Motorola was at the forefront of cell phones for decades, but it never quite found its footing in the smartphone era. Early hits like the original Droid and Droid X bring nostalgia, but are also a brutal reminder: Motorola hasn't really made a standout smartphone in almost a decade, unless you count budget phones like the Moto X and G series. Cut to 2020—it's been several years since Motorola even made a flagship phone, and after the disaster that were Moto Mods, it's taking a real risk with the 5G-equipped, Verizon-exclusive Edge+.

Naturally, just as Moto is getting ready for its big reboot, a global pandemic tanks the economy and traps us all indoors where mmWave 5G doesn't work. Okay, that's bad luck for Motorola, but maybe the phone is still good? Well, it's not bad. I'd even say it's impressive in some ways. However, it's not competitive with OnePlus or Samsung, and you really have to be when asking $1,000 for a smartphone.

Specs

SoC Snapdragon 865
RAM 12GB
Storage 256GB
Display 6.7-inch 1080p OLED, 90Hz refresh
Battery 5,000mAh battery, 18W wired charging, 15W wireless charging
Cameras 108MP main, 16MP ultra-wide, 8MP telephoto; 25MP selfie
Software Android 10 "My UX"
Headphone jack Yes
Measurements 161.1 x 71.4 x 9.6 mm, 203g
Connectivity Millimeter wave and sub-6 5G, Wi-Fi 6, BT 5.1

The Good

Striking design The extreme screen curve makes the Edge+ stand out, even when seen from a distance.
Software Motorola's mostly stock take on Android is smooth and not overloaded with features you'll never use.
Headphone jack Motorola led the charge to leave the headphone jack behind, but it's one of the few OEMs still offering one.
Performance The Edge+ is fast, has ample memory, and the 90Hz screen is smooth.

The Not So Good

Too much curve The extreme curve leads to UI awkwardness and accidental touches.
Camera Camera bugs cause some bizarre processing behavior.
Charging Limited to 18W fast charging, potential overheating during wireless charging.
Bloatware You'll probably have to uninstall or disable more than a dozen apps on this phone.
Size The Edge+ is seriously thick and heavy.
Verizon You can only get the Edge+ on Verizon.
5G Verizon's mmWave 5G is still a bad experience, if you can even find it.
Updates Motorola's update support is historically lacking, and it has only confirmed one major OS update so far.
IP rating It doesn't have one, which is odd for a $1,000 phone.
Pricing $1,000 is still a lot to spend on a phone, and this is not the best $1,000 phone.

Design, hardware, what's in the box

The Motorola Edge+ is big and slippery, even in the context of today's oversized glass slabs. It, of course, has glass on the front and back, but even the aluminum midframe has glossy paint to help it blend in with the rest of the chassis. It's 9.6mm thick, which is even more girthy than the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The mega-slippery Edge+ tends to try and jump out of my pocket when I'm sitting in a chair, which once caused it to fall onto a tile floor. That modest fall chipped the paint on the frame noticeably, which makes me worry about the phone's long-term durability (see below). It's probably also going to be hard to make cases work well with that curved screen, and it seems awfully exposed without one.

The back glass panel has a sort of "refraction" effect that looks interesting, but it's still a fingerprint magnet, and the only color is this subdued blue-gray. The phone has wireless charging, but there's no Mod connector back there. Motorola refuses to conform Mods are dead, but I imagine they'll quietly vanish from Moto's site at some point. The power button and volume rocker on the right edge are easy to find and have good tactile feedback, but they wobble worryingly in the frame.

The display curves almost 90-degrees downward (more on that shortly), so there's only a little of the frame visible on the left and right edge. The hole-punch camera is small and tucked away in the corner, and it doesn't make the status bar weirdly large like on some phones. The top and bottom edges are mostly flat—I say "mostly" here because they technically bow inward ever so slightly. I don't recall ever seeing a phone do this before. There's a USB-C port on the bottom next to a speaker. The earpiece acts as a second speaker for stereo sound, and this phone gets loud. It's one of the better audio experiences you'll get on Android right now, particularly because there's a headphone jack on the top, too. It's funny that Moto was the first OEM to drop the headphone jack, but now it's one of the few using it again.

Left: Headphone jack on the top, Right: Chipped paint on the bottom

The 6.7-inch OLED display has a very tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio (1080 x 2340), but it feels even narrower because of the extreme curve. The curve looks interesting, but it doesn't do any favors for usability. The UI bleeds around the edge to a much greater degree than a OnePlus 8 or older Samsung phones—some elements like scroll bars aren't even visible because they're basically on the side of the phone. I've also seen issues with accidental touches registering on the edges. It's not as bad as I expected given the mega-curviness, but I do unintentionally pull down the notification shade several times a day. Honestly, the time for curved screens has passed now that even Samsung is flattening its devices, but here's Motorola going hard the other way. It's just unnecessary.

