Thirty years ago, the ThinkPad laptop entered the market and changed the face of mobile business computing. The series of latops offered a mobile platform that was sturdy, reliable and ultimately extremely reliable. IBM sold the brand to Lenovo in 2005 and ThinkPad has remained at the top of corporate computing ever since. To celebrate the anniversary of the ThinkPad brand this year, Lenovo tasked their phone division Motorola to come up with a phone, and the ThinkPhone by Motorola was born.
The ThinkPhone embodies all the design stylings, raw power and functionality of the ThinkPad brand, with the addition of tools to seamlessly connect your laptop and ThinkPhone together and offer a more cohesive experience.
The ThinkPhone has top of the line specs, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB of on-board storage with a 50MP AI camera on the rear, 6.6-inch AMOLED display on the front and a true ‘All-Day’, 5,000 mAh battery powering it with 68W fast charging to boot. The phone runs Motorola’s MyUX over Android 13, offering the signature Motorola gestures, visual customations and their ‘Ready For’ features as well as the Think2Think software to connect your phone to your laptop.
The phone is priced at $999, a fair step under many of the flagship phones on the market, but it is a stacked market, so is it worth the $999? Well, I spent the last two weeks with the ThinkPhone by Motorola and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
For the ThinkPhone the Motorola engineers were tasked with distilling the design and hardware essence of a ThinkPad into a phone. This means it’s got Mil-spec (810H) and IP (IP68) ratings, so it’s able to take a fall, get submerged in water and survive environments most phones won’t – just like a ThinkPad. To achieve this, they’ve used an Aramid Kevlar fibre weave on the rear which is stronger than steel, with an Aircraft grade aluminium frame underneath. There’s also Gorilla Glass Victus over the pOLED (plastic OLED) display on the front to avoid any scratches and protect from drops as well.
Their design remit must have extended to the colour options for the phone, so there’s only one colour available, traditional ThinkPad Black, so if you’re into the ThinkPad, you know what you’re getting into. That black is offset by the striking red key on the side, a nod to the iconic TouchPoint on the ThinkPad line of laptops. The Red key is customisable so you can open any app or perform functions with a single press. There’s the usual volume buttons and power buttons on the other side of the phone which are solid and have a satisfying click to them when pressed.
There’s a USB-C port on the bottom of the phone between the SIM tray and bottom firing speaker which pairs with the earpiece to offer stereo sound which is powered by Dolby Atmos, so you get some decent quality audio out of the phone. The SIM tray offers support for dual SIM, but not for using microSD cards to expand memory which is disappointing, but with 256GB of storage on-board it’s not a dealbreaker.
Overall the phone feels solid but doesn’t feel heavy in the hand and it’s got a slim profile too so it fits in your pocket nicely without any dramas – even when you put the phone into the plastic shell that comes in the box to add even further protection.
The hardware included in the phone is flagship level, though starting to lag, so the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is slightly behind the Gen 2 that has recently started appearing – though you won’t find any lag when opening apps, playing games or doing anything on the phone. There’s 8GB of RAM and 256GB of onboard storage included and of course a big 5,000mAh battery to power it all through the day.
The display is a 6.6-inch FHD+ resolution (2400×1800) pOLED with 144Hz refresh rate support which makes the phone look extremely fast with excellent transitions and smooth scrolling. The panel isn’t an LTPO OLED, so minimum refresh rate is 60Hz and if you use 144Hz it will impact battery life, though I still got through a full day with no issues.
The display supports 10-bit colour, which gives you over 1-billion colours in your pallet as well as DCI-P3 colour space. Overall it’s a vibrant, colour rich display that looks fantastic. It also supports HDR10+ so watching movies gives you a fantastic range of colours and the deep blacks of OLED displays.
The fingerprint scanner is built-in to the display, offering fast, easy access to the device. It’s easy to reach the centred sensor on the display with either left or right hand, but is located towards the bottom of the screen which can be a little unwieldy at times when holding the phone in one hand.
The phone display has a max peak brightness of 1200nits which makes it a real joy to use in any lighting condition. You can see the screen in full, bright sunlight and it’s extremely bright at night – but thankfully the auto-brightness control kicks in well before it blinds you when checking the time on your phone at 3am.
The ThinkPhone, like many Motorola phones in their range these days, comes with a 5,000mAh battery. That battery is charged with fast charge support on the 68W charger included in the box.
The battery offers all-day use with no issues, with most days getting easily into the second day before needing to charge. Charging is as fast as you’d expect with around 35% charge gained back in just 15 minutes and the battery charged to full in just over 50 minutes. You can also wirelessly charge the ThinkPhone, though it supports a more sedate 15W charging, which is more suited to trickle charging on a desk during the day or overnight.
The ThinkPhone includes a triple camera array on the rear consisting of a 50MP main camera, 13MP ultrawide sensor and a depth sensor. There’s also a 32MP Wide front-facing camera in a punch hole notch in the display.
The 50MP sensor uses pixel binning to produce a 12MP shot, stacking the images over each other for an enhanced image. You can use the full 50MP Ultra-Res sensor if you want though. The standard images from the camera are good in most conditions with a very nice portrait mode thanks to the depth sensor on the rear.
