Motorola says iPhone owners are switching to foldable phones

From Samsung to Motorola and Google, almost every major Android phone maker has released a foldable phone. But there is one big non-Android outlier: Apple. And according to Motorola, this is prompting some iPhone users to make the switch.

Specifically, Motorola saw 20% of new Razr users come from Apple products. That data point goes back to 2021 after the previous generation Razr launched.

“This is definitely the family where we have the most iPhone users switching to us,” Allison Yi, head of Motorola’s North American product operations, told CNET ahead of the company’s Razr Plus launch.

Foldable phones still represent a fragment of the global smartphone market, but the category is growing rapidly as tech giants look for the next big evolution in the mobile phone. Market research firm International Data Corporation estimates that worldwide shipments of foldable devices will increase more than 50% in 2023 compared to 2022. Motorola’s Razr line faces increased competition from Samsung Galaxy Z Flip series, although Samsung hasn’t broken down its sales numbers to specify its percentage of iPhone conversions.

This year is shaping up to be a pivotal time for foldable devices with the arrival of newcomers including Google and OnePlus, giving Motorola and other early entrants like Samsung more competition. Apple, however, is still noticeably absent from the foldable phone race, and that’s not likely to change too soon.

apple-folding-iphone-concept-art.png

Apple hasn’t launched a foldable iPhone, nor has it announced any plans to do so. But these renders from YouTuber ConceptsiPhone imagine what a foldable iPhone could look like.

Concepts iPhone

Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst at TF International Securities known for his predictions on Apple products, tweeted in April 2022 which doesn’t expect Apple to release its first foldable gadget until 2025. A study by Counterpoint Research suggests that there’s definitely demand for a foldable iPhone, at least in the US. Among respondents, 39% named Apple as the preferred brand for a foldable phone, while 46% named Samsung as one of the earliest and most dominant players in foldable phones. Just 6% said Motorola.

The new Razr Plus and the Razr 2023 are the company’s latest attempts to change that. The $1,000 Razr Plus, announced Thursday and launched on June 23, has a giant coverage screen that the company is betting will set it apart from rivals like the Galaxy Z Flip 4. Motorola will also launch a cheaper version of the Razr later this month. year for an undisclosed price that will be less expensive than the Plus model.

But whether it’s competition from Samsung or the long-awaited iPhone Flip, Motorola isn’t fixated on its rivals.

“It’s not about what our competition is doing,” Yi said. “It’s more of what consumers need, what consumers want, rather than really focusing on the competition.”

The Motorola Razr Plus overlay screen showing the weather

Motorola Razr Plus

John Kim/CNET

While newbies like Google are getting into foldable phones in 2023, companies like Motorola and Samsung are already brainstorming what might be next. Both companies earlier this year unveiled concept devices with roll-up or sliding screens that can expand as previously needed. Motorola’s version features a smartphone-sized device that can unroll to extend the display with the push of a button. It’s still a concept, and Motorola hasn’t said when or if this rollable phone will become an actual product.

But Jeff Snow, Motorola’s product manager for premium and flagship devices, said he could eventually see it become an “offshoot” of the Razr we know today. While both the Razr and the rollable concept aim to make phones more portable, they accomplish that goal through different means. The clamshell shape of the Razr allows it to fold closed, function as a regular phone when opened, or act as something in-between when half opened. The roll up concept changes its shape differently by expanding and contracting its screen.

“It’s a little different experience,” Snow said. “But we see it becoming part of the same category.”

Motorola's roll-up phone concept

Motorola’s roll-up phone concept

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

Motorola is also considering larger book-style foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold, though Yi said he couldn’t comment on future products. Snow also said there’s “merit to that form factor,” but the company should make sure it doesn’t compromise the normal phone experience while providing better productivity and content consumption.

“That space is taking off,” he said. “It’s something we’ll be paying attention to.”

For now, the Razr Plus is Motorola’s biggest attempt to distinguish itself in a crowded market, especially as Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the global smartphone market. The combination of improving technology and increased awareness of foldable devices makes now the time is right for a new Razr, according to Yi.

“Sometimes you see the technology is ready, but the market isn’t ready to accept it,” he said. “And consumers aren’t willing to adapt or adopt. But in this case, we really feel like this is the right time.”


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