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

You’ve heard of the ThinkPad, the legendary laptop brand known for its durability, aggressively utilitarian business design, and bright red pointing sticks. Get ready now for the Lenovo Think… Phone? The ThinkPhone. A phone supposedly for business use.

ThinkPad was originally an IBM laptop brand before it was acquired by Lenovo, and Lenovo also owns Motorola, which it uses to regularly produce many unattractive mid-range smartphones. It seems no one really knew how to score this, and officially they settled on the clunky “Lenovo ThinkPhone by Motorola”. It’s okay, 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 Kevlar with a ThinkPad-style “ThinkPhone” logo, complete with red dot on the “I”.

And speaking of design marks, while there’s no need for a pointing stick here, there’s a “Red Key” side button, which does its best to mimic the look of a nubbinTrackPoint. It’s not the power button, but it’s a customizable button that you can program to launch an app or other feature.

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

Enlarge / Here you can see the nice logo (does it have to be Motorola branded?) and the Kevlar back.

Motorola

Lenovo’s press release talks about a bunch of enterprise software features, but none of them seem unique either. Under many brands, I see a Secure Element, which comes standard with a Qualcomm chip, a bunch of Android for Work fleet management features, and a rebranded Motorola “Ready For” version. Ready For is now “Think 2 Think” and wirelessly connects a phone to a Windows PC. You’ll see phone notifications in the Windows panel, a unified clipboard, drag-and-drop file support, and easy hotspot features. The phone also comes with Microsoft 365 apps pre-installed.

Is it just me, or is there not enough “ThinkPad” in the ThinkPhone? The hardware looks like a Motorola phone with a new back panel. Replicating the famous square design of a ThinkPad instead of featuring the rounded corners of a Motorola phone would have gone a long way. Just look at the Galaxy S22 for an example of how boxy phones can get. Give that a flat screen and keep the rear curves and you’d have a very boxy but comfortable phone.

Other than the design, it doesn’t look like many of the good business-oriented features of the ThinkPad have made it into the ThinkPhone. Ask someone why they buy a ThinkPad, and they’d probably list (in some order) TrackPoint (N/A on ThinkPhone), design (no), repairability (no), big battery (no) , the keypad (phones used to have keypads, but no), and port selection (none), none of which really succeeded in this phone. “Durability” would also be listed. Is it sustainable? The back isn’t glass, but the front is still Gorilla Glass, so I’m not sure that really matters. ThinkPad is meant to be a brand for business, which means going along with design decisions that drive business uses at the expense of superficial consumer concerns like “style”. A ThinkPad is not a rebranded Lenovo Slim laptop, therefore a ThinkPadPhone shouldn’t be a rebranded Motorola device. It’s a great idea – phones used to have different features and were aimed at different markets – I just want it to result in meaningful enterprise-grade hardware.

The ThinkPhone will be in the “United States, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Australia, and select countries in Asia in the coming months.” There’s no word on pricing yet.

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