Motorola Edge+ review: Slippery slope

Motorola Edge Plus Review
(Image: © Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: Motorola brings its A-game to the traditional smartphone design space, creating a solid, beautiful, and flawed phone in the process.

Pros

  • +

    Beautiful, striking waterfall display with 90Hz refresh rate

  • +

    Narrow body makes it easy to use with one hand

  • +

    Top-notch specs for mid-2020

  • +

    Excellent, day-plus battery life

  • +

    Moto Display and Moto Action on a modern phone is revelatory

Cons

  • -

    Palm rejection is very bad for a waterfall display

  • -

    Camera is good but doesn't hold up to competition

  • -

    Some lingering software bugs

  • -

    Lacks waterproofing

  • -

    Motorola doesn't have a great software update track record

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I didn't expect to be saying this, but the Motorola Edge+ is my favorite phone of the year so far. It's probably not the best phone of the year, at least for most people, but that doesn't matter. It's a triumph, not just in spite of its flaws but because of them. This is a phone that owns its quirks, that leans into its differences, and that, for better or worse, puts Motorola back on the map in the flagship space.

But it's also going to prove divisive, the least of which because it's only available on one carrier in the U.S., Verizon. At $999, this is by no means the most expensive phone Motorola has released this year — that title belongs to the thoroughly over-engineered and mediocre RAZR — but it's a true flagship, a brand representative, in the way the DROID was back in 2009, the Moto X was all the way back in 2013, and the Moto Z tried to be back in 2016.

Except that we're in a very different time for smartphones than we were in those cycles, and today's challenges are more subtle and ephemeral: when every phone is at least pretty good, and few companies have the marketing budgets of Apple or Samsung, how exactly does one justify releasing a phone like this one?

For me, it comes down to one word: fun. The Motorola Edge+ is fun to use, which makes me want to use it more.

Motorola Edge+ Performance, Design & Software

Motorola Edge Plus

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)
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CategoryMotorola Edge+
Operating SystemAndroid 10
Display6.7-inch OLED
Full HD+
90Hz refresh rate
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 865
RAM12GB LPDDR5
Storage256GB UFS 3.0
Rear Camera 1108MP primary camera
f/1.8
OIS
Rear Camera 216MP ultra-wide & Macro Vision camera
f/2.2
117-degree field-of-view
Rear Camera 38MP
f/2.4
3x optical zoom
OIS
Rear Camera 4Time-of-flight sensor
Front Camera25MP
f/2.0
Battery5,000 mAh
Charging18W wired charging
15W wireless charging
5W wireless power sharing
Dimensions161.07 x 71.38 x 9.6mm
Weight203g

The first and most obvious way the Motorola Edge+ is different than the majority of other smartphones is right there in the name: its edge display. It takes the curved OLEDs that Samsung debuted six years ago and stretches them to nearly-absurd levels, leaving little room for traditional buttons. But Motorola figured it out, placing long stick-like tabs on the right side and giving the power button a nice bit of texture to easily distinguish them.

The phone's top and bottom purposefully contrast with the sloped display by laying flat, decked out with a slightly concave interior that adds a bit of cushion for whatever finger's resting on it. The bottom houses the SIM tray and USB-C port, while the top sports what is now a beleaguered legacy, the 3.5mm headphone jack.

The phone wobbles on a table something fierce, though, owing to the massive left-mounted camera bump. More on that later, but it's a blessing and a curse for this extremely slippery phone — it fell off more than one table, and I had to swap out my bedside charging pad for a stand because it kept falling off the former. In fact, it's so slippery that even in my hand, on a phone call, it felt precarious. Problem is that I don't think the Edge+ would look very good in a case — and every case I've seen for a phone with a waterfall display doesn't work that well, anyway — so I'd recommend just being as gentle as possible with this 203-gram monolith.

This phone's narrow 71mm body, coupled with its 9.6mm thickness, makes it feel dense in a way few phones do anymore. It also tricks you into perceiving a compactness that isn't really there. When I'd only seen this phone in photos, it appeared highly conventional. After using it for a week, it's anything but.

Motorola Edge Plus Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

Motorola has also leaned hard into the sheer numbers that its $1000 cost would suggest: a Snapdragon 865, 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage, and a 5,000mAh battery. There's also a really good in-display fingerprint sensor — based on my digging, it's the same one that's found in the OnePlus 8 Pro and Huawei P40 Pro — and best-in-class haptics. Typing on this thing is honestly a dream.

