Last year's foldable smartphone trend was normal-sized handsets that unfolded into tablets, but it didn't seem to catch on in a big way.
How about smartphones that fold down into tiny, pocket-friendly forms then? That's what we're seeing right now, with the launch of the Motorola Razr and Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip. Both give you a large screen and sleek look, but fold in half for transport when not in use.
There are some obvious similarities here, but these handsets go about the idea in some notably different ways. Which flip-smartphone will you flip for? Here's our early thoughts, and we'll update this with a final verdict once we have reviews live.
Design: Flip or flop?
The Motorola Razr certainly has the nostalgia angle down pat, recreating one of the all-time most beloved flip phones as a modern flip smartphone. Clever decision. Visually, at least, the new Razr seems to stick the landing, keeping plenty of the classic aesthetic while delivering an inventive new handset.
It's nearly all screen on the front save for that familiar chin at the bottom, and then folded up, the Razr gets half as tall and twice as thick. There's a smaller external screen for notifications and taking selfies, and the phone has notable heft at 205g.
Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip doesn't have the benefit of nostalgia on its side, but it's an appealing design all the same. It's definitely simpler-looking overall, almost resembling a makeup compact when folded up, but otherwise it follows the same kind of approach.
The main screen is larger, but the external screen is much smaller, really used only for notifications and time. It's also about 10% lighter at 183g, which is probably a notable enough difference to feel if you had both phones handy.
The Razr just comes in the familiar metallic-looking Noir Black for now, while the Galaxy Z Flip is offered in Mirror Purple, Mirror Black, and Mirror Gold, as well as a special edition version styled by designer Thom Browne.
Screen: Very, very tall
Samsung has both the larger and higher-resolution screen here: a 6.7in Full HD+ (1080p) panel at a very, very tall 21.9:9 aspect ratio. By comparison, the specs on the Razr can't help but underwhelm, at least in terms of resolution: the 6.2in screen (21:9) only hits 2142x876. Considering the price, that certainly seems under par.
Specs probably don't matter as much for the small external screens, especially since they're compact and vary in purpose. The Razr's 2.7in screen is at 800x600, while the Galaxy Z Fold's 1.1in screen arrives at 300x112.
Camera: Snap decisions
Motorola doesn't make a lot of flagships these days, but in any case, it's fair to say that Samsung has the better track record when it comes to smartphone cameras. Will it prevail again with the Galaxy Z Flip?
We suspect so, yes. In our hands-on testing, the 16-megapixel (f/1.7) main camera of the Motorola Razr produced just-OK shots, but we were in a dimly-lit space at the time. Results out in the wild will surely be better, but we didn't get the sense that it was a camera quite at the same level of other super-pricey phones.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy Z Flip's cameras seem to be plucked straight from the Galaxy S line, with 12MP wide (f/1.8) and ultra-wide (f/2.2) cameras on the outside. If they're the same as seen on the Galaxy S10, or perhaps even the Galaxy S20, then the Z Flip should produce excellent shots.
The 10MP (f/2.4) inside camera on the Z Flip also sounds more promising than the 5MP (f/2.0) inside camera from the Razr, as well.
Performance: Big differences
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 chip in the Razr is an upper mid-range chip, which Motorola said is meant to conserve power on this slim smartphone. That's reasonable from a tech standpoint, but not so much on the value front. Considering the phone's price, we expect top-shelf power.
Samsung delivers that with the Snapdragon 855+ chip, the flagship standard for the last few months on the Android side of things. It's not quite as accomplished as the new 865 chip rolling out with the Galaxy S20 in some parts of the world, but it's close. The Z Flip will have the speed we expect and the power to handle games and all kinds of apps.
Battery and perks: Z's got it?
The Razr's 2,510mAh battery is hopefully enough to power Motorola's folding smartphone for a strong day, given the compromises made on processor and screen resolution. Samsung has a larger 3,300mAh cell, but we'll see whether there's a noticeable difference given the larger, higher-res screen and more powerful chipset.
The Galaxy Z Flip offers both wired and wireless charging, while the Razr lacks the wireless option. Neither phone has a microSD slot for expandable storage, but Samsung gives you 256GB of internal storage to play with while Motorola sticks to 128GB.
Initial verdict: Cool or complete?
We see this often with phone comparisons: Samsung often tends to win on the specs and/or features front, packing its phones with lots of perks and bonuses. That doesn't always make for a better overall handset, but we think it's going to make a bigger difference here.
Motorola clearly sees nostalgia and novelty as key selling points, otherwise opting to skimp out on flagship features for this very pricey handset. That might be fine for some buyers, but if you want a phone that's both cool and top-of-the-line powerful, it's not the Razr.
The Galaxy Z Flip doesn't have the benefit of nostalgia, but the novelty is still there – and it's paired with flagship-quality components nearly across the board. When it comes to usage and overall experience, where a phone really counts, it seems to have a significant advantage.
Amazingly, Samsung's is the cheaper phone, at least when you compare full prices – the Z Flip costs $1,380 in the States, while the Razr is $1,499. In the UK, the Z Flip sells for £1,299, while the Razr currently is only available through EE in various plans, so you'll have to see how the value compares based on options.
In any case, we don't have a final verdict yet as we haven't fully reviewed either of these phones – but we see pretty major benefits to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip for now. Stay tuned for our continuing coverage on both phones.