Mobile World Congress is this week, and that means wild flexible display concepts that may never see the light of day. Motorola is letting everyone try out the new “Moto Rizr” concept, a name resurrected from its line of candybar slider phones in the early 2000s. The new Rizr is a rollable display phone that was first announced in October, but Motorola shared more details about the phone at MWC.
Motorola’s concept phone is a stumpy-looking 5-inch device with a flexible POLED display that covers the front of the phone, then wraps around the bottom edge and continues almost halfway to the back. Press a button and the motorized internal components push the top of the phone upwards, dragging the screen upwards. At the end of the process, all the “extra” display that was on the back of the phone rolls to the bottom edge and is now on the front, and you have a 6.5-inch display that looks like a normal smartphone.
The sliding component of the phone is a wafer-thin rectangle that only houses the display and looks very flimsy. Besides sliding to support a larger display, this rectangle can also slide UNDER a few millimeters from the closed position, revealing the body of the phone that it normally covers. This small area usually behind the display houses the usual top bezel components, such as the front-facing camera and earpiece speaker. In the closed position, the display surrounds the phone towards the back, and this small display on the back is not wasted: It can show the high status bar on the back of the phone or can kick into a viewfinder mode, which allows you to use the main cameras are like the selfie camera.
It’s not that small @motoThe razr and who knows how durable it will be if you drop it or drop it in your pocket unprotected but if someone tells you phones are boring show them this. #mwc2023 pic.twitter.com/FnoooMysnc
— Avi Greengart (@greengart) February 26, 2023
You can tap the power button twice to roll the phone up and down, but Motorola’s concept also makes the questionable decision to automatically roll up and down the display based on what the software does. The YouTube example makes sense: a landscape video tends to be widescreen, so the screen is expanded. Another example is the keyboard, where the screen goes up when the keyboard is opened and decreases when it closes. The motorized screen takes a few seconds to open and close, which is probably more of a screen gimmick than something useful. Waiting for the screen to move up and down when you’re multitasking with a messaging app feels slow and frustrating.
That’s fine, and the promise of a phone that’s small in your pocket but big in your hand would be a compelling idea if it weren’t for a laundry list of practicality concerns. First, like the flexible-display Moto Razr—which looks like a close cousin to this phone—there’s nothing attaching the display to the phone’s body for a large portion of the display’s length. The bottom edge of the display is attached to the phone, and a part of the top is attached to the phone, but the middle must be free floating for the sliding mechanism to work. There is nothing holding the middle section of the phone’s body, so the display is always on lifted from the phone, expose the edges of the display and potentially collect debris that could damage the display. We’re used to displays that are rock-hard, perfectly flat glass slabs, so having a display that doesn’t sit flat against the phone’s body and squish under your finger is a bit odd. feeling