Motorola returns to flagship phones with the Edge Plus

Motorola is making flagship phones again. The company’s new Edge Plus (along with the slightly less powerful Edge) marks Motorola’s reentry into the top tier of mobile phones, a space that it hasn’t really competed in since the first-generation Moto Z was released in 2016.

The result is the $999 Edge Plus, which has a 6.7-inch, FHD+ OLED panel, a Snapdragon 865 processor, 5G support with mmWave radios, a 90Hz refresh rate, 12GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage, a 5,000mAh battery, and even a 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s also a triple rear camera system, which is led by a 108-megapixel sensor that looks to compete (at least, on paper) with phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra or Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Alpha.

It’s an impressive list of specs, especially for a company that’s become better known for making the best budget phones around in recent years — even if it reads a whole lot like the spec list for every other major Android flagship on the market.

Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

The 6.7-inch display (the biggest Motorola has ever put on a phone) is one of the areas Motorola is highlighting as a major differentiator, featuring what the company calls an “edge display” design. While curved screens aren’t really new — Samsung and OnePlus have had them for years — what Motorola is doing here is a much more aggressive design, similar to the “waterfall”-style displays that companies like Oppo and Vivo have been using. The company claims that the display curves at an almost 90-degree angle down the side of the phone.

Motorola is trying to use the edge displays in a few unique ways, such as lighting it up for notifications and alarms or using it to show charge percentage when you plug in the phone. There are also some swipe gestures that take advantage of the extra space and a plan to allow for games to use that area for virtual shoulder buttons (although I wasn’t able to demo that feature when I tried out the phone back in February).

The other major spec Motorola is focusing on is the camera, which boasts a 108-megapixel sensor and shoots quad-pixel 27-megapixel stills by default, (although you can, in theory, shoot at the full 108-megapixel size if you’d like). It’s also capable of shooting up to 6K video.

Joining that is an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with optical image stabilization (OIS) that promises a 3x optical zoom, a 16-megapixel ultrawide lens that has a macro feature for close-up detail shots, a time-of-flight sensor, and a 25-megapixel front-facing camera. It’s an impressive spec sheet, but Motorola has struggled in the past with cameras, particularly on the processing side of things, so we’ll have to spend some more time with the Edge Plus to see how it holds up in the real world.

The Motorola Edge.
Image: Motorola

Alongside the Edge Plus is the regular Motorola Edge, which takes the same base design — including the “edge”-style 6.7-inch display — but with specs that are just generally a step down across the board.

The processor is a Snapdragon 765, instead of the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 in the Edge Plus. There’s only 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, instead of the 12GB / 256GB configuration that the Edge Plus offers. The battery is smaller at 4,500mAh, and there’s no wireless charging support. Lastly, the triple cameras on the back are slightly worse: the main sensor is only a 64-megapixel lens, while the 8-megapixel telephoto sensor can only shoot 2x optical zoom and lacks OIS. (The 16-megapixel ultrawide and time-of-flight sensor appear to be the same on both devices, though.)

That all said, the regular Edge does have a big advantage over the Edge Plus: it’ll be more widely available. That’s because the Edge Plus — like the Razr before it — will be exclusive to Verizon in the United States for its entire lifespan. Motorola says it’s choosing to partner with Verizon because it wants “the best network for the best device,” citing Verizon’s focus on mmWave 5G as a key part of its strategy. (The Edge Plus will have antenna for both sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G, though.) Still, it’s confusing to see Motorola trying to fight its way back to the premium phone space while at the same time limiting sales in the US to just a single carrier.

The regular Edge — which will also support 5G, albeit only for sub-6GHz — will be sold more broadly when it launches later this summer, although Motorola has yet to announce carrier plans there. Given the broader sales (along with, presumably, a lower price tag than the flagship Edge Plus), it’s possible the regular Edge may actually be the more interesting and important device for Motorola. But we’ll have to see how much it costs and how the weaker specs compare when it actually arrives.

The Motorola Edge Plus will be available for $999 on May 14th from Verizon. The regular Edge is set to follow later this summer, although pricing and a release date have yet to be announced.

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