions on the outer display are truly useful and unique. From shortcuts to previews, the Razr Plus offers a range of functionalities that make the most of the expanded screen real estate.

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This emphasis on useful and innovative features is a valuable lesson that other phone-makers can learn from Motorola’s journey with the Razr. Whether they’re releasing foldables or regular smartphones, brands should prioritize creating interactions that truly enhance the user experience. A large outer display is no longer enough; it needs to be a game-changer that revolutionizes how people use their phones.

For clamshell foldable makers like Samsung, Oppo, Huawei, and TCL, following Motorola’s lead means going beyond just a bigger screen. It means designing rich interactions through apps and features that make users’ lives easier and more enjoyable. For example, the Razr Plus allows users to prop the phone up like a tent, providing convenient access to notifications and media controls. It even offers a fun gaming experience on the small outer screen. These are the kind of unique functionalities that set the Razr Plus apart and make it truly exciting to use.

But this lesson isn’t limited to clamshell foldables; it applies to all types of smartphones. Phone-makers have long experimented with interactions beyond the main display, such as LED notifications on the back cover or curved sides that light up for incoming alerts. The possibilities are endless, and brands should take inspiration from Motorola’s innovative approach to create new and exciting user experiences.

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However, as the Razr series has evolved, it has also faced some design challenges. The first Razr foldable phone took inspiration from the iconic flip phone design, complete with a spring-loaded hinge that mimicked the satisfying snap of its predecessor. But this design choice limited the device’s flexibility; it was either completely open or completely closed, with no in-between options. Samsung’s Z Flip, on the other hand, allowed users to angle the display at any degree, giving them more control and flexibility.

Motorola recognized this limitation and quietly introduced the ability to open the Razr halfway (90 degrees) with the Razr Plus. This demonstrates the importance of continuous improvement and adaptation in the face of competition. Brands need to listen to user feedback and be willing to make necessary changes to stay ahead of the game.

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Another important lesson from the evolution of the Razr series is the balance between nostalgia and innovation in design. The first Razr foldable phone paid homage to its flip phone heritage, with a short top half that tucked into the bottom half when closed. It was a novel and exciting look, reminiscent of the original 2004 Razr. However, as time went on, this unique design gave way to more standardized clamshell foldable designs with rounded edges and evenly split halves.

The lesson here is that while being a first mover can give brands the opportunity to introduce exciting new design concepts, over time, market forces tend to flatten differentiation. As we’ve seen with conventional smartphones, they have largely converged in terms of design, with only minor variations between models. This is why new entrants in the foldable market may opt for a design that mimics established players rather than taking a radically different approach.

Fortunately, the Motorola Razr Plus shows that there is still room for innovation and excitement in the clamshell foldable category. By listening to user feedback and focusing on creating useful and unique interactions, brands can continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in smartphone design.

So, what does this mean for skeptics waiting to be won over by clamshell foldables? It means that Motorola’s latest offering shows just how far the industry has come and how much potential there still is for future advancements. With a big outer cover screen, the Razr Plus offers a glimpse into the future of foldable devices, delivering on what users truly want.

In conclusion, the Motorola Razr Plus is a prime example of the evolution of clamshell foldables and the valuable lessons that other brands can learn from it. By prioritizing useful and innovative features, adapting to user feedback, and striking a balance between nostalgia and innovation in design, brands can create the next generation of smartphones that will captivate and excite consumers.


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