Three years after the debut of its wildly popular Razr phone, Motorola gave the world the Rizr. Though loved by many, the product never managed to capture the same level of cultural cache as its predecessor. The two devices shared some key design languages, with the Rizr set apart by having a screen that slid up to reveal the physical keyboard underneath.
A lot has changed in the 17 years since that product’s release, but following the resurrection of the Razr as a foldable, the company now owned by Lenovo is bringing the Rizr back in concept form. As with the Razr, it’s clear why the company chose to kick the tires on the old brand. You could say that the 2023 Rizr is a kind of spiritual successor to the 2006 model.
The new version trades the sliding action for a rolling screen (get it? “Riser?”). We’ve seen proofs of concept for the technology in the past, largely as standalones. The concept isn’t entirely different from foldable devices, in that the screen technology is designed to fit more phones in less space. As standard it has a compact five-inch 15:9 display. When certain apps are opened, gestures are activated, or the orientation changes, it mechanically expands to 6.5 inches with a 22:9 aspect ratio.
It sure is a handy trick. But it’s worth noting that phone makers are increasingly following the lead of automakers by announcing concept phones. It’s a bit about gauging consumer interest and a bit about showing the public – and shareholders – that your R&D department is doing innovative work – whether or not that work eventually leads to a product. See also: OnePlus 11 concept device from yesterday.
I will say that Motorola’s parent company, Lenovo, has never been shy about bringing out aggressively odd form factors, whether it’s an E Ink tablet or the ThinkPad X1 Fold, which is basically a foldable phone in laptop form.
However, it raises a lot of questions, should this thing ever actually hit the market. Given what happened in the early days of foldable products, I’d say durability is at the top of my list. You have to make sure that any device you sell to the public is capable of repeating that action hundreds of thousands of times.
Will we see a product version of the Rizr at next year’s MWC? I wouldn’t count on it. But it’s also nice to see companies thinking outside the same old smartphone slate.