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Flip Phones Are a Better Idea Than Ever

With its 6.2-inch folding plastic OLED screen, the new Motorola Razr is an unabashed nostalgia gimmick, but it might be the phone of my dreams despite that.

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Motorola has just announced a new Razr phone. Yes, here in 2019. It’s decked out simultaneously in retro style with its old-school flip phone format and characteristic “chin” when opened into full form, but also with bleeding-edge tech like its main attraction: a 6.2-inch folding plastic OLED screen. It’s an unabashed nostalgia gimmick, but it might be the phone of my dreams despite that.

I have no fond memories of or connection to the original Razr, which Motorola is going extremely far to recall. It’s not just the name and the shape; there’s even a retro Easter egg that acts as a throwback to the original handset’s number pad. But you don’t need to be a Razr fanatic to see the clear functional appeal of the flip phone format here in 2019. In fact, I might even argue it’s a better idea than ever.

Why? It protects the most important part of your phone, for one. Do you remember when you could just throw your phone in a bag with your keys? It also makes your phone, a device which has over the course of years grown to be nigh unpocketably gigantic, much smaller without compromising on screen space when you need it. But perhaps most importantly, it adds a point of physical friction between you and the time-wasting temptations of cyberspace. If you grab your phone to skip a song, adjust the volume, or check a notification on the front screen, you’ll still be a deliberate flip away from falling into the frivolous wormhole your phone almost certainly is.

Granted, some of these same advantages are afforded by the Galaxy Fold, to a certain extent, though its frame is so thick when folded and expansive when open that it’s an entirely different device. It’s also $1,980 to the Razr’s (still very expensive!) $1,500 price tag. And Microsoft’s upcoming Duo phone, with its non-folding screen, old-school hinge, and complete lack of an external display, may prove to be the most durable and practical gadget of this basic design.

Despite its potential flaws — a premium price tag, a camera with mid-grade specs, and unknown durability — Motorola’s throwback gimmick is a great illustration of how the smartphone’s best way forward might be a few steps back.

The new Razr is available for pre-order in December for $1,500 with a ship date of January 2020.

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