Back in 2016, and before Apple made it trendy, Motorola yanked the headphone jack from its phones. The following year was the last time it made a high-end Android phone. And in 2020, it’s hoping for a comeback. The Moto Edge Plus is its first honest attempt to compete with the wave of $ 1,000+ devices on the market now, and to do it the company is bringing back that 3.5mm audio jack it cast aside.
The new phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless starting May 14 and packs all the features you’d expect to find, from excellent battery life to a silky-smooth display. But 2020 has quickly devolved into the year of the pandemic and with more than 26 million Americans unemployed, it’s tough to stomach yet another $ 1,000 phone. Thankfully, an unlocked and cheaper Moto Edge is coming this summer.
Despite its high price, the Edge Plus isn’t free from quirks, either.
The best part of the Edge Plus is its massive 5,000-mAh battery. It never struggles to last two full days, morning till night. And that’s with me streaming a bunch of Dracula on Netflix, snapping photos of my dog with the camera, playing a few games, and catching up on all the TikTok videos my partner sends me. That battery capacity makes it a chunky phone, but because it’s very narrow I didn’t have a hard time using it one-handed.
Inside is Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 processor, the same chip powering rival phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20. That processor keeps the device operating smoothly, even with a speedy 90 Hz screen. This means the screen refreshes 90 times per second, making scrolling and moving around the operating system feel noticeably more fluid than a typical 60 Hz display.
The screen gets just bright enough to see outside on sunny days, the stereo speakers are really loud (they sound as good as a dirt-cheap Bluetooth speaker!), and the in-display fingerprint sensor on the front hasn’t given me much trouble. You also get 256 GB of internal storage (there’s no MicroSD card slot), and it’s great to see the headphone jack make a return for folks that prefer the cord.
The Edge Plus is also water resistant, but it doesn’t have an IP68 certification like most flagships. Motorola didn’t bother to pay for the rating, but it claims its own tests match the spec. I left the phone submerged in water for about 25 minutes and it still works, but official testing would give buyers peace of mind, considering the high price.
Motorola didn’t want to stop at flagship specs for its big return to premium phones. It also added what’s known as a “waterfall display,” which is when the screen bleeds into its edges at an almost 90-degree angle. I … don’t like it. It harkens back to the days of Samsung’s Galaxy phones that curve into the edges (which Samsung itself has moved away from), but it’s much worse here because you’re almost always gripping glass instead of a metal frame.
By minimizing the bezels around the OLED screen as much as possible, yes, the screen looks gorgeous. But touching this 90-degree, curved glass 24/7 doesn’t feel great. The edges reflect a lot of light, and there are moments where my grip interrupts touch interactions on the screen. Apps also stretch into the edges, which can make some content hard to read. Thankfully, you can force every app to stay out of the curved area by toggling off the Edge Display (Settings > Display > Edge Display).
Some sections of the 6.7-inch display also have this strange, grainy look when brightness is set to very low levels. I only noticed it when reading in the dark in bed. Motorola says it has received a few inquiries about this and is assessing “future updates as needed.”
There are more quirks. For example, you can twist the phone twice to launch the camera (a longtime Moto feature), but you’ll hear a bizarre clicking sound as though a little marble is stuck inside a box. A Motorola spokesperson told me the noise is caused by the ball bearings used in the optical image stabilization mechanism for the camera, and that “this does not damage the camera in any way.” I shook every other phone in my vicinity (a lot of them) and the OnePlus 8 Pro and Galaxy S20 Ultra did make a sound, it’s just much louder and noticeable on the Moto, and it happens even when the camera is turned on. It scares me.
The phone also does not stay flat on a desk. Many phones don’t these days, but the Edge Plus rocks egregiously. So much so that trying to use it on a table is a noisy affair. I also have encountered some issues with wireless charging—it only works on one of my three chargers. Motorola says it hasn’t seen problems with the 10 most popular wireless chargers Verizon sells (and that it has its own wireless charger). Your mileage might vary.
Did I mention that Motorola will not promise two annual Android version upgrades for this $ 1,000 phone?
“We will support with software updates as frequently and for as long as we feel it benefits our consumers,” a spokesperson told me. “While we don’t have an absolute commitment to numbers of upgrades, Edge consumers can expect security updates every other month and an upgrade to Android 11 OS this year. Additionally, we’re looking to the Play Store updates to bring new features and address consumer concerns faster.”
If you buy this phone, you may or may not see an update after 2020. Apple’s new $ 400 iPhone SE will likely be updated for five years.
There are two camera trends in most new smartphones: a triple-camera array and a huge megapixel count. The Edge Plus has both of these, with a 108-megapixel main camera. It’s joined by a 16-megapixel ultrawide angle camera and an 8-megapixel zoom camera. By default, the photo output is 27 megapixels because the camera merges four pixels into one to absorb more light. It means better low-light photos, but you can also snap 108-megapixel photos to capture as much detail as possible.
The results are impressive. In good lighting, my biggest qualms are that some photos look a bit over-sharpened, lacking in contrast, and that the cameras are inconsistent in quality. As the sun sets, Motorola’s Night mode comes in handy (and you’ll want to use it as regular low-light photos aren’t great). It merges multiple exposures together for a better-exposed photo, and it manages to maintain a good deal of detail (though it’s much less forgiving to any kind of camera shake than other night modes). It’s not nearly as good as the Pixel 4’s Night Sight though—the Edge Plus’ photos often look like they’ve been drained of color.
Most of the photos I snapped with the ultrawide angle camera aren’t sharp, and you can’t use Night mode here so I didn’t find it too helpful. The 3x optical zoom camera is similarly not great at night, but the photos it captures when there’s plenty of light around are well-detailed. I’d recommend skipping Motorola’s Portrait mode, as it often makes a lot of errors with what it chooses to blur, but the 108-megapixel mode produces a nice, natural bokeh effect for up-close subjects, so it’s no huge loss. Rounding it off is 6K video recording (yes, that’s even more than 4K), which I can’t really experience anywhere in its full glory because I have no 6K monitor. I recommend you film at 4K instead.
A Semi-Promising Return
And, if you care, it has 5G, too. I’ve yet to naturally find any Verizon 5G zones near me so I haven’t had the luxury of experiencing crazy fast internet speeds, but it’s there if you’re on a supported (more expensive) data plan.
I’d like this phone a whole lot more if it didn’t have a display that waterfalled over its edges and if it was a couple hundred (or more) bucks cheaper. I much prefer the OnePlus 8 Pro’s screen, and the Pixel 4 is still my favorite camera phone if that’s your priority. Both of those phones are cheaper and are guaranteed to get at least two years of updates, if not more. That’s why they’re two of our favorite Android phones.
The Edge Plus is a solid return to flagship phones for Motorola, but I wish the hundred megapixels and two-day battery life didn’t come with a lot of quirks and a sky-high price tag.