Motorola rizr rollable phone concept hands-on: They see me rollin’

While foldable displays are slowly becoming more popular, rollable flexible displays are still emerging. The idea is simple: You take a flexible display board and instead of just folding it on itself, you use its flexibility to roll it up—mostly, hiding it out of sight. That’s the idea behind Motorola’s foldable phone concept, which was briefly teased in October.

At MWC 2023, we were able to get our hands on a working prototype of the Motorola rizr rollable phone and let’s just say it’s pretty cool. Rollables are more practical than foldable phones in most situations. The phone retains its original size and form factor, and can be used as is. But when you need more screen real estate, you can have a larger screen on demand that is thrown in temporarily, and then neatly thrown away when you’re done.

Motorola rizr rollable phone concept: increased length

Motorola Razr phone is rollable from the front

Rita El Khoury / The Android Authority

Motorola has opted for a smaller form factor in terms of rollable size. In its compact case, the phone has a 5 inch 15:9 POLED display courtesy of BOE Display. It’s quite small compared to the modern 6-inch and above flagships we’re used to, but as the razr series and Samsung Flip series have shown us, there’s a huge demand for smaller, more pocketable phones.

The screen wraps along the bottom of the button and sticks out at the back, covering about a third of the back side. Just double tap the power button on the side and the mechanical system will kick into action, moving the screen up and up, until most of the back panel has made its way to the front of the phone. This takes about three seconds and the screen scales to a size of 22:9 6.5 inches. The Android interface is reconfigured: apps stretch vertically, while icons on the home screen are realigned for faster access. Motorola also makes special wallpapers that automatically adapt to this shift.

Apps extend and adjust as the phone emerges from its compact 5-inch case.

In the longer configuration, the Motorola rizr rollable phone looks and feels a lot like the flagship we’re used to. And this is where the similarities – and differences – come in with the Razer and other scalloped folds. The tall, handy screen is there, but it’s not hidden inside a shell that’s pretty much unusable most of the time. Instead, you still get access to two-thirds of the same display in the default compact configuration. In fact, the design is closer to the original Motorola rizr series of slide phones, hence the name.

Double tap again and the screen will retract back, hiding out of sight. It can also slide down slightly to reveal the front camera and speaker grille. Like every other Motorola phone, this phone supports Moto Actions, so a double flick of the wrist switches to the selfie lens in the camera app.

The disadvantage of the button is its thickness and weight. Despite the smaller height and width, it’s still quite thick and weighs 210 grams – more than many flagships like the Pixel 7 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra. But it seems that this is necessary to accommodate the offer and its mechanism.

Motorola’s foldable phone: hot or not?

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A secondary screen and a larger main screen in one

Motorola gboard rollable phone

Rita El Khoury / The Android Authority

The Motorola rizr foldable phone manages to check several important use cases in one form. For one, the screen can be set to expand automatically (no double tap needed) in certain circumstances. Let’s say you’re watching a YouTube video and you turn the phone into landscape mode, then the screen starts rolling automatically to give you more screen space and immerse you in the content. Or if you’re about to write an email, it will display to allow you to use Gboard more comfortably, without cluttering up the rest of the content on the small screen.

Built-in return notifications for rizr phone

Rita El Khoury / The Android Authority

When the phone is face down with the screen open, the wraparound portion starts to act like a secondary rear display. It can display notifications and dim to a completely black screen with date, time and weather.

The coolest in-camera use case. Anytime you take a photo, you can tap a button to activate the background screen, which then shows your subject a preview of their photo or a cute smiley animation. Making babies or children smile nonetheless should be easy.

rizr can automatically expand when you need it, and fold itself out of the way when you don’t.

We were curious if Motorola would let you take a “selfie” in this mode — for example, just turn on the camera, flip the phone over, and use the main sensor with the back screen to frame the shot. Right now, that doesn’t appear to be possible (although we think you could do it by setting a timer or using the volume buttons as a shutter), but Motorola has said it’s considering adding support for hand gestures to take a screenshot.

Motorola rizr foldable phone: great concept, lots of questions

Motorola rizr rolls down the side

Rita El Khoury / The Android Authority

Motorola has a great and interesting idea with its foldable rizr phone; Unlike other weird concepts, this one looks cool and looks really useful. But the proof is in the dessert, as they say.

Rotatable displays have not yet reached the mainstream. Besides all the intricacies of how a folding screen works, you have to get a small, energy-efficient, and reliable automated system to rotate it. Right now, the Motorola rizr concept includes a 3,000mAh battery, which might be enough for a smaller 5-inch screen but won’t be enough in the 6.5-inch expanded mode. Not to mention how much the rotating and opening mechanism will take if you stretch and contract the screen several times a day.

Stiffness and durability are other big concerns. Motorola kept its prototype unit encased in a clear plastic case throughout and this may also be a necessity with the phone. Without it, the screen would be completely bare bottom and back, which means you can’t lay it on a surface without worrying about how many dust particles are there. A clumsy person like myself would worry about dropping the phone; The mechanism may not be very resilient to a fall to the ground, especially if it falls on the underside or corners.

The display of the Motorola Rizr phone is rollable at the top

Rita El Khoury / The Android Authority

Even with the case on, the top of the screen is relatively exposed when rolled up. The hard shell that protects the screen is only a few millimeters thick and I don’t want to know what would happen if I dropped the phone with it expanded.

Rotating phones are a great evolution of foldable screens that look very futuristic.

And if all of that is resolved, the bigger question remains: when? Motorola says this foldable concept phone is part of its 312 Labs division, which is looking forward to two years, but we know the technology is almost there. LG introduced a foldable phone in late 2020, and Oppo had the Oppo X concept in mid-2021. Foldable display technology has evolved a lot since then: hinges are sturdier and displays are less likely to break. For all the intricacies of the rolling mechanism, should we definitely approach commercialization now, and not in two or three years?

Just eagerly color us. Swivel phones are just a nice evolution of foldable screens, and they make the most of space, keeping the flagship phone compact and easy to use, without any real compromise on usability, while still offering the option to switch to a larger screen when needed. . And that feels a bit futuristic to us.

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