Yesterday, Motorola dropped, out of nowhere, a heavy, heavy dose of ’00s nostalgia by releasing an ad for the Razr straight out of 2006. It would seem to hint that the Razr is about to make a comeback, but can the thin flip phone pull one off?
The Razr was really the first phone to make a real cultural impact. Cell phones, to that point, weren’t really designed to be appealing. If you look at the best selling phones before the Razr came along, a lot of them were button-studded chunks of plastic more popular for their cost than their looks. For roughly three years, if you saw a cell phone in a movie or a TV show, it was a Razr. Jack Shepard’s Razr was a key plot point on Lost, Ari Gold used one on Entourage and Oprah sold red Razrs for charity. The phone seemed unstoppable.
Then, in June 2007, Apple debuted the iPhone, and overnight, the Razr became yesterday’s news. The march of time is always particularly cruel to technology, and the Razr was no exception. Nor was it really a question of fashion; the iPhone, with its apps and its processing power, was simply designed to do more than the Razr was. It quickly slipped off the racks of cell phone stores and into the realm of nostalgia.
While the Razr dulled, though, appetites for flip phones didn’t. In fact, nearly a third of all cell phone users in America used a flip phone as of 2014. Part of this is cost efficiency: although you can buy a dirt cheap smartphone fairly easily these days, flip phones generally have a longer battery life and are simpler to use.
And in truth, flip phones are overdue for an upgrade. Anybody who’s trashed their phone and had to get a cheap backup has learned that not much has changed in flip phones since the days of Paris Hilton and Hoobastank. There simply hasn’t been a reason to innovate, since the target audience is widely perceived as buying a phone for its cheapness, not its software. There is, however small, an opportunity there.
It’s unlikely the Razr can return to its days of dominance, but there’s a market for people uninterested in Apple and Android. And if Motorola is smart, we might see the Razr flip back into style.