For our classic handset series, we’re taking a brief trip down memory lane to examine the rather puzzling success of the Motorola RAZR – the ultra-thin (for the time) flip-phone that at one time, back in the mid-2000’s, was actually one of the most fashionable and hip phones.
Bear in mind that despite featuring in our classic handset series, we’re quite at liberty to include phones that weren’t necessarily all that good, but that defined the cutting edge of mobile tech back in the day, or caused a sensation for one reason or another. And the RAZR certainly fits the bill.
Did anyone love the RAZR?
If you have been a regular reader of Mobile Industry Review for more than a couple of years, you may recall that Ewan has never had very many kind words for the ‘thinnest of thin’ handsets. But the phone did strike a chord with many consumers, especially in the USA, despite its terrible user interface and poorly thought-out features.
Here is a quote from our editor-in-chief from way back in 2008:
“The device itself is ancient, the operating system decrepit, the capabilities highly limited to calling people, texting and making it really difficult to do anything else”.
Sounds a bit harsh, but probably fair.
Thinnest of the thin
Even before Apple became obsessed with making everything thinner and lighter than before, Motorola had already jumped on that bandwagon and launched the original RAZR in 2004, called the RAZR V3. It eventually went on to become the best-selling clamshell-style phone in the world managing to shift more than 130 million units, according to Wikipedia.
It was so successful that it even spawned follow-ups, imaginatively called the RAZR2 and the RAZR3, as well as countless variations for international markets and different materials and colours such as the Hot Pink version.
There’s little merit in discussing the technical specifications of the original V3 model, as it was basically only suitable for texting and making calls – yes there was a VGA camera, and it could record video, but looking back today you might wonder whether people actually used those features, let alone play games and use the various apps.
Perhaps the biggest selling point was its design – having the thinnest profile of any clamshell phone on the market at the time.
Us Brits soon overcame the wow factor of “gosh it’s so thin!”, but the handset managed to linger on in the USA for much longer than it really deserved. Ewan even commented that every second person he saw over there was carrying a RAZR, testimony to its astounding popularity at the time.
On its debut, it genuinely impressed most reviewers. PCMag for instance awarded Motorola’s clamshell an impressive four-star rating, saying:
“Half an inch thin (yes, we said half an inch) and made of anodized aluminum, the Motorola flip phone looks and feels absolutely amazing. There’s no dispute: The Razr (pronounced “razor”) is the coolest-looking phone. Period“.
That’s 12.7 mm thin, in contrast with today’s iPhone 6 for example, which is just 6.9 mm…
PCMag also went on to state that: “Flip it open, and you’re confronted by a vast screen”, which seems rather amusing in the context of today’s 5.5-inch phablet devices with hi-res QuadHD screens. The RAZR’s ‘vast’ screen was in fact a 2.2-inch TFT display with 176 x 220 pixels and 9 lines (giving around 128 pixels per inch density).
Despite the seemingly bad specs today, the RAZR was one of those phones that you either loved or hated. And for Motorola, the device ended up being a cash cow for several successive generations. Thankfully though, we’ve all moved on and can look back at the Motorola through rose-tinted glasses. It was after all quite a revolutionary design, and no doubt helped push the rest of the industry towards shaving millimetres from their own phones.
Let us remember the RAZR with fondness, but be thankful that we won’t see another phone quite like it.