While I'm not a fan of the extreme curve, the panel itself is solid. The 1080p resolution won't bother you unless you've got a 1440p display right next to it, and the brightness is good enough for outdoor use. The 90Hz refresh rate makes the UI look buttery smooth, too. There's also an optical fingerprint sensor under the screen, and it gets the job done. Accuracy has been good, but unlocking takes a beat longer than I'd like, and the sensor is slightly too low. It's about on par with OnePlus' optical sensor performance last year. The new OnePlus 8 is noticeably faster, though.

The packaging is predictably sparse—you get the phone and the charger, and that's it. There are no earbuds or adapters, and Motorola doesn't have an ecosystem of add-ons to sell you without the Mod connector.

Software, performance, and battery

Motorola's take on Android should be familiar by now because it's scarcely changed in years. Features like Moto Display and Moto Actions are still headlining, and they're still very good. The Edge+ has sensors to wake up Moto Display when you reach toward the phone, and the large notification icons make it easy to see what's up without waking up the phone. Meanwhile, Moto Actions lets you activate the flashlight or camera with a quick shake.

I've noted a distinct lack of software innovation from Motorola in recent years. I wouldn't say it's made great strides with the Edge+, but it's trying at least. There's a new floating control bar called Edge Touch that gives you quick access to apps, the notification shade, and multitasking with swipe actions. You can also double-tap the bar to toggle the edge display on and off. That re-flows apps to keep them primarily on the flat part of the display, limiting the UI melt over the edge. However, I've noticed a few apps don't remember that setting between sessions. In addition, you can't disable the edge display on the home screen, Moto app, and a few other places.

 

Left: Edge display on, Right: Edge display off

The other big software change is the addition of Moto Gametime, which includes some common features like notification and call blocking, brightness tweaks, and so on. The most interesting element of Gametime is the option to have virtual shoulder buttons on the curved edge of the display. Like gaming phones with physical shoulder buttons, there's a screen-mapping interface where you can connect the buttons to on-screen controls in games like PUBG and Fortnite. It's a good effort, but the buttons are awkwardly angled and rather hard to hit reliably.

Motorola's software still sticks close to stock Android 10, but this is a Verizon phone. That means the Edge+ comes with so, so much bloatware. There are Verizon apps like Message+, but there are also numerous apps and games pre-loaded, and odds are you won't want any of them. Thankfully, almost all the bloat can be uninstalled, and most of the rest can be disabled.

So far, Motorola has only committed to updating the Edge+ to Android 11 this year, along with security patches every other month. Anything beyond that is a guess, but Moto does not have a great track record when it comes to updates.

With the Snapdragon 865, the Motorola Edge+ is a very fast phone. Apps open instantly, and there's no sketchy memory management a la OnePlus. With 12GB of RAM, your apps can remain in the background for ages. The only time I feel like I'm waiting on the phone is when unlocking with the in-display fingerprint sensor.

Battery life with the 5,000mAh cell is solid as well. Keeping in mind my usage is somewhat different in quarantine, I'm getting about a day and a half of moderate use with seven-ish hours of screen time. That's with LTE as there's no Verizon 5G inside my house (obviously). I'd consider that above average for a 4G experience, but charging is a bit behind the times. The Edge+ supports 18W wired charging, which is slower than either the OnePlus 8 or Galaxy S20. It claims to support 15W wireless charging, but my unit has overheated several times on a 15W wireless pad, causing it to stop charging altogether. There's 5W reverse wireless charging, and I actually quite like how Motorola illuminates the edge display to help you find the coil position.

Cameras

My first test photos with the Edge+ were impressive, but the more photos I took, the more Motorola's processing fell apart under scrutiny. The main 108MP sensor can take some phenomenal outdoor photos with rich colors and incredible detail. The sensor is huge, so you're dealing with a narrow depth-of-field, and that can make the edges of a frame look slightly soft. That's not usually too noticeable, but Motorola's processing bugs seem to exasperate the issue.

Like a lot of phones, the Edge+ captures multiple frames and merges them to create the final version. For some reason, I've seen several instances of artifacts from multiple frames remaining in the final—for example, the phantom hand below. Subtle textures like the dog's fur also tend to look like they've been clone stamp filled in Photoshop. These photos have shutter speeds around 1/700s, so this really should not be happening. Motorola says it's aware of the issue and a fix is in the works.

The "phantom hand" problem pops up occasionally in Motorola Edge+ photos.

