Flipping it old school: Is there a place for flip phones in a smartphone world
Lenovo, who acquired Motorola back in 2014, is drumming up hype for its next phone launch with nostalgic ads reminiscing about the good old days of the Motorola Razr. This has led many to believe the Razr could be making a comeback as a "flip smartphone", or "smart flip phone". Motorola / Lenovo says the video is simply meant to get the masses excited for its June 9 Tech World conference where it "will transform mobile again", but that could just be smoke and mirrors. I mean, you don't exactly want to spoil the surprise by saying "yep, there's a new Razr coming".
While we won't know for sure until early next month, the prospect of a smart flip phone is an interesting one. Samsung, LG (pictured below), and Lenovo have previously all attempted to bridge the divide between feature phone and smartphone with a couple of Android-powered flip phones, but none of these have seen an Australian release. In most cases, they never made it out of Asia.
In many ways, this is understandable. We've all gotten used to luxurious 5-inch or so touchscreens that make consuming and creating content on our smartphones so much easier. It's nice being able to fit more than three lines of text on a screen. It's nice being able to watch videos on the go. It’s nice to not have to retype your text message five or so times. The "glass screen on a slab of plastic and or metal" design has become so ubiquitous because it works very well, and empowers us to do more on the go.
At the same time, I was a little shocked at how easy it was to go back to the 4-inch iPhone SE. I thought I'd miss having a bigger screen, but I'm quite enjoying having a smaller phone in my life again. It’s lighter, the battery lasts longer, and it’s a little gentler on my jeans. It still has a touchscreen though; I can't imagine ever going back to a T9. I tried using a software T9 keyboard on my iPhone SE, and it was a miserable experience that took about three times as long. Physical phone buttons aren't something I miss at all.
If a smart flip phone nailed the basics - camera, app store access, music playback, battery life - it could still be a compelling little package for some. In a way, you could look at one like a sort of digital detox. A smaller screen and an anachronistic keyboard layout would no doubt make smartphones a little less user friendly, which could in turn make us use them just a little bit less. While that's a terrible way to design a product ("hey, let's make something people won't want to use") a smart flip phone would make a great counterpoint to the massive 5.5-inch phablets we're seeing. It would be nice to see something different (and maybe a few less cracked screens).
I'm probably being a little too nostalgic, as I sure as hell wouldn't give up my touchscreen, but if Lenovo / Motorola unveiled a slick new Android-powered Razr, would you consider switching to a "smart" flip phone?