I first heard rumors that Motorola was releasing an updated version of its 2004 Razr a couple months ago, and my initial reaction was the same reaction I’ve seen in everyone else since. First, I was amused. Then a sort of untameable joy washed over me. Finally, I settled into a state that felt like a swirl of nostalgia and curiosity—revisiting a mental flip book of early aughts pop-culture highlights and my own nearly forgotten high-school memories.
In the months between the rumors and the reveal, the latter of which which happened last week in Los Angeles, I became a little obsessed with what the phone might be like. Would it reclaim its place as a fashion accessory as no other phone has been able to do since the iPhone took over? Would it retain its limited functionality, answering a very 2019 desire to be less online? Would ironic pop stars and fashion kids immediately embrace it and Make It a Thing? (Seems possible: Drake’s birthday cake was a flip phone last year—a Motorola Timeport, but still.)
I now have answers to the first two questions. The design of the new Razr doesn’t play into its Paris Hilton-centric, bedazzled past. Instead, it plays into the future—its most mesmerizing feature being a screen that folds, impossibly, in half. The look of it is decidedly more sexy than kitschy (and at $1,500, it’s certainly not cheap). As for the 2019 desire to be less distracted, as we remember we were in the olden days of 2004? This phone is not about that. With a “quick view” screen on the front and a touchscreen on the inside, it actually sort of functions like an Apple Watch strapped to a smart phone—my guess is that this will lead to less active use but more overall use for most people. So for those who thought the new Motorola might be their way out—it looks like we’ll have to continue policing our own tech addictions after all.
Still, I think there’s one key element of the Razr that appeals to us right now as a culture above all else—and it’s the element that’s been there along. The flip! The snap! The teenager’s pre-fidget-spinner fixation! The proverbial door slam of the tech world, long forgotten and now resurrected. That flipping aspect of the phone, I’d argue, is what goes some way toward giving us the boundaries we crave. With such a tiny action—excitedly whipping it open, conclusively snapping it shut—we get physical evidence of a beginning and end to our being connected. Suddenly, phone use can feel more like an event and less like something we’re passively doing all the time. We are reminded of the potential theatricality, the narrative, of verbal phone communication. The sheer satisfaction of hanging up on someone who deserves it! Sounds a lot more fun that mindlessly scrolling or texting and waiting for a text (or no text) back, if you ask me.
But I’m curious to know: What’s your dream phone like right now? Is it a ghost of phones’ past? Does it do even more than your phone does now? Does this line of questioning make you want to escape to the woods once and for all?
Images via Getty and Motorola.