The $1,499 Motorola Razr made its debut in 2019 as the first clamshell foldable phone, though months later, the $1,380 Samsung Z Flip came out. Since then, the brands have iterated on their designs and lowered their prices to arrive at this year’s Razr Plus 2023 and Z Flip 5, both of which cost $1,000; both still beyond the budget of most people. But now Motorola has released the $700 Razr 2023, the world’s most affordable foldable phone, which I’ve been testing for the past 12 days.
Phonemakers like TCL have been working toward cheaper foldables for years, but Motorola is the first to widely release a foldable that has a premium look and feel at a significantly lower price than its clamshell foldable competitors.
Motorola made some compromises to get a lower price, including a smaller front display and less advanced specs than its pricier counterparts. These are understandable tradeoffs, but harder to swallow is the single configuration of 128GB of storage that isn’t expandable — if you want more space, you’ll either have to rely on a cloud solution or pay up for the $1,000 Razr Plus 2023, which has 256GB of included storage (and isn’t expandable either).
But if you want a neat and compact phone, you’ll need to make some sacrifices for the Razr 2023 which Motorola has discounted to $600 at launch.
At first glance, the Motorola Razr 2023 might be mistaken for a Galaxy Z Flip 5 as both have followed a parallel design evolution. The Razr abandoned its eccentric flip phone design roots to seemingly follow Samsung’s lead with a more contemporary vibe. The Razr 2023 looks like a regular phone that folds in the middle. When unfolded flat, there’s a nominal crease in the display at the midpoint that I didn’t notice when looking at it or by running my finger over the screen.
All in all, the Razr 2023 feels good to hold. Its solid build quality feels reassuringly dense — I folded it up and did a few test drops on my carpeted floor without worrying that the halves would come apart. The phone closes with a satisfying snap, and when unfolded, the two halves come together in the back to meet seamlessly over the hinge cover. While the device is a little tough to open one-handed given additional resistance in the hinge, that also means the Razr stays partially unfolded at any angle — great for video calls or selfies using the inner screen’s camera.
Folding aside, the design looks premium, with a polished aluminum frame and hinge cover, while the vegan leather back cover adds some needed texture — I’m used to a full-size phone, so a folded-up clamshell has half the footprint and took time to get used to holding. The glass strip on the top half of the back of the phone covers both the external dual cameras and the small outer display, which looks svelte.
Unfolding the phone reveals the tall and narrow 6.9-inch OLED display (2,640×1,080 pixels) with a variable refresh rate up to 144Hz, which shows sharp and vivid details comparable to other 1080p Full HD resolution phones. The Razr’s up to 144Hz variable refresh rate makes browsing the internet or navigating the home screen buttery smooth. In having a fully functional inner display, the Razr 2023 is on par with other clamshell foldables, but the outer screen is another story.
Instead of the larger outer display of its Razr Plus 2023 sibling, the Razr 2023 has a 1.5-inch OLED external screen that’s too small to show much more than the time, app notifications, and a handful of shortcuts to weather, calendar events, contacts, voice recording and more. It’s about as useful as checking my smartwatch for snapshots of notifications and texts to triage whether I need to open my phone, and it’s helpful to take selfies with the rear cameras (far sharper than the one above the inner display), but it generally leaves me wanting more.
The smaller outer display is the Razr 2023’s most obvious compromise to get to the lower price — the pricier Razr 2023 Plus’ foldable’s 3.6-inch outer display is large enough to fit a keyboard to type on, though most users will probably only use it primarily as a notification and app preview screen, as well as to preview selfies.
Note that there isn’t a camera shortcut on the outer display — instead, you’ll need to use Motorola’s signature gesture shortcut to open the camera (twist your wrist twice while holding the device), which is thankfully reliable. And yes, the brand’s gesture shortcut to turn on the flashlight (making a chop motion twice) also works while the Razr is folded or unfolded.
Performance and battery
The Razr 2023 also takes a dip in hardware for a lower price, packing a Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chipset that was released in mid-2022. The Razr 2023’s performance benchmarks are noticeably lower than phones rocking the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 found in the Razr Plus 2023 alongside other leading Android phones from this year. See the graph below:
That doesn’t directly translate to a poorer user experience, and I was able to flip through the phone, swap apps, play intensive games and pop open the camera without much delay. But it does mean slightly lower graphical capabilities in games like PUBG Mobile, which won’t let me pick the highest graphics setting (my Galaxy S22 Ultra can).
The 8GB of RAM seems ample, though the 128GB of onboard storage may not be enough for folks who take lots of photos or download multi-gigabyte games. Regrettably, the Razr 2023’s storage isn’t expandable, which is the same for clamshell foldables, but it’s less of a hindrance for the Razr Plus 2023 (256GB), Galaxy Z Flip 5 (256GB/512GB) or Oppo Find N3 Flip (256GB/512GB).
