Home / Security / I went hands-on with Motorola’s ThinkPhone and it’s surprisingly good

I went hands-on with Motorola’s ThinkPhone and it’s surprisingly good

The home screen of the Motorola ThinkPhone.

The ThinkPhone, in itself, looks and feels like a premium smartphone that should last you years.

June Wan/ZDNET

CES is home to many things, but smartphones are usually an afterthought. Most companies often hold their releases for Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February, and then there are the likes of Samsung and Google who schedule their own launch events later in the year. 

In a way, that puts focus on those that do take the first leap, braving the halls of bezel-less TVs, concept cars that will never be anything more, and other flashy vaporware, with new handsets to replace our current ones. That’s exactly what Motorola (owned by Lenovo) is doing this CES.

My ZDNET colleague Charles McLellan did a fantastic job covering Lenovo’s onslaught of new laptops and PCs this week, so I spent most of my time going hands-on with the Motorola ThinkPhone, which the company is pushing as the premiere smartphone for businesses. To my surprise, Motorola talks the talk and walks the walk here, with flagship specs and thoughtful software integration with ThinkPads (and other Windows computers), a popular option for most business users.

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Person holding the Motorola ThinkPhone.

The back panel of the ThinkPhone is covered with a grippy carbon fiber-like coating, reminiscent of Lenovo’s ThinkPad computers.

June Wan/ZDNET

The device is made by Motorola, but its design has Lenovo written all over it. From the mappable Red Key (shown below) that pays homage to the ThinkPad’s classic TrackPoint button to the aramid fiber backing that gives the phone a more rugged feel without adding much bulk, this is as close to a “ThinkPad phone” as it gets.

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In the hand, the phone has a manageable form factor with its 6.6-inch pOLED display and shockingly thin 8.26mm size. The grippier texture on the back helps, too, keeping the device from slipping out of my hands as I was taking pictures. But even if it did, Motorola touts its Gorilla Glass Victus display for drop protection from up to 1.25 meters and a MIL-STD 810H certification, meaning it can withstand some of the harshest weather conditions.

The left side of the Motorola ThinkPhone has a mappable Red Key.

The aforementioned Red Key can be mapped to any app or function. 

June Wan/ZDNET

As for the rest of the phone’s specs, it’s the standard wave of flagship ingredients: 128GB base storage (configurable up to 512GB), up to 12GB of RAM, 5,000mAh battery, IP68 rating, and a dual camera array consisting of a 50MP wide lens and 13MP ultrawide. Unfortunately, unveiling the phone this early also means that Motorola can only leverage last year’s Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset instead of the newer, more efficient Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. I don’t expect day-to-day performance to take a big hit though.

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Some key business and security features to highlight with the ThinkPhone include Motorola’s own ThinkShield platform which taps into Android OS Core Security, built-in hardware protection, and more. IT professionals can also leverage Zero Touch for mass distribution and Moto OEMConfig and Moto Device Manager to control what features and settings end users have access to. And for updates, Motorola tells me the ThinkPhone will receive three years of OS upgrades and four years of security updates. It’s great to see more manufacturers going beyond the underwhelming two-year update cycles. 

June Wan/ZDNET

The cherry on top for the ThinkPhone is its software integration with ThinkPads and other compatible Windows computers. Motorola calls these seamless features Think 2 Think experiences. They include: 

  • Instant Connect: The phone and PC will discover each other when nearby and connected to the same WiFi network.
  • Unified Clipboard: Users can copy or capture text and images (shown in the GIF above) from the ThinkPhone and paste them instantly onto the PC.
  • File Drop: Similarly, files can be transferred across devices through a dedicated sharing hub.
  • Advanced Webcam: PC users can leverage the ThinkPhone’s rear cameras for higher res video output during conferences and meetings.
  • Instant Hotspot: A one-click toggle lets PC users seamlessly dial into the ThinkPhone’s mobile connection. 

As is the case with most business devices, Motorola has not revealed the actual price of the ThinkPhone, though I expect it to range from $800-$1,000 given its specifications and the company’s pricing strategies in the past. The ThinkPhone will be available in the US, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Australia, and select countries across Asia in the coming months.

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