Other brands will tell you foldables are the future of phones, but Motorola has a different idea. The Motorola Rizr concept, on show at Mobile World Congress, packs in a rolling display: it curls up inside the chassis when pocketability take priority, then extends outwards for extra screen real estate.
It’s essentially a modern take on the OG line of Rizr slide-up feature phones, from the heady days before smartphones took over. Think how Moto brought the Razr back as a screen-bending flip phone, only here there’s no crease to contend with. The new form factor allows for a few clever software tricks, too.
Yes, it’s thicker than even the chunkiest of traditional handsets, but in its compact form the Rizr doesn’t look like it’ll trouble many pockets. At 5in the screen is fairly diminutive in its rolled-up state, but the 15:9 aspect ratio should feel perfectly familiar – and there’s a 6.5in, 22:9 aspect option available with a double-tap.
The screen mechanically furls and unfurls, taking about a second or two. Once fully extended you appreciate just how skinny the panel actually is; we thought it looked pretty precarious, but is reinforced enough to cope with your various onscreen taps and prods. It’ll automatically open for certain apps, like Netflix or YouTube, and can be triggered manually whenever you like.
Another double-tap will roll the screen back up, with the lower third wrapping around the back side of the chassis. Lay it screen-side down and that section can act like an always-on display, putting the time, weather and incoming notifications on show. Opening the camera app for a selfie will roll the panel down even further, revealing a front-facing camera underneath.
Snap photos with either of the dual rear cameras, which look similar to the ones found on the reborn Razr, and the rearwards-facing part of the screen can act like a second viewfinder. Handy if your subjects insist on fixing their hair or pose before your press the shutter button.
Seeing how it’s a prototype gadget, there’s not much we know in terms of specs – and you can be sure things will change between now and a potential launch. But Moto does say it has a 3000mAh battery, which should do decent business with the screen in its smaller form, but might be a little on the small side if spending more time extended than not.
An actual, go-into-a-shop-and-buy-it Motorola Rizr won’t be coming any time soon, but the firm reckons the tech will be ready for prime time in 2024.
It’s a compelling concept, but there’s a question mark over how well it would work as a daily driven smartphone. Having no way to protect the folded portion of the screen could make it a durability nightmare – but Moto has plenty of time to iron out the kinks.