The Razr 2023 comes with Android 13 out of the box, and will get three years of Android operating system upgrades (and four years of security patches). Android 14 launched for Google Pixel devices in early October, and will come for Motorola phones sometime later. Motorola’s software upgrade commitment falls behind Samsung (four years of OS and five years of security) and Apple (around six years of iOS), but Google just raised the bar by committing to seven years of OS and security updates with its Pixel 8 series.
The battery life does seem better than older clamshell foldables lasting a full day. Its 4,200mAh capacity is greater than batteries on the pricier Razr Plus (3,800mAh), Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 (3,700mAh) and Oppo Find N3 Flip (4,000mAh). While some manufacturers have argued that the outer screens provide enough info for quick checks that could save battery drain of illuminating an entire main display. It’s a dubious total savings in battery, but I can’t deny that the Razrs small outer display is perfect for checking the time and weather quickly.
In our 45-minute usage test simulating heavy use, the Razr 2023 dropped from 100% down to 91%, which is only 2% lower than the Razr Plus 2023 — perhaps owing to the better efficiency from the pricier phone’s higher-end chipset. Yet that’s not the whole picture, as the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 ran through the same test ending at 90%, a nearly identical result. Standard (flat) phones with larger-capacity batteries tend to do better on the test, likely owing to their better capacity, but the smaller batteries on clamshell foldables lead to more drain (by comparison, the just-launched Oppo Find N3 Flip drained from 100% down to 89% in the same test).
But on the bright side, the 30-watt charger included in the box recharges the phone from 0% to 72% in 30 minutes. The 5-watt wireless charging was less impressive, juicing the phone up from 72% to 86% in 30 minutes.
While the hardware for the Razr 2023 achieves good performance across a variety of tasks, its cameras are far more uneven.
Of the rear cameras, we do have a favorite child
While most phones at the mid-range and premium levels have an array of cameras that capture photos of similar quality, the Razr 2023’s two rear shooters are drastically different. I’ll name my less-favored child up front: the 12-megapixel ultrawide camera takes far blurrier photos.
The upside is that the 64-megapixel main camera is great all around. It takes sharp photos in a variety of environments, from bright daylight to dark interiors. So long as you don’t need to zoom in or out — as the old photographer’s adage goes, to “zoom with your legs” — the main camera is fine.
It captures sharp details and good color, as can be seen in this pic of a suitably vibrant salad.
The ultrawide does provide utility in bright daylight, but struggles in any moodier environment, as low-light shots are noticeably — even painfully — blurry. Here’s an apt comparison of an interior lit with dim, warm lighting, starting with the ultrawide camera:
Now look at the same room shot by the main camera:
The Razr does use the ultrawide for a macro mode to take up-close shots, which turn out well, capturing detail and vivid colors (in my case, a close-up on the vegan salad with ingredients spanning the color spectrum).
The Razr 2023 doesn’t have a telephoto lens, and doesn’t give users an option for digital zoom — taking a main camera photo and cropping in is the only option. Most clamshell foldables, including the Razr Plus 2023 and Z Flip 5, lack zoom lenses and miss out on distance photography — though the Oppo Find N3 Flip managed to pack one in.
The last camera on the Razr 2023 is a 32-megapixel shooter above the main display, and only used when the device is unfolded. While one could take selfies with it, given the outer screen shows previews for the 64-megapixel main camera when the phone is folded up, the inner display camera will probably only be used when taking video calls. The outer display is too small to preview everything the main camera can capture, but the sharper quality is worth it.
Compare a shot by the inner 32-megapixel selfie camera:
Now look at a shot with the outer 64-megapixel main camera:
There are quirks to taking selfies with the main camera via the outer display — as you can see above, it seems you can only take them in 4:3 ratio (which is annoying for 16:9 diehards like myself). But you’ll also have to be very intentional about how the phone is oriented when taking selfies: the thumbnail display is a horizontal rectangle, yet taking photos with the phone right-side up results in photos oriented vertically. If you want a wide selfie, you’ll need to counter-intuitively rotate the phone so that the display rectangle is thin and tall.
Motorola phones aren’t particularly known for their night photography, and the same is true in the Razr 2023 — by which I mean, don’t expect some of the AI software miracles that premium Apple, Samsung and Google phones pull off to illuminate pitch-dark areas. That said, the Razr 2023’s 64-megapixel main camera makes the most of any light in the area and still produces sharp detail in zones that are lit enough.
