Following a decade of seeing black, rectangular glass slabs grow in size while swapping their backs between metal and glass, foldables are taking over to become the face of phone fetish. The nostalgia-invoking Motorola Razr went on sale not too long ago and was closely followed by Samsung’s clamshell Galaxy Z Flip. With the two foldables officially out now, it’s time to revisit this comparison to find out which one deserves your dough.
|Galaxy Z Flip||Motorola Razr|
|Display (main)||6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED, 2,636 x 1,080, 425 PPI, 22:9||6.2-inch foldable pOLED, 2,142 x 876, 373 PPI, 21:9|
|Display (secondary)||1.1-inch Super AMOLED, 300 x 112, 303 PPI||2.7-inch gOLED, 800 x 600, 4:3|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+||Qualcomm Snapdragon 710|
|OS||Android 10-based One UI 2||Android 9 Pie|
|Cameras (rear)||12MP, 78°, f/1.8, OIS, dual-pixel PDAF (wide)|
12MP, 123°, f/2.2 (ultra-wide)
Up to 4K 60fps video
|16MP, f/1.7, EIS, dual-pixel and laser AF
Up to 4K 30fps video
|Camera (front)||10MP, 80°, f/2.4, Live focus||5MP, f/2.0|
|Connectivity||4G LTE (eSIM + nano SIM), Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0||4G LTE (eSIM), Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Battery||3,300mAh, 15W charging, wireless charging, Wireless PowerShare||2,510mAh, 15W charging|
|Biometrics||Side-mounted capacitive fingerprint reader||Front-facing capacitive fingerprint reader|
|Dimensions||Unfolded: 167.3 x 73.6 x 6.9-7.2mm|
Folded: 87.4 x 73.6 x 15.4-17.3mm
|Unfolded: 172 x 72 x 6.9-14mm
Folded: 94 x 72 x 14mm
|Color options||Mirror Purple, Black, and Gold||Noir Black|
Flippity-floppity form factor
The fad of the early ’00s, flip phones are making a comeback, bringing along the gratifying sound of snapping them shut, although in a more contemporary avatar. With their respective clamshells, both Motorola and Samsung are following contrasting design philosophies. While the Razr borrows a lot, including that chin, from its forebears that had an alphanumeric keypad, the Galaxy Z Flip carries the DNA of a more modern smartphone. Either way, both are fragile phones, to say the least (the Razr may be a tad more), even though you may not be as hard on them as JerryRigEverything’s Zack Nelson was.
On the design front, it boils down to your personal choice and whether or not you prefer a phone with a chin.
Above: Motorola Razr, Below: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Motorola has used a movable display mechanism that does a better job of flipping the phone completely shut and hiding the crease.
Flexible displays are largely revered and credited for the resurgence of the modern-day foldables, but it’s the hinge that works behind the scene to enable all the folding action. Samsung has used what it calls a Hideaway Hinge to hold the Z Flip at any angle you like, while the Razr only supports the two furthest positions: open and shut. Motorola has used a movable display mechanism that does a better job of flipping the phone completely shut and hiding the crease, but the hinge is left prone to debris collection. On the flip side, Samsung’s new hinge has brush bristles on its inner edges to keep dust out, but closing the Z Flip leaves a wedge-shaped gap, and you’ll feel the depressed crease in the screen over the hinge as you glide your finger over it. It’s an either-or situation where you simply cannot have the best of both worlds.
Big foldable display and small sidekick
The two foldables look to have a similar form factor, but their displays differ both in construction and specifications. Samsung’s screen is both larger and higher-res, but it may get a tad unwieldy with a tall 22:9 aspect ratio. Though the Razr isn’t much far behind, the Z Flip surely looks and feels superior, despite its single, more prominent crease.
Samsung recently garnered a lot of attention as it turned out that its foldable glass screen is no less fragile than the Razr’s. To save the ultra-thin glass from shattering, Samsung layered it with a "polymer" sheet, which is what you actually touch. The display surely retains some of the glass’s attributes and feels better to touch than an entirely plastic screen, but too much pressure from a fingernail, for example, can leave marks.
Above: Motorola Razr, Below: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
Motorola has done a better job with the secondary display, making the Razr usable for things like checking and clearing your notifications without having to flip the phone open. The screen is about three times bigger than the one on the Z Flip and works as a passable viewfinder for selfies. The Z Flip’s touch-enabled display on the outside can also do all that, but no one should need to use a microscopic 1-inch screen as a viewfinder. While it's technically useable for notifications, anything more than strictly rudimentary tasks like checking time and the charging status is difficult. For everything else, you’ll have to unfold the phone tens of times a day, which will also impact the overall life of the hinge and the inner screen.
Left: Razr’s secondary screen, Right: Galaxy Z Flip’s
On the inside
Samsung’s Z Flip clearly outclasses the Razr in this section, thanks to the use of a much more top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855+ processor. Even though it's not the latest one around, the 855+ is still better-performing and more future-proof than the Snapdragon 710 found inside the Razr. That razor-thin form factor largely dictated Motorola’s choice of rather mediocre (not to mention old) chip, just so it could keep heat dissipation and battery drain in check. The Z Flip should also feel snappier as it has 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage paired with 8GB of RAM, while the Razr is more modestly configured with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage. Neither has a microSD card slot for memory expansion.
Razr’s retro mode (via The Verge)
Motorola opted for a generation-old version of Android (Pie) for its first foldable, but the OS experience is near-stock for the most part — except for the retro mode it has included to give you an ancestral throwback. It didn’t take the opportunity to bring any additional software tricks to go with the new horizontally folding form factor, which Samsung did. The Galaxy Z Flip not only comes pre-installed with Samsung’s latest software skin but also packs a nifty Flex Mode that helps some apps respond to the fold and rearrange their interface.
