For myset for release this fall, I tested the updated foldable phone for 10 days in September. Occasionally when I opened or closed the phone, an onlooker would react with disbelief. One woman working behind the register of a coffee shop’s to-go window actually gathered her (masked and socially distanced) co-workers and asked me to show them how the Razr folded in half. When I demonstrated the screen folding like paper, her response was: “That is amazing. Where do I get one?”
And that’s the “magic” of foldable phones at their core. They seemingly do the impossible by letting you take something rectangular and rigid and fold it into something smaller than a drink coaster. That magic comes from years of design, testing and revisions. And the engineers and designers who worked on the upcoming Motorola Razr know it’s anything but magic to make a 6.2-inch phone fold in half.
But all that work can be easily overshadowed. The review units of 2019’s Samsung Galaxy Fold raised the flag about how folding screens would work in the real world. A number of them hadthat let dust or other particles get underneath the screen and wreak havoc. Any concerns people had about folding displays were instantly amplified.
Then in February 2020 after months of delays, Motorola released its Razr (2019) with a foldable screen and CNET’s video team tested the display’s durability. My colleague Chris Parker used a FoldBot and attempted to open and close the phone 100,000 times. After 27,000 folds the Razr (2019) wasn’t able to be tested further. Reflecting on, Parker concluded:
“Does [it] feel like a durable, resilient phone that will stand up to extended real-world use? To me it does.”
These incidents might make you wonder if foldable screens are durable. And if so, how do we know? Jeff Snow, general manager of innovation products at Motorola, thinks it’s natural to ask durability questions about foldable screens.
“The new thing about the phone is the fact that the screen folds open and you can light it up,” said Snow. “People are not used to phones with those folding screens. So the questions in their minds are, ‘Is it going to last?’ ‘How many times can I actually do that action?'”
Motorola claims the screen on its upcoming, updated Razr (2020) can be folded 200,000 times. To give you an idea how many times that is, you could open and close the phone 100 times a day for five years and still not hit that number.
To show me how the company determined and tested the number of times the upcoming Razr’s screen could be folded, I visited a lab at Motorola in Chicago — while wearing a mask and social distancing — to meet Snow and Tom Gitzinger, director and principal engineer of innovation and architecture for Motorola. I got to see for myself how Motorola tests the screen on the upcoming Razr.
Motorola’s screen folding machine lab
In a room that looks like a college black box theater are a number of lights all focused on a roughly 10-foot-wide machine. There is a camera on a tripod pointing at the machine which gives the entire space an odd television show vibe. On the top of the waist-high machine on their backs, are four Razr (2020) phones. The machine fully opens and closes all four phones at the same time over and over…Read more>>