I can’t recall the last time I got excited about using a Motorola phone. The RAZR foldable certainly comes to mind but, given the specs, that phone felt like more of a disappointment than the fulfillment of a dream. No, I think I might actually have to go all the way back to 2017 when the Moto Z2 launched and Motorola flagship phones felt like they were in their prime.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the ThinkPhone by Motorola got announced. It's a sort of hybrid device that bridges the gap between Lenovo and Motorola, the office and the home, and even the premium and affordable segments. As a person that already uses a Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 as their main laptop, a ThinkPhone makes perfect sense for me, but that’s not just for aesthetic purposes.
That's actually because Lenovo and Motorola are utilizing deep software tie-ins with Motorola’s ReadyFor software — something the best Motorola phones all support — to create a cohesive experience that shares functionality between the phone and PC. Instant hotspot, clipboard sharing, app streaming, a desktop UI for your phone, and even the ability to use your phone’s camera as a webcam for your laptop are all here and they work incredibly well.
Is this the best flagship I’ve used from Motorola in years? Yes, without a doubt.
Price and availability
ThinkPhone by Motorola was announced in January at CES 2023 with international availability shortly after. The phone is available in North America as of April 26, 2023 through enterprise B2B channels and Lenovo sales representatives.
Motorola also sells it unlocked on Motorola.com and Lenovo.com for general consumer purchase at $699.99. Special business pricing is available with Lenovo Pro as of April 28, 2023.
ThinkPhone by Motorola ships in one color: black.
What I loved
Most slab phones are pretty boring these days. The vast majority opt for a metal-and-glass sandwich design, often ending up extremely slippery and requiring a case if you don’t want to drop it. The ThinkPhone might represent a fairly standard-looking slab phone from the front, but the back is anything but “normal.”
In fact, it’s the only phone in recent memory that doesn’t feel slippery thanks to the aramid fiber back. It feels almost identical to the soft touch plastic that Lenovo ThinkPad laptops are clad with and there's even an embossed ThinkPad logo on the bottom right corner, angled exactly like it is on a ThinkPad laptop.
My only question is why Motorola didn’t think to outfit the red dot on the “i” with a red LED. Really a massive missed opportunity for brand identification.
The phone is MIL-STD-810H compliant and rated to be able to drop to concrete from up to 1.3m without breaking. It's also IP68 water and dust resistant which hasn't been common in Motorola flagships until 2023.
The phone is surrounded by a lovely flat metal frame featuring one very interesting button: the Red Key. This key can be customized to launch any app or action with a single press while double-pressing the key will launch a specified ReadyFor action on your PC.
By default, double tapping will “amplify” your phone, which means the app you’re currently using on your phone will appear on your PC instantly, giving you a bit more screen space to work with.
My only issue with this feature is that it opens the app in the same dimensions as the phone, which isn’t always ideal for a wide PC display.
Still, it's pretty magical to be able to drag and drop files between your phone and PC without effort, and sharing a clipboard between devices is sheer genius. Watching my phone instantly copy over text that I just Control-C'd on my laptop isn't just cool, it's incredibly useful.
But that’s only one of the five available functions for double-tapping the Red Key. You can select any and all of the actions to be available when you double-tap the key, giving you one-touch access to file transfer, mirroring your phone’s display, using your phone’s camera as a webcam on your PC, or connecting your phone to an external display.
What’s more impressive than all this is how fast each command is. If I tap the “steam app” function, the app that was on my phone is immediately visible on my ThinkPad’s display. Likewise, tapping files to transfer files immediately opens up File Explorer with my phone’s files visible. It’s incredible, and it’s rare to see devices on Windows and Android work this well together.
Motorola told me that all of these functions are actually available to all Motorola phones with Android 13 through the Ready For app. That's excellent news for PC owners who might not want to — or be able to — buy a ThinkPhone.
Impressively enough, the rest of the phone’s software experience is just as good. Motorola’s Android skin is among my very, very favorites, ushering in a clean, stock-looking interface with a metric ton of features once you start digging in.
Everyone’s favorite Motorola gestures are here — like double-chop the phone to toggle the flashlight, twist it twice to launch the camera, etc — plus a slew of new visual and feature tweaks. It makes Motorola’s skin feel like the perfect balance between Google’s somewhat anemic Pixel skin and Samsung’s loaded (don’t call it bloated) skin.