With indoor light, I could best describe the Edge+ photos as "inconsistent." Sometimes it does as well as a OnePlus 8, but other times photos come out looking soft or with distorted textures as mentioned above. While I love some of the images I've gotten with the Edge+ outside, I can't say the same for indoor shots.

Motorola also has AI scene detection in the camera app, which is a common feature in modern phones. The idea is that the app can tell if you're taking a picture of people, landscapes, food, or something else and tweak your image settings. The adjustments are usually of dubious benefit on the phones I've tested in the past, but that's not even the biggest problem here. The Edge+ is bad at identifying what's in the picture. It's convinced my dog is food, which is disturbing.

This has happened multiple times.

I have to applaud Motorola for including cameras with three different focal lengths—and none of them are useless macro cameras. You get the primary sensor, an ultra-wide, and a 3x telephoto. The Edge+ has the potential to be a good camera, but Motorola has to work out its processing glitches first.

Should you buy it?

Motorola Edge+
6.5/10

Probably not. It wasn't that long ago that a $1,000 phone sounded insane, but here we are with all the best phones hovering around that lofty price. Sadly, the Motorola Edge+ can't compete with devices like the OnePlus 8 Pro or Galaxy S20. I'd recommend either of those phones before the Edge+, and try as it might, Verizon will not convince me that millimeter wave will put Moto over the top. The Edge+ is not a bad phone, but it does have some glaring issues that make it a tough sell when there are so many other excellent options.

While the Edge+ has a striking design that makes a good first impression, the era of curved displays is ending, and this one is curvier than any other. I suspect Motorola was looking for a gimmick to make the Edge+ stand out, but it's not good for usability. I don't want parts of the UI to be on the side of the phone where I can't see them, and the accidental touches are an annoyance that would be solved by a flat panel (or at least one that isn't quite so curved). The phone is so thick and heavy that I'm constantly worried I'll drop it, or it'll slide out of my pocket (again). I was probably lucky the paint only chipped because the screen seems very exposed.

I had hoped Motorola could buck its tradition of mediocre camera performance, and for a time, it looked like it would. However, processing bugs have dashed those hopes, even though I've taken some great outdoor shots with it. The Edge+ camera has potential, but it's not there yet. Motorola promises fixes are on the way for the camera, and I'll reevaluate when and if that happens.

The Motorola Edge+ is a valiant effort, but that's not enough when there are excellent devices like the OnePlus 8 Pro and Galaxy S20 that cost the same or less. The more I use this phone, the more I feel like Motorola has misread the room. Being almost as good as a Galaxy S20 might be a real accomplishment for Motorola after several years focusing on the mid-range, but "almost" doesn't sell phones.

Buy it if...

You want mmWave 5G with a fast, almost stock Android experience, and you don't take a lot of pictures.

Don't buy it if...

You prefer a phone with better design and camera performance and don't care about mmWave.

Where to buy

The Motorola Edge+ is exclusive to Verizon in the US. You'll be able to get one on May 14th for $1,000, or $41.66 per month for 24 months.

One month later, modest improvements just aren't enough

I've been using the Edge+ over the last few weeks to evaluate how Motorola updates the phone post-launch. There's been a full system update, and I was hoping that might address the sensitivity of the curved display. Unfortunately, I'm still constantly getting accidental touches on the curve when I'm holding the phone. It's become sufficiently infuriating that I turn the edge display off in almost every app. This would be a better phone without the curved screen or at least a more restrained curve. Going in the other direction was a bad call on Moto's part.

Motorola has also updated its camera app, and I'm happy to report it no longer thinks my dog is food. So, that's a step in the right direction. Although, the shop optimization AI still doesn't seem very useful. As for the camera itself, it's improved modestly. I haven't seen any more phantom hands, but image processing does still chew up detail more than I'd like. At the same time, I've taken some really stunning photos with this phone—mostly outdoors and objects without too much intricacy. If Motorola can work out these last few issues, it could have a fantastic camera.

I was hoping the Edge+ hardware would become less annoying over time, but I still feel like it's far too heavy and thick. It's not a comfortable phone to use or carry, and I place the blame squarely on 5G. Ths phone needs a giant battery and lots of antennas to be usable on Verizon's tiny 5G network.  For now (and probably for years to come), millimeter wave 5G is not worth these drawbacks.

The $1,000 launch price was another problem for the Edge+. Unsurprisingly, that has been a tough sell. Verizon has dropped the Edge+ to $799 when purchased on a payment plan ($33.33 per month for 24 months). That's where the phone should have been at launch, and I'd like to see the retail price drop to match. Although, that might not happen with the non-plus Edge launching this summer.

This is not a great phone, but it's getting better. However, I'm not going to recommend anyone purchase an expensive phone based on its potential. Hopefully, Motorola can learn from the Edge+ and make its next phone better out of the gate.