2020 has been quite a roller-coaster year for the smartphone industry. While COVID-19 put a dent earlier in the year on smartphone shipments, resulting in a 10% decline in total shipments from 2019, 5G phones have been a bright spot and are expected to reach 200Mu in shipments by the end of the year.
Among the various 5G phones in the market helping to accelerate the adoption, one phone in particular caught my attention — the razr 5G from Motorola. Yes, its foldable screen is a magnificent engineering feat, and the resulting form factor helps it fit into my pocket without looking like I have football pads in my pants.
And beyond the fact that the razr 5G uses 8GB of Micron LPDDR4, I have another special tie to it, which leads me back to the forever iconic razr V3 that I owned back in the day. When Motorola announced the razr V3 back in 2004, I was a senior in high school. Like a typical kid that age, I wanted to be up on the latest buzz. The razr immediately called out to me with its cool, sleek aluminum body, the electroluminescent keypad that looked like something from a sci-fi movie, and the 2.2-inch display, which at the time was big.
I didn’t think twice as I dipped into my hard-earned savings — built up from doing chores and working as a fast-food cashier — to get my hands on one. And boy, did I love that phone for the next few years.
Then the world of cellphones completely changed in 2007 when Apple released the first smartphone in the world and the razr’s iconic design disappeared overnight. Fast forward 13 years and the razr is making a comeback. Thanks to foldable display technology, we no longer have to accept the bulky form factor of smartphones in exchange for a better user experience.
But the razr 5G doesn’t stop there. When I compare it to the razr V3 I used to have, it really is a testament to how far phone technology has come.
The differences between the two razrs are substantial!
When I take a step back and compare the two phones, I don’t think anyone could have predicted this much change. For example, the razr V3 only had 32Mb of memory while the razr 5G has 2,000 times that much. In fact, just to run Android’s latest operating system requires a minimum of 2GB of RAM. Other differences that stand out include the size of the display (now three times larger but also with 50 times more pixels) and the camera, which has 160 times the number of pixels.
Table 1: Comparison of razr V3 and razr 5G specifications
|Features||Razr V3 (2004)||Razr 5G (2020)|
|Dimensions||98 x 53 x 13.9mm||169.2 x 72.6 x 7.9mm (unfolded) 91.7 x 72.6 x 16mm (folded)|
|Weight||95 g||192 g|
|Display||2.2" LCD 176 x 220 pixels||6.2" OLED 876 x 2142 pixels|
|Camera||VGA (0.3MP) main camera||48MP main camera 20MP selfie camera|
Of course, we use our phones differently these days
A lot of these differences can be attributed to how we use our phones. Let’s take a look at a target razr 5G user like me — an on-the-go midlevel user who uses the phone to get through most daily activities, including business use. My typical day on the phone looks something like this:
- In the morning, check the news, engage with social media, and read and write work and personal emails before heading to work.
- At work, send texts, make phone calls and check news during lunch.
- In the evening, take videoconference calls, check my personal email and engage with social media.
These daily activities end up occupying over 5GB of RAM use, including the OS. However, if I shop online or stream movies, that takes up about 0.5GB of RAM each. And if I play a game or launch the camera, which takes more than 1GB, suddenly the use exceeds 7GB of RAM.
The razr 5G is positioned well for this kind of use, with 8GB of RAM to minimize app relaunches due to the memory buffer running out of space. Figure 1 summarizes different apps and the amount of memory they occupy, so you can gauge how much memory you might use daily.
Figure 1: Different mobile apps and the amount of memory they require
But wait, there’s more!
Beyond the raw numbers, there are additional benefits. For example, a smartphone’s major feature is the camera, and while the razr V3 had a leading VGA camera, the images that the new razr 5G produces completely dwarf the V3’s photos. But it’s not just because of the megapixel difference. It’s because smartphones now use computational photography to optimize and capture the perfect image. In fact, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on both phones and take side-by-side comparison shots.
Figure 2: Comparison photos from the razr V3 (left) and razr 5G (right)
The Motorola razr is clearly an iconic symbol of the cellphone industry, and the razr 5G shows how the phone has improved over the past decade and a half and how those improvements have changed user behavior.
I look forward to Motorola continuing to highlight the razr design for generations to come; also look forward to Micron continuing to provide the memory and storage solutions that enable the advances we can’t even fathom today.