January 27, 2023

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Lenovo puts the legendary ThinkPad brand on a phone: Meet ThinkPhone

You’ve heard of ThinkPad—a legendary laptop brand known for durability, rugged, utilitarian business design, and bright red pointing sticks—now get ready for the Lenovo Think… Phone? ThinkPhone. A phone that is meant to be for business use.

ThinkPad was originally IBM’s laptop brand before Lenovo bought it, and Lenovo also owns Motorola, which it regularly uses to pump out lots of unexciting mid-range smartphones. It seems no one was quite sure how to tell this, and officially, they settled on the awkward “Lenovo ThinkPhone by Motorola.” That’s fitting, though, because there’s a lot of Motorola DNA in this phone — it looks like a generic Motorola phone from the front, and the back is woven in Kevlar with the ThinkPad-style ThinkPad logo, complete with a red dot above the “i.”

And speaking of design trademarks, though there’s no need for a pointing stick here, there’s a “red switch” side button, which does its best to emulate the TrackPoint nubbin’ look. This isn’t a power button, but a customizable button that you can program to launch an app or some other feature.

Specifications could be better. This will launch in the “coming months” with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 — several Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 phones have already been announced and will be in the market by then. There’s 8GB or 12GB of RAM, 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB UFS 3.1 storage options, and a 5,000mAh battery. The screen is a 6.6-inch 60Hz OLED, which can extend battery life a bit. It features IP68 water resistance, Wi-Fi 6E, an in-display fingerprint sensor, 15W wireless charging, and 68W wired charging. There are three rear cameras (too much for a business phone, right?): a 50MP main camera, a 13MP ultra-wide camera, and a depth sensor. There is also a 32MP front camera. You might expect a ThinkPad to have a microSD slot, removable battery, dock, or any unique hardware features at all, but you’d be wrong.

Zoom in / Here you can see the nice logo (should it be Motorola branded?) and the Kevlar back.

Motorola

Lenovo’s press release talks about a handful of business software features, but none of them seem unique either. Under a lot of branding, I see a secure item, which comes standard with a Qualcomm chip, and a set of Android for Work Fleet management features and a new release from Motorola “Ready for. Ready For is now Think 2 Think and connects a phone wirelessly to a Windows PC. You’ll see phone notifications in the Windows panel, a unified clipboard, drag-and-drop file support, and easy hotspot capabilities. The phone also comes with Microsoft 365 apps pre-installed.

Is it just me or is there not enough “ThinkPad” in ThinkPhone? The device looks like a Motorola phone with a new back panel. Replicating the ThinkPad’s popular boxy design rather than accentuating the Motorola phone’s rounded corners would have gone a long way. Just look at the Galaxy S22 for an example Just how boxy it is Phones can get. Give that flat front screen and keep the curves in the back and you’ll have a very boxy yet comfortable phone.

Design aside, a lot of the good business-friendly ThinkPad characteristics don’t seem to have made it to the ThinkPhone. Ask someone why they bought a ThinkPad and they’ll likely list (in some order) TrackPoint (N/A on ThinkPhone), design (no), repairability (no), large battery (no), and keyboard (phones used to have keyboards, but no), port selection (nope), none of which actually made it to this phone. Durability will also be listed. Is this permanent? The back isn’t glass, but the front is still plain Gorilla Glass, so I’m not sure that really matters. ThinkPad is meant to be a business brand, which means being OK with design decisions that advance business uses over superficial consumer concerns like “style.” The ThinkPad is not a brand new Lenovo Slim laptop, so thinkPhone It should not be a rebranded Motorola device. This is a great idea – the phones had different features and were aimed at different markets – I just want it to result in meaningful devices aimed at business.

The ThinkPhone will be in “the United States, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Australia, and select countries across Asia in the coming months.” There is no price information yet.

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