Motorola told iFixit not to do a teardown of our broken Razr

We wanted iFixit to inspect what had gone wrong with the foldable. Then the phonemaker intervened.

Raymond Wong / Input

As any Input reader knows by now, we have had some issues with the Razr. As I've previously written, our initial full-tilt excitement for the folding phone was extinguished by a messy, confusing, and issue-laden launch cycle, and any further excitement we had was tamped down when we finally had a chance to review the phone.

After thinking the worst was over, we were further surprised when on February 16 the cover of the screen on the Razr we had been testing with spontaneously split from the display, causing peeling and a very visible bump to appear. At our best guess, we thought perhaps a change in temperature could have caused the break. We reached out to Motorola before we published a piece on the issue to enquire about why it might have happened, and to hopefully get a statement from the company on whether or not this was a widespread issue.

After nearly 24 hours of radio silence from Motorola (unusual when there is a pressing, possibly very negative story brewing about a flagship device), we finally received a response back to our initial email about the screen issues that we'd discovered, requesting that we send our device back to Motorola so that the company could do an "analysis" on what caused the issue. No other statement was included. Normally, this wouldn't be a strange request, but Moto reps we'd been working with went silent on several members of the Input team before, during, and after the launch of the phone. They did eventually respond to us on the screen issue, but it seemed a bit worrying to simply ship off our device and cross our fingers. Keep in mind, this phone was purchased by Input from a Verizon store, not provided by Motorola for review.

Raymond Wong / Input

The next day, while the Input editorial team was going over our options for how to proceed, we received a request for comment from a reporter at CNET working on a story about the device. They'd apparently been told by Motorola that the company had asked us for the phone. This was an unusual thing to hear from another outlet when we hadn't yet told Motorola that we were comfortable handing the device off to them.

Regardless, I thought we had stumbled on a good solution: I had the idea of using a neutral third-party, in this case iFixit, to inspect the phone and give us their take on what might have caused the issues with the screen. That way, everyone could have transparency about the inspection process and the findings. I suggested the concept to Kyle Wiens, iFixit's CEO, and he replied that he was interested and the company would be "happy to take a look." I emailed Motorola early this afternoon with the suggestion that iFixit would be an ideal partner to look at the device and give everyone an idea of what happened. Motorola reps, in keeping with their recent behavior, did not respond. Then things got strange.

At 5:06 p.m. ET, we received an email from a spokesperson at iFixit, stating that "someone on team Moto caught wind of this venture," and as a result, iFixit would be unable to help with inspecting the Razr. "Unfortunately, we’re going to have to decline the physical device examination," they wrote, with no explanation. I emailed back immediately making it clear that Motorola had not "caught wind" of our idea; rather, we explicitly asked if they would be on board with using iFixit to take a look at the phone. Clearly, they were not. Additionally, I asked why iFixit would not be able to inspect the Razr, and they had this to say, "iFixit has a preexisting relationship with Motorola, and we’ve been asked as a personal favor not to take on this particular case."

Almost unbelievably, exactly 30 minutes after receiving the email from iFixit refusing our device, we got this brief message from a Motorola rep:

If you’d like to reach out to iFixit, that’s up to you. I do want to note that, while iFixit is a partner of ours, they typically defer to manufacturers for root cause analysis.

I guess Motorola hasn't heard of email timestamps. Sending a bad faith email like this when you've already instructed the other party to say no sets off a lot of alarm bells.

To be clear, someone at Motorola — instead of reaching out to us to discuss options, or to suggest why iFixit would not be an alternative to their own inspection — emailed or called iFixit and told them not to look at our device. And iFixit complied. Then that same person emailed us to suggest they were open to the option when they clearly were not.

(It's worth noting that this isn't the first time iFixit has been embroiled in this sort of company-led takedown. During the Samsung Galaxy Fold drama, the teardown-experts removed their dissection of the phone at the company's request.)

I'm not sure what to say at this point. Given Motorola's behavior — which simply pours fuel on our preexisting suspicions that we'd been getting the runaround — I simply do not trust the company to inspect the device in secret and offer their explanation with no transparency in the process.

Update: iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens has provided the following statement clarifying its relationship with Motorola.

We decide to tear down devices independent of phone maker wishes. We bought our Razr at retail and tore it down of our own volition without consultation.
To the question of our consultation:We work directly with Motorola selling parts and toolkits for repairing their phones. Motorola is the only major smartphone manufacturer that sells repair parts and supports consumer repair of their products. Our mission is to enable everyone to fix their things, and we are trying to bring parts and tools for all smartphones to consumers. The serviceability of smartphones is a paramount environmental issue.
As a favor to Motorola, we opted to pass on the opportunity to assess your device on the record. We’re not trying to pull punches, after all, we awarded the phone a one out of ten on our repairability scale. We do not “defer to manufacturers for root cause analysis.”