Samsung's demonstration of Flex Mode at the unveiling.
One example is the first-party cam: You can fold the Z Flip halfway and set it on a table like a mini-laptop to take selfies without needing a tripod. In this use case, the viewfinder fills the top half of the screen, while the controls move to the bottom. The feature feels limited right now, but Google’s decision to make it available widely should get third-party developers’ attention.
Motorola remained a bit cautious with the cameras of its first foldable and included a rather humble pair of sensors, one each on the front and back. The 16MP rear camera is 4K-enabled, and you can even use it to take selfies, as previously mentioned, while the notch on the Razr’s inner screen houses a 5MP sensor. Samsung, on the other hand, included a pair of 12MP cameras on the Z Flip’s back, without the fancy stuff like variable aperture, while a 10MP sensor sits on the front. Spec-wise, these cameras match those on the Galaxy S10 line and come with the same set of pros and cons.
Left: Razr’s primary camera, Right: Galaxy Z Flip’s two rear cameras
The Z Flip's cameras aren't particularly bad, but they cannot be the reason to pick the Samsung clamshell.
As for the camera quality, the Samsung phone takes images that are no match for those from many mainstream flagships, including the Pixel 4. The Z Flip takes photos that are good enough for casual use, such as sharing on social media, but you shouldn't expect anything more from it. Samsung's processing sometimes overworks, resulting in washed-out images, while the low-light performance isn't any better either. Selfies taken on its front-facing 10MP sensor share similar quality attributes. Though you have the option to use the main camera for selfies, you'll have to deal with the tiny, barely-usable viewfinder. The Z Flip's cameras aren't particularly bad, but, as Ryne noted in his review, they cannot be the reason to pick the Samsung clamshell.
The Motorola Razr's single rear camera at times took surprisingly clear shots in broad daylight but struggled quite a bit to get the exposure and dynamic range right, according to Engadget's experience with the handset. The images tend to get softer and grainier in tandem with the reducing ambient light, leaving not much to say about the shots taken in the dark. The front-facing camera takes okay-ish selfies, for which you should anyway be using the primary camera. A larger secondary display makes for a better viewfinder, which saves you from having to flip the phone open. All in all, the image quality from the Razr's cameras is a notch below that from the Z Flip's.
I'm putting it out there right off the bat: You shouldn't expect either of these novel phones to do wonders with their mediocre battery capacities. The Galaxy Z Flip is still a hair better with a 3,300mAh pack that drives its larger and higher-res panel along with its mini aide. Although the Razr has a bigger secondary screen, it houses a far smaller 2,510mAh battery, though its lower-res main display may compensate a bit. Both devices charge using a 15-watt brick, but the Z Flip again trumps the Motorola phone with the inclusion of wireless and reverse wireless charging. For those wondering, the charging coils sit inside the lower half of the Samsung flip phone.
In our review, the Galaxy Z Flip performed decently and lasted for a full day of normal use with its screen-on time ranging between four and five hours. That's with the kind of usage Ryne had, so your mileage may vary based on how your normal day looks. A continuous, heavy load, like gaming or streaming on LTE, is sure to drain the battery pretty quickly. The Motorola Razr isn't that far behind, according to CNET's Patrick Holland. For him, the clamshell lasted for nearly a full day during his review period and required a top-up only around dinner time, which is actually quite good for a phone with a 2,510mAh battery and two screens. Possibly the fact that the Razr has a more usable outer display helps bring the battery usage down.
The price factor
Up until now, the Galaxy Z Flip has been one step ahead of the Razr on nearly all fronts, and it maintains that trend in pricing. With all its comparatively better specifications, the Z Flip is $120 cheaper than the Razr, which was made official late last year for $1,500. Still, the Motorola Razr holds its own against the Z Flip and serves a very niche section of the market (even for foldables) that may be more drawn to its uniquely nostalgic form factor than willing to save some bucks on a premium phone.
A nanocoating on the Motorola Razr should make the device splash-proof, but dunking it in water is still a big no-no. Nonetheless, it’s a considerable feat for a foldable phone that has moveable parts in and around the hinge, which cannot be sealed. The Galaxy Z Flip has no waterproofing whatsoever. For what it’s worth, neither phone has a headphone jack, nor do they support 5G or have 5G-capable variants, and thankfully so. We can only imagine the number of times you’ll be required to plug them in with their unconvincing battery situations if they tried latching onto a 5G network.
Which one should you pick?
Frankly, none. For most consumers out there, the idea of handling a phone as fragile as these two for a couple of years engulfs any meager space-saving benefits they offer by folding in half. And here, we haven’t even factored in the associated, predictably high, repair costs during your ownership. The foldable tech clearly isn’t ripe enough for prime time, and the companies are still ironing out several flaws these first-gen products bring to the table. You’d be better off with a normal smartphone that will serve you well for the next few years. Samsung’s newest Galaxy S20 Ultra costs almost as must as the Z Flip and looks to be a good alternative, while you can also wait for the plethora of handsets coming out this year rocking the Snapdragon 865 chip.
If you’re one of those foldables fanatics who want to stay at the cutting edge of all technological developments, then sure, go ahead and pick the Galaxy Z Flip, which is undoubtedly a better option. As I earlier said, the new Razr is currently a niche product that is made for a specific group of people who’ve been the proud owners of the older Razrs and want to invoke the same feel in 2020. Still, waiting for its second generation, which will surely build upon the learnings from the 2019 Razr, wouldn’t hurt. Having said that, many of those eyeing foldables already have their hearts set on one of these clamshells, so my proclamation doesn’t matter anyway.