The low-light processing offers good results, with images snapped in almost complete darkness showing up though with a fair amount of grain.
The Ultra-Wide shot delivers a 12.5MP photo, though without the stacking of the larger 50MP sensor. It’s a fairly decent shot and the UltraWide sensor has the additional benefit of acting as a macro lens.
The ThinkPhone runs Android 13 with Motorola’s MyUX software – a very light enhancement to Android 13 rather than a full blown skin which incorporates a number of gestures,
Out of the box, the phone runs Android 13 with a Dec 1st Security Patch and November Google Play update. There is an Over The Air (OTA) update ready to go though which brings the March 1st 2023 Security and Google Play updates. Motorola has promised there will be three years of Android system updates included with the ThinkPhone with four years of security updates – though this is split somewhat, with Motorola advising the first three years of security updates will be monthly, with the last year of support offering bimonthly updates.
The ThinkPhone by Motorola also includes ‘Protected by Thinkshield’ security on the phone which offers another layer of mobile security for your device. ThinkShield offers ‘Business-grade security’ for your device, ensuring the hardware and software on the device is secure at all points in the supply chain. It also includes secure boot, protects against phising and network attacks and carries FIPS140-2 certification, and it’s recommended by Google in their ‘Android Enterprise Recommended’ program.
The MyUX Software on the ThinkPhone offers some bonuses for users, with the gesture support offering new ways to launch the flashlight (Chop), take photos (Twist), launch apps (double tap the rear), screenshot (three finger swipe), or even just letting you flip the phone to enable Do Not Disturb Mode. There’s also their ‘Ready For’ software which has been included on the past couple of generations of Motorola devices – in essence, Ready For is a way to put your content on larger screens, letting you play games or mirror your device onto a TV or monitor. For this latest launch, Motorola have also introduced two new features: Moto Secure and Family Spaces – while not exclusive to ThinkPhone, these two new apps will be included on Motorola phones going forward.
The Moto Secure App will give users more control over their privacy and security, letting them manage network security and control app permissions, all in one place. The Moto Secure App will also allow users to create a secret folder protected by a pin for their most sensitive data.
Motorola is introducing Family Space, a designated “safe space” on devices where ‘kids can learn and play’. In Family Space, parents or guardians can tailor the space to only leave select apps accessible as well as setting limits on screen time and even create multiple profiles to ensure there’s a clear separation of data. The aim is to promote ‘healthy digital experiences’ says Motorola, as well as helping keep unwanted or inappropriate content away from little ones.
Of course there’s some pre-installed apps that won’t be to everyones taste. There’s a smattering of utilities pre-installed, including Dolby Atmos, Recorder software and the Moto app itself, but you’ll also find Microsoft apps (Teams, Outlook, OneDrive, One Note, Authenticator and Office 365) already loaded when you first load up the phone. Of course if you use Microsoft services this is great, but if not you can spend some time uninstalling these before continuing.
Overall, the MyUX software remains relatively bloat-free and offers thoughtful customisations which add to the utility of Android 13.
Think 2 Think
With the launch of the Thinkphone, Motorola have also launched Think 2 Think software as part of the Ready For assistant for Windows Laptops.To Get these features you’ll need to install the ReadyFor assistant for Windows from the Microsoft store, and no, sorry Mac OS users, there are no Mac friendly options.
There’s a good deal you can do with the software, making the pairing of the ThinkPhone to a laptop a more cohesive experience. The highlights though include:
– Instant Connect: Phone and PC seamlessly discover when nearby and connect over WiFi.
– Unified Clipboard: Seamlessly transfer copied text or recent photos, scanned documents and videos between devices by pasting into any app on the destination device.
– Unified Notifications: Phone notifications instantly appear on the Windows Action Center. Clicking a notification auto-launches the corresponding phone app on the PC’s screen.
– File Drop: Easily drag and drop files between ThinkPhone and PC.
– App Streaming: Open any Android application directly on a PC.
– Advanced Webcam: Take advantage of the powerful ThinkPhone cameras and AI capabilities, seamlessly using it as your webcam for all your video calls.
– Instant Hotspot: Connect to the internet through one click, directly from the PC to leverage the ThinkPhone’s 5G connectivity.
Some of the cool things I found was the ability to select ‘Open on PC’ by long pressing on an app and using the phones much higher quality camera as your PC Webcam.
Should you buy this phone?
The Motorola ThinkPhone is one of Motorola’s better efforts over the past few years, bringing together everything that makes the ThinkPad special. It has the durability that mobile workers need on the road, with great specs and software features.
There are phones out there with a slightly newer processor, or better cameras, but overall the ThinkPhone offers a great option for both business and consumer customers wanting a phone that just works well.
There is stiff competition for the ThinkPhone though, with the Pixel 7 offering an improved camera for a slightly cheaper price, while you can also jump up to the Find X5 Pro from OPPO or even into the Galaxy S series from Samsung for not too much more – both of which offer improved cameras, but without the durability features of the ThinkPhone.
Overall, the ThinkPhone offers a lot for mobile workers, or anyone needing more integration between their laptop and phone. It’s a good list of features and you should definitely check it out if you’re looking in this range – the only shame for my mind is that there’s no bundle deals with a ThinkPad laptop.