February’s versatile flip-phone combat: The Galaxy Z Flip vs the Moto Razr

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  • The razr throws a common hadouken.


    Ron Amadeo / Capcom / Samsung / Motorola

  • When folded, the Razr offers a larger 2.7-inch front display than the Z Flip, which only has a tiny 1.1-inch display in the lower left corner.


    Samsung / Motorola

  • The inner. The 6.2-inch Razr display with a plastic cover compared to a 6.7-inch display from Samsung with a glass cover. (Not to scale.)


    Samsung / Motorola

  • The back. Samsung has two cameras, Motorola has one.


    Samsung / Motorola

  • The back of the hinge. Samsung never misses a branding opportunity.


    Samsung / Motorola

  • The pages. Motorola is a bit thinner.


    Samsung / Motorola

  • Samsung does not provide a closed page image, but the Razr can be folded flat and the Z Flip cannot. However, the Z Flip has this neat L-shaped mode.


    Samsung / Motorola

This month marks the beginning of a tough battle between Motorola and Samsung for the crown of the "best flip phone with a foldable display". Samsung and Motorola are launching normal-sized smartphones that can be halved thanks to the new technology for flexible displays. The phones are released every day at similar prices, with different providers supporting each device.

Welcome to the foldable flip phone fight in February! In this corner, weighing $ 1,499, we have the nostalgic Moto Razr, launched on February 6 as the exclusive Verizon product. And in this corner we have the first foldable smartphone with a glass cover, the Samsung Galaxy Flip Z, which will be launched a week later on February 14 as an AT&T and Sprint device for $ 1,380. STRUGGLE!

Both devices represent a second version of the foldable smartphone after the start of the Galaxy Fold. Motorola tries to remove a fold in the display thanks to a collapsible hinge mechanism that folds the display into a soft loop instead of a hard fold. Samsung is now the first company to launch the holy grail for foldable smartphones: flexible glass. The glass cover of the Galaxy Z Flip, like the plastic covers of other phones, can be folded in half, but offers more protection from scratches and punctures and feels much smoother and harder than bubbling plastic.

While we're currently in the honeymoon period for the Galaxy Z Flip – it's only coming out this week – this comparison doesn't look good for the Moto Razr. First, despite selling the cheaper phone, Samsung absolutely annihilates Motorola when it comes to the spec sheet. The Razr is just a mid-range phone, while the Z flip datasheet reads like a 2019 flagship.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip Moto Razr (2020)
START PRICE $ 1,380 $ 1,499
MAIN DISPLAY 6.7 inches, 2636 × 1080 OLED 6.2 inches, 2142 × 876 OLED
COVER INDICATOR 1.1 inch, 300 × 112 OLED 2.7 inches, 800 × 600
OS Android 10 Android 9 Pie
CPU Snapdragon 855+ Snapdragon 710
RAM 8 GB 6 GB
STORAGE 256 GB 128 GB
BATTERY 3300mAh 2510mAh
DIMENSIONS Open: 167.3 mm x 73.6 mm x 7.2 mm

Closed: 87.4 mm x 73.6 mm x 17.3 mm

Open: 172 mm x 72 mm x 6.9 mm

Closed: 94 mm x 72 mm x 14 mm

The Z Flip has a high-end SoC, more RAM, more memory, a larger main display, a larger battery, a newer operating system and a lower price. Motorola has tried to bring a new form factor to the market, but Samsung is really showing the strengths of its industry-leading supply chain, and is providing a high-end device at a lower price with more advanced technology such as flexible glass.

The Razr wins in only a few areas, but they could turn out to be a big deal for the foldable form factor. First, there is a larger front display that allows you to see more text from notifications. As we found out on the Galaxy Fold, opening these foldable phones is a bigger obstacle than expected, at least compared to the effortless review of a regular plate smartphone. If your phone beeps and you just want to see why, it's nice to take a look at the front display and see what's going on without going through the mechanics of opening the hinge. Both phones display notification text on the cover display, but the Razr display is large enough to actually check some of these incoming notifications, such as replying to text messages or archiving emails. The Z flip cover display is so small that you can only see one line of text.

The other critical foldable status, as much as I don't want to admit it, is the thickness. Anorexic phones with minimal batteries are the worst, and I've always wanted thicker devices with longer battery life, but you'll fold these things in half to put in your pocket. That means doubling the thickness (and sometimes more than doubling it), and that can be a little too much.

With a thickness of 17.1 mm when folded, the original Galaxy Fold was a pocket buster and thicker than I would like to carry around in a pocket. The Z Flip is a little thicker than that, so it will be a chunky rock in your pocket. The Razr is a bit thinner at 14mm, but you pay dearly for it with a terrible 2510mAh battery. This phone won't last all day. The battery technology for a thin, durable smart flip phone is simply not there yet.