This is one of the smoothest, most enjoyable Android experiences you can find outside a Pixel.

So it's no surprise that the Edge+ blazes through Android 10, aided by a 90Hz refresh rate no one should mourn for its lack of three digits. This is a really nice 1080p panel — surely not the best, especially at low brightness, where it crushes blacks — but it's easily visible in direct sunlight, has outstanding touch response, and even with the visual aberrations from the curved edges, is a joy to use. Most of the time.

Motorola's done what it can to mitigate aberrant touches on the sides, but by virtue of a few questionable software decisions, it's far from flawless. For instance, merely holding the phone and scrolling through a Twitter feed or a webpage is usually fine, but every once in a while the screen will just stop responding and you'll wonder if the phone locked up or the app crashed. Nope, it's just the fleshy part of your palm making the slightest connection with the very fringe of the edge display registering a touch and preventing your thumb from fulfilling its destiny.

Motorola Edge Plus Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

To its credit, Motorola has thought of this problem, and the fix is pretty ingenious. It's called Edge Touch, and when enabled, adds a thin bar to the right (or left) curve, which works as a multi-function button of sorts. By default, double-tapping the bar shrinks the display so it fits within the narrower confines of the non-curved glass. Best of both worlds, right? Except that occasionally, as with the camera app or the launcher, you can't do it; at other times, as with Instagram, it reforms the layout and cuts off text. Most of the time, though, it just makes me wonder what the point of the edge is in the first place.

But then I remember to take advantage of the other Edge Touch features, and my doubts fade away. Swiping down on the tab brings down the notification shade; swiping up, the multitasking drawer. Swiping in brings up a list of six app shortcuts. You can also change the double-tap functionality to quickly switch between the two previous apps.

You can see the difference in screen scaling when the edge display is enabled (left) and when it is disabled (right). Notice the text is cut off and many of the objects are in the wrong position when the edges are disabled.

The edges do serve some purpose. Motorola's Gametime app puts shoulder buttons on the curved portion of the display, letting you map various on-screen controls to two regions — great for first-person shooters or racing games. But it's just two buttons, so most games will still require a hybrid setup. I played some Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, and Asphalt 9 and never felt quite like the shoulder buttons enhanced my gameplay, but with a bit of tweaking I think they'll be useful for some people.

The curves perform one last visual trick, too: like Samsung's configurable edge display, the Edge+ can light up, runway-style, when you receive a notification or a call. It's great when you have your phone on silent but still want to be informed, but unlike on a Samsung phone, neither the colors nor the intensity is configurable.

Motorola Edge Plus Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

It's really fun looking back at a few years of Motorola design evolution.

So far I've talked about new Motorola features, but the real reason I was excited to use this phone was for the old standbys, the ones I've been evangelizing going on seven years now. Moto Display is still a game-changing benefit, the marriage of notification triage and always-on-display whose usefulness has not been surpassed, or lessened, since its debut on the original Moto X in 2013. Motorola's made minor tweaks to the formula, and made it easier to respond to notifications quickly, but its endearing success is a testament to how forward-thinking the original design was back in the day.

While the phone lacks the sensors to pick up remote movement — no more waving your hand above the screen to activate — the Edge+ does have a higher-quality proximity sensor, making it trivial to bring your hand close to the screen to quickly check the time or see if you've received a notification.

And like those old Motorola phones, twisting your wrist twice opens the camera, and chop-chopping turns on the flashlight. Most of the time, at least. Gesture inconsistency is but one of a few notable software bugs that lingered on my review unit — another is dismally frustrating auto-brightness — that I'm hoping Motorola squares away before this phone's release in mid-May.

Motorola Edge Plus Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

I have lower expectations for this phone's longevity. Motorola claims that the phone will receive two years of bi-monthly security updates and one platform update, which just isn't good enough. Every time I've pushed the company on why it can't promise more than one platform update, it points to the number of app-based updates it's pushing through the Play Store. And while perhaps you could forgive the fact that the $299 Moto G Stylus will only get one update to Android 11 next year, the same isn't true of a $1000 flagship.

Motorola Edge+ Cameras

Motorola Edge Plus Review

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

If Motorola phones have historically had an Achilles' Heel, it's been in the camera department, so I was gratified when I heard the company was pulling no expense in making the Edge+ its best camera yet. And the good news is that it's true — by a mile. The Edge Plus's 108MP primary sensor is mostly fantastic, working with the image signal processor to spit out 27MP — that's quad-binned, for those keeping count — photos.