Might you read on your RAZR?


A puzzling new video from Motorola promoting the Lenovo Tech World event seems to tease some sort of relaunch of its Motorola RAZR flip phone. The video shows a high school hall full of kids with 2000s-vintage styles, all geeking out on similar RAZR phones—so, as CNET puts it, we can expect either a relaunch or “a new network teen drama.” The question is, what relevance is this going to have to our current Android e-reading world?

The 2004 RAZR was one of the last “dumbphones” to have any real geek appeal before the iPhone came along and suddenly everyone wanted smartphones. I had one of the 2007 RAZR II models, and really liked it. I probably still have it somewhere in one of my junk boxes from my move. The sleek flip-open style made it look like a new incarnation of a classic Star Trek communicator, and the screen—a lot bigger than most other phones’—was useful for more things, including some basic Internet tasks. Another cool touch was the smaller notification screen on the back, which told you who was calling and also served as a viewfinder for taking selfies (or checking your reflection without a mirror).

In a way, the RAZR served as a kind of precursor to the iPhone—its successor, the ROKR, represented Apple’s ill-fated first foray into cell phones, and prompted Apple execs to come up with a better solution. And if Motorola does plan to announce a revival of the brand next month, it wouldn’t be the first time—in 2011, Motorola revived the brand as the Droid RAZR for Android (which we’ve mentioned a time or two in other contexts).

The Droid RAZR was fairly thin, but otherwise not all that similar to the original RAZR flip-phone. But Motorola’s new video makes a big deal out of that original phone, flipping and all. Would they do that if they were planning to launch just another generic smartphone under that brand?

But what could you do with a flip-phone form factor now?

The only possibility that comes to mind is that a phone with a 4.5-inch screen might not be too unwieldy if they wedded some kind of flip-open keyboard to it—especially if the keyboard could detach like a tablet cover keyboard leaving a traditional smartphone behind. Such a keyboard cover could provide the sort of tactile thumb-keyboard experience missing from most smartphones today. Typo briefly made something like that for the iPhone before Blackberry shut it down; perhaps Motorola looked at the demand for that and decided to find a different way to offer something similar?

Another possibility might be a relaunch of a traditional RAZR shape, with the same flip-open 12-button keyboard and smaller screen as the old “dumphone” variant, but with a touch-sensitive screen and Android under the hood. Such a phone might provide a good user experience for people who miss the simplicity of answering and making calls from such phones, but add on smartphone capabilities that could be used when they’re needed.

Either way, it seems almost certain that Android will be involved somehow—that’s the operating system Motorola phones use now. It certainly seems unlikely that Motorola is about to launch a new flagship line of non-Android feature phones in a smartphone-centric world. Which means that the phone should certainly be able to run e-reading applications. The only question is whether it will have a screen that’s large enough to be used for e-reading. I suppose we’ll only need to wait a couple of weeks to find out.


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