During any kind of video call, you can use the phone's built-in camera tools to reframe yourself, use auto subject tracking, change background effects, and even use a freeze frame to make it look like you're still there (even when you're not).
Motorola even includes a nifty security center that helps you manage all your app permissions, location data, gives you alerts when connecting to unsecured networks, and even lets you blacklist apps from using data over unsecured networks.
While the phone doesn't feature this year's Snapdragon processor, it uses the same excellent Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 that was found in phones like the OnePlus 10T. That means the performance is nothing short of superb and buttery smooth and the battery life is incredible.
I was able to squeeze nearly 2 days of battery life out of this phone during regular usage — that, despite the phone being very thin — and the included 68W charger will get the phone charged from 0-100% in less than 45 minutes, with a supercharge to 50% in just 15 minutes or so.
You may not expect a “business phone” like this one to play games but, if you want to, Motorola's Gametime software will make it a joy to play even the most graphically-intensive games on the ThinkPhone.
Plus, exceptional features like the Acoustic Lights setting will light up the corners of the screen when you hear things in games like Fortnite, making it easier to know where a sound came from in a game. It's especially great when you're playing mobile games and don't have the sound on very loud (or completely muted).
Last but certainly not least for someone like me is the more PWM-sensitive-friendly display. Most modern flagships utilize extremely low polling rates for OLED displays at low brightness but Motorola seems to have considered this and outfitted the ThinkPhone with a 720Hz PWM display.
This is different from the display's regular refresh rate of 144Hz. PWM-sensitive folks like me get headaches and can feel nauseous when PWM polling is too low, so it's great to see a company paying more attention to this. This is the highest polling rate I've seen on a phone in the U.S. in a while, and that's a great thing.
What could use work
Given that this is a “business phone,” you might expect that the camera wasn't the priority. You would be right.
Now, don't get me wrong, the camera is fine, but it's not going to win any awards or challenge the best Android phones.
I used the ThinkPhone as my only phone for well over a week and took lots of photos and videos with it. I posted plenty of footage to my chickens' Instagram account recorded with the phone and it looks just as good as anything else you'll find on Instagram.
I'm not sure how many people who would buy a phone through a B2B channel would expect that phone to have a good camera, but it's not likely the number is high. In other words, Motorola cut corners where it was needed to hit a price point, and I'm fine with it being this one.
And, to be fair, it's really the only negative thing I have to say about this phone other than its limited distribution. Motorola intended this to be mainly a business phone and designed it around those constraints and that means you can't just walk into a Verizon or AT&T store and pick one up.
Just about any Samsung phone is a good alternative to the ThinkPhone by Motorola, especially if you're using a Windows-based PC. Link to Windows is already a powerful tool built by Microsoft to allow you to send messages, transfer files, share the clipboard, and do several other tasks on your phone from the comfort and ease of your PC.
To further, Samsung and Microsoft have a partnership that opens up several Samsung-exclusive features on the Link to Windows app. As a result, most Samsung phones like the Galaxy A54 5G — pictured above — can do everything the ThinkPhone can and a little bit more. That includes the instant hotspot feature, shared clipboard, and app streaming to your PC.
But not all Samsung phones support DeX, Samsung's equivalent to Motorola's Ready For software. For instance, the Galaxy A54 5G doesn't support DeX but more expensive Samsung flagships do. If it's important for you to use your phone more like a PC in this way, you'll need to spend some more money on a Galaxy S series, instead.
Should you buy it?
At $699, the ThinkPhone is a phenomenal phone for a phenomenal price, especially considering the price you'll likely get through business channels. This is the best phone Motorola has made even at the unlocked price since the Z series. It checks all the right boxes and not only feels like a good value, and it's generally an excellent phone for the price.
Everything from haptics to the IP rating, the processor inside, the tie-ins with Motorola's excellent Ready For software, and that Red Key are all great features that are worth having for any Windows PC user. I've also found that the PWM polling rate of the screen is high enough not to trigger my PWM sensitivity, making this one of the few modern OLED phones that don't hurt my eyes or make me nauseous.
You could get a Samsung Galaxy A54 for cheaper and just use the Link to Windows software to achieve most of the same results as this phone but you'll be missing out on the wireless desktop interface of the ThinkPhone or a more expensive Samsung Galaxy S phone. All said and done, I love what Motorola built here and highly recommend it as a great companion to a ThinkPad PC.