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Hands-on with Motorola Rizr rollable concept phone
Named after Motorola's old sliding phones, the Rizr is the manufacturer's proof-of-concept design for a rollable.
If you're not familiar with the concept, a rollable is a device where the display can expand and contract. It's kind of like a foldable, but instead of manually opening the device, the screen unfurls like a scroll. It's some of the most interesting tech in the mobile space right now.
On previous rollable concept devices we've seen from brands like OPPO, you've started with a standard phone design that expands to be a tablet.
With the Rizr concept phone, Motorola has opted for something different. You get a boxy 5-inch phone that expands to be a more conventional 6.5-inch phone. It's like having a small phone and a big phone in one.
When you're using the Rizr as a 5-inch device, part of the display is also visible on the back of the phone. This can be used as a clock, as well as to highlight certain notifications. This can also be used for taking selfies with the primary camera, but there is still a front-facing camera that the main display slides back to reveal.
- Unique design. We've seen plenty of rollable concept devices where the phone can expand to be a tablet, but it's great to see Motorola doing something different. I love the idea of the Rizr simply being a small phone that becomes bigger when you need it. Given the success of Samsung's Z Flip family, I think the Rizr's approach will resonate more with consumers when the technology is commercialised.
- Automatic unfurling. While you can manually shrink and expand the Rizr, it's smart enough to do so automatically. For example, it can extend itself when you start watching a video on YouTube, or when you're typing an email and need extra keyboard space. It makes the tech that little bit more magical.
- Hidden selfie camera and speaker. The rollable display is also used to hide the selfie camera and speaker, making for a very clean design. When you want to take a selfie or answer a phone call, the screen shifts down to reveal these components.
- Fun! Double tapping the power button to extend and shorter the Rizr is incredibly satisfying.
- A lot of flex in the screen. Tapping the screen near the bottom of the phone - where the display unfurls from - noticeably made it flex. This isn't something I experienced when trying out OPPO's rollable concept phone back in 2021, and it's a pretty big durability concern. It seems like it would be easy for debris to get under the display, which compounds on top of the standard issues with flexible and folding form factors.
- Display exposed on both sides. Having access to a rear-facing display when the phone is in "compact mode" is an interesting idea, but it's another design decision that could impact durability. Not only would it increase the risk of screen scratches, but it would make putting a case on the Rizr that much harder.
- Just a concept phone right now. The Motorola Rizr is very much just a proof of concept, and will likely never be sold in its current form. Motorola doesn't even have a firm date for when it could potentially bring a rollable to market.
As with any new form factor, the Rizr is a potent cocktail of apprehension and anticipation.
The road to foldable and flexible devices has been fraught and filled with misteps. Foldables still don't quite feel robust enough to be mainstream, and there are even more challenges brands like Motorola need to address when it comes to rollables. The screen shouldn't flex when you tap it, for example.
On the other hand, it's hard not to be excited about technology that's this cool. There's a genuine magic to seeing a screen unfurl itself and then shrink back down.
More so, I think Motorola is on the money when it comes to the Rizr's design. A small phone that can become big feels like a best-of-both-worlds situation. You get a phone that's easier to pocket, but it alsosolves the problem of being hamstrung by a small external display as we've seen on the Z Flip 4 and foldable Razr.