Is a flip phone a good idea at all?

I think there is still a serious question as to whether these flip phone designs are a good idea. First, there is the problem of durability. All of these phones lead to the problem of huge moving parts, which is a significant complication compared to the solid state smartphone. Manufacturers need to find the right balance between hinge stiffness and durability, while allowing effortless opening and closing. This can be difficult. There is also the problem that dirt gets into the phone, which not only affects the hinge mechanism but can also damage the bottom of the display.

  • A Razr unit in the shop with a broken display. This vertical line should not be there.

  • The life of a demo unit in business is tough. It was definitely deliberately destroyed, but it shows how easy it is to remove the display.

  • According to the video, this broken unit was "only installed today" and is already broken.

  • Another broken Razr store ad. The vertical line is almost in the same place as the first image.

  • The BBC shows how easy it is to lift the display.

  • Motorola says, "Bumps and lumps are normal" on the display.

  • Verge's Galaxy Fold tester pressed something against the back of the screen and killed several rows of pixels.

  • CNBC's Steve Kovach let his Galaxy Fold die right along the display fold.

  • A tweet from Mark Gurman: "The screen of my Galaxy Fold test device is completely broken and unusable in just two days. Difficult to know whether this is widespread or not."

  • By YouTuber Marques Brownlee: "PSA: There is a layer that looks like a screen protector on the Galaxy Fold's display. It is NOT a screen protector. DO NOT remove it. I pulled it off so far before the display flashed and went black. Started with a replacement from the beginning. "

  • iFixit indicated design flaws, such as the exposed edge of the screen around the hinge.

  • This thin plastic bezel is the only thing that keeps the display on, but it stays around the hinge area.

  • The hinge also contains a ton of entry points.

The Galaxy Fold was a delicate flower that was so easy to break that the first launch was canceled. Even after the six-month delay in the revision, the shelf life of the Galaxy Fold didn't go much better. No one knows how the Galaxy Z Flip will fare in the real world since it's not yet available, but Samsung has already started to repeat the Galaxy Fold's problems. Fiber brushes in the Z flip hinge try to keep dirt off the phone and hopefully protect the inside of the device. The glass display also protects the phone from the outside world, hopefully survives fingernails, sharp objects and reinforces the sides of the display. These are all areas where the Galaxy Fold's plastic display has had problems. The hard, flat glass should also be much nicer to paint than the bumpy plastic.

The Razr already looks like it is another delicate leaflet. After unpacking, the hinge squeaks and creaks, which does not create trust. A store display demo is one of the harshest environments available for a phone, but it's already too much for the Razr. There have been numerous reports of dead display units with poor hinges and defective displays. CNET put the phone through an admittedly rough folding robot, but the phone only held 27,000 times when the Galaxy Fold survived the same machine for over 100,000 operations.

Another important question, especially at this early stage of the foldable form factor: is this design something you want to pay extra for? A device that opens to a tablet-sized device like the Galaxy Fold or the Huawei Mate X promises a real advantage. Foldable tablets offer a larger display in a form factor that would otherwise not be insertable, and theoretically enable larger videos, larger apps and better multitasking than your normal smartphone. For that, I could justify paying extra.

Vs. a normal smartphone

These flip-phone-style devices are the size of a normal smartphone when open, so there are no advantages in terms of usability compared to a normal smartphone. If these devices were noticeably thinner, one could argue that they are easier to insert as a square than a normal smartphone rectangle. When folded, however, these devices are about twice as thick as a normal smartphone. So is a thicker square more convenient than a slimmer rectangle? I'm not sure if this is a great compromise.

Flip phones are not necessarily upgrades either. The need to open the phone every time you want to use it is negative. I haven't spent much time with a good flip phone yet, but I'm not sure if I want to add this routine to my daily smartphone use. Isn't it easier to just turn on a slab phone and have the screen ready for use there without having to open it every time?

Apart from the possible pocket capability, you mainly buy a foldable flip phone because they are just cool. If the flip and slab versions of a phone had the same price, I could choose the flip phone for the novelty, but are you ready to pay hundreds more for the privilege? The Moto Razr for $ 1,499 is basically a mid-range smartphone for $ 400 to $ 500 with a tricky display and hinge mechanism. I think most people would agree that the $ 479 Pixel 3a XL is a better phone than the Razr, especially once it's open. In Samsung, the $ 1,380 Z Flip isn't much different from the Galaxy Note 10+, which is available for $ 1,100, but is now regularly on sale for $ 950. If you're after high-end value, OnePlus is the king of the money, selling the OnePlus 7T for just $ 600. According to my calculation, you're looking for between $ 400 and $ 1,000 for this flip action, which is a tough sell especially for unproven designs.

Collection picture by Ron Amadeo

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