Ultimately, the Razr 2023’s camera suite makes it feel more midrange than premium — but so long as users only need to shoot distant or landscape shots, the main camera serves just fine. And given its front-facing and selfie options, it’s a phone suited for the kind of casual and social photographers that are likely attracted to a clamshell foldable anyway, especially one at this price point. If folks want a more camera-focused phone, they can go with a Galaxy S23 Ultra, iPhone 15 Pro Max or Google Pixel 8 Pro — and pay a good amount more for it.
Razr 2023 final thoughts
There are certainly folks who the Razr 2023 will be perfect for, but they may fall in two camps: those who don’t quite have the budget to pay $1,000 for a Razr Plus 2023 or Galaxy Z Flip 5, and those who want the fun clamshell format and are fine passing on the better photos taken by and the AI-powered editing tools in the similarly priced $700 Google Pixel 8.
The Razr 2023 challenges the idea that consumers aren’t buying foldables because they’re too pricey. Will they show up for the most accessible flexible-display phone yet? Or will the market segment that can pay $700 continue shelling out around $1,000 for the latest-and-greatest in phone tech? The Razr 2023 makes a couple questionable choices in its list of compromises, but is overall shrewd in trimming features to get to a significantly lower price point than its competitors. It’s fun to use, looks attractive and trickles down cool innovations to the upper cusp of the midrange market, but it remains to be seen if consumers want style over cameras as much as a reviewer like me does.
Motorola Razr 2023 vs. Motorola Razr Plus 2023 vs. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
|Motorola Razr 2023||Motorola Razr Plus 2023||Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5|
|Cover: 1.5-inch, OLED (194 x 368 pixels); internal: 6.9-inch (2,640 pixels x 1,080)||Cover: 3.6-inch OLED (1,066 x 1,056 pixels); internal: 6.9-inch (2,640 pixels x 1,080)||Cover: 3.4-inch AMOLED (728 x 720 pixels); internal: 6.7-inch AMOLED (2,640 x 1,080 pixels), 1-120Hz|
|Cover: 282 ppi, internal: 413 ppi||Cover: 413 ppi, internal: 413 ppi||Cover: 306 ppi, Internal: 425 ppi|
|Open: 2.91 x 6.73 x 0.29 in.; closed: 2.91 x 3.47 x 0.62 in.||Open: 2.91 x 6.73 x 0.28 in.; closed: 2.91 x 3.48 x 0.59 in.||Open: 6.5 x 2.83 x 0.27 in.; closed: 3.35 x 2.83 x 0.59 in.|
|Open: 73.95 x 170.82 x 7.35mm; closed: 73.95 x 88.24 x 15.8mm||Open: 73.95 x 170.83 x 6.99mm; closed: 73.95 x 88.42 x 15.1mm||Open: 165.1 x 71.88 x 6.89mm; closed: 85.09 x 71.88 x 14.99mm|
|189 g (6.65 oz.)||189 g (6.64 oz.)||187 g (6.6 oz.)|
|Android 13||Android 13||Android 13|
|64-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (ultrawide)||12-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (ultrawide)||12-megapixel (main), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)|
|Snapdragon 7 Gen 1||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1||Snapdragon 8 Gen 2|
|8GB + 128GB||8GB + 256GB||8GB + 256GB/512GB|
|4,200 mAh||3,800 mAh||3,700 mAh (dual-battery)|
|IP52, 5G-enabled, foldable display, 30W wired charging, 5W wireless charging||IP52, 5G-enabled, foldable display, 30W wired charging, wireless charging||5G-enabled, IPX8 water resistance, 25W wired charging, wireless charging, wireless power share, dual SIM|
|Converts to £575||Converts to £780||£1,049|
|Converts to AU$1,099||Converts to AU$1,475||AU$1,649|
How we test phones
Every phone tested by CNET’s reviews team was actually used in the real world. We test a phone’s features, play games and take photos. We examine the display to see if it’s bright, sharp and vibrant. We analyze the design and build to see how it is to hold and whether it has an IP-rating for water-resistance. We push the processor’s performance to the extremes using both standardized benchmark tools like GeekBench and 3DMark, along with our own anecdotal observations navigating the interface, recording high-resolution videos and playing graphically intense games at high refresh rates.
All the cameras are tested in a variety of conditions from bright sunlight to dark indoor scenes. We try out special features like night mode and portrait mode and compare our findings against similarly priced competing phones. We also check out the battery life by using it daily as well as running a series of battery drain tests.
We take into account additional features like support for 5G, satellite connectivity, fingerprint and face sensors, stylus support, fast charging speeds, foldable displays among others that can be useful. And we of course balance all of this against the price to give you the verdict on whether that phone, whatever price it is, actually represents good value. While these tests may not always be reflected in CNET’s initial review, we conduct follow-up and long-term testing in most circumstances.