Motorola Rizr Rollable Smartphone Hands-On: Don’t Roll With It


Motorola revealed a rollable concept smartphone it had been working on for the first time back in 2022, dubbed the Rizr. It’s a rollable, flexible display packed into a five-inch smartphone, that expands when you need some extra screen real estate. It’s certainly an interesting concept, and definitely something new. But is new always good?

We got some hands-on time with Motorola’s Rizr at MWC 2023, and have some thoughts about the device.

What Is the Motorola Rizr Concept Phone?

Motorola’s latest addition to the Rizr line-up is its latest rollable concept. Taking its name from its predecessors that slide up, the device is oddly nostalgic while leaping ahead technologically. In your hand, it appears to be a regular smartphone, standing at around five inches tall—which actually places it as a smaller smartphone versus the six-inch models that are now the norm.

motorola rizr foldable smartphone mwc 2023 maximum extension-1

However, double-tap the power button on the side of the device, and a motorized mechanism unrolls the device’s screen to 6.5 inches, seamlessly extending upwards to reveal more content and screen space. If you double-press the power button again, the screen retracts smoothly back into place.

It seems the main idea behind this concept device is portability. Much the same way that clamshell-style foldables aim to put a smaller device in your pocket, Motorola’s Rizr has its sights set on the same goal. And for those times you need a bigger screen? Just pop up the Rizr for the extra real estate.

Currently, the Motorola Rizr is only a concept device. That is to say, there’s no guarantee that this bit of kit will ever hit the shelves (or make its way into people’s pockets). As we’ll get to later, this smartphone is far from being ready for release, so we’d expect a wait of a good few years, if it ever sees the light of day. And the name? Rizr is the officially the unofficial moniker for the device–it’s what Motorola is going with for the moment, but might not stick around (though we hope it does).

Motorola Rizr Screen on Bottom

How Does the Motorola Rizr Work?

Powering the main feature of the Rizr is a motorized mechanism (pretty suitable for Motorola). The flexible screen of the Rizr folds around the back of the smartphone, into a tidy little case on the back. It’s unclear if this case will make it to a production model, but it certainly seems like the device would simply crumble apart without it.

motorola rizr foldable smartphone mwc 2023 rear

Given the display wraps around the back of the device, you can use it as a secondary screen. It works very similarly to the second display on foldables–you can access widgets, notifications, and decline calls. It’s everything you’d expect. There is a small section of the display still visible when the display is extended, but it’s still unclear what this is going to be used for.

Motorola Rizr's Rear Display When Folded

This flexible screen is supported by a plastic backing. It’s also where Motorola chose to hide the selfie camera on the Rizr. When you’re about to snap a selfie, the device will roll the display back inside even further to reveal the camera lens. You’ll definitely avoid smudges on the camera, but it’s not quite as convenient as a hole-punch option that we’ve come to expect. Fortunately, you can use the rear camera system for selfies, thanks to a mini viewfinder on the secondary display.

How Does the Motorola Rizr Stack Up?

There’s no denying that the Rizr is exciting, especially demonstrating the new technology. It’s got the cool factor too, certainly turning heads on display at the MWC 2023 show floor. But that’s where it ends with the Rizr. Beyond that, it’s hard to see any practical applications for a rollable smartphone, or how this thing survives for more than a couple of days.

It’s easy enough to roll the display up and down, with just a double-press of the power button. Plus, when you open the keyboard or a YouTube video, the Rizr will extend itself automatically. But this maneuver is going to get rather tedious very quickly. Every time you want to search, reply to a message, or use an emoji, you’ve got to wait three to five seconds for this display to roll up or down.

That’s an extremely frustrating amount of time, especially when we’re used to things being so snappy on smartphones. The average person looks at their phone 58 times per day, per Exploding Topics. Since the Rizr has to go back down again (what’s that old saying about things that go up?), that’s 116 moves per day. Or a total of nearly eight minutes per day, just waiting for the screen to move. Or 4% of the average daily screen time. Yeah, no thank you.

Can’t you just leave the display extended? Not unless you want to kill the Rizr quicker than it rolls itself up. The display is so fragile because of its flexibility, that leaving it open is sure to end in disaster. This poses another problem with accidental pocket openings. Countless times when pulling my phone out, Apple Pay is already open from an accidental double-click of the power button. That’s no big deal. But any of these accidental presses with the Rizr, and you’ll find the smartphone shooting out your pocket, or crumpling inside. We can’t quite see “Is that a Motorola Rizr, or are you just happy to see me?” catching on.

Motorola Rizr Plastic Case Close-Up

On top of all this, the Rizr is currently housed in a hideously clunky plastic case that it clings to for life support. Without all of this, looking at the smartphone for more than ten seconds could make the thing fall apart. It’s clearly very fragile, not a quality you’d look for in a smartphone.

Motorola’s Rizr Is Cool, But Let’s Roll Away This Trend

So beyond the cool factor–beyond the wow–the Motorola Rizr simply isn’t practical. And that’s not throwing shade at this brand in particular, the same could be said for any other rollable smartphone. While the tech is impressive, and eye-catching, to say the least, it’s not really something that adds any benefit.

Let’s leave rollable displays for devices that don’t live in your pocket, such as TVs. Perhaps we should roll away this trend, rather than smartphone displays. You know, before too many manufacturers start rolling with it. Thankfully, there are plenty of more handy gadgets shown off at MWC 2023, and ones you can actually get your mits on.


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