The Motorola Edge Plus is a straightforward Android flagship with no gimmicky features or nostalgia to prop it up. The result is a good but pricey phone that can’t quite compete with the current class leader.
The premium Android market in the US is dominated by Samsung, with an honorable mention to Google and its Pixel 6 Pro. That’s about it. LG left the party last year, taking its high-end Wing with it. OnePlus has been a no-show in early 2022 (though the company has said its 10 Pro may arrive before the end of the month), and other Chinese device makers are still steering clear of the US market.
While there’s plenty of room for more players, the stakes are set high. Samsung has been strengthening its support policy, speeding up its Android update pace, and thanks to strong relationships with carriers, offering some tempting incentives to those willing to upgrade to a pricier unlimited plan. Google has also produced its best high-end phone yet, though it’s been hampered by software problems recently.
This iteration of the Edge Plus drops its namesake “Edge” screen, which the 2020 Edge Plus offered. That’s for the best since it wasn’t very useful anyway. The latest Edge Plus continues to offer the high-end specs you’d expect from a flagship Android phone, including a Snapdragon 8 gen 1 processor, which is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest chipset.
The $999 MSRP also makes a return, and in many ways, it behaves like a phone worthy of that high price tag. Performance is excellent, tons of storage is included, there’s a high-quality screen, and fast charging comes courtesy of a 30W charger that’s included in the box. Imagine that!
But in the US, at least, it needs to measure up to the current best-in-class, and that’s the highly capable Galaxy S22 Plus. That’s no easy feat, and the Edge Plus isn’t quite up to it.
The Motorola Edge Plus includes 8GB or 12GB of RAM with its top-shelf Snapdragon processor. The version I tested has 12GB, which is plenty for day-to-day tasks and enough to run a graphics-intensive game like Genshin Impact smoothly. It does get noticeably warm, even outside of gaming, though I didn’t see any negative effect on speed as a result.
The phone’s 6.7-inch OLED panel features modest bezels on all sides and, at 1080p resolution, falls just a little short of the 1440p resolution of the Pixel 6 Pro’s screen. In use, though, it’s sharp enough, and I didn’t miss any of the extra pixels that it might have had. It offers a 144Hz refresh rate, and even though I can’t really spot the difference between this and 120Hz, it does make for a very smooth experience. It’s a nice, bright screen, and its tall 20:9 aspect ratio means it can show you just a little more than the S22 Plus’ 19.5:9 display. The slightly narrower form factor makes it easier to hold one-handed, but it’s too big to use comfortably with one hand.
The Edge Plus includes Gorilla Glass on both the front and back panel, with no “glasstic” in sight, but the rails are plastic rather than aluminum. I’m not exactly sure, but maybe that’s why this phone feels less “premium” than a Samsung or a Pixel. It’s also less robust than the competition; the S22 Plus and Pixel 6 Pro offer IP68 waterproofing, but the Edge Plus is merely “water-resistant.”
The back panel features an attractive finish that’s sometimes green and sometimes blue, depending on the angle you’re viewing it from. The only accurate way to describe this effect is that it looks like the color of a mermaid’s tail. I defy you to come up with a better description.
There’s also no in-screen fingerprint sensor; Motorola opted for one embedded in the power switch. The optical fingerprint scanner may be a premium feature right now, but it’s one I didn’t actually miss in the Edge Plus. The side-mounted scanner is much faster than even a good in-display sensor, and as a bonus, it doesn’t care if you’re wearing a mask, like most facial unlock systems do.
I’m less keen on some of Motorola’s software changes. Moto typically offers one of my favorite Android skins with a lighter touch than Samsung’s more heavy-handed approach. Peek notifications, which expand with a long press on the lock screen to show full notification text, are still a great way to get the right information at a glance while minimizing interruptions.
But Motorola has done a little rearranging in the app drawer, adding a “suggested links” section that takes up a lot of space and, at least so far in my experience, hasn’t been terribly useful. I also agreed to let a company called “Branch” use my data to personalize my suggestions based on my behavior, and even after a few days, it doesn’t seem to be any better at understanding what I want to do with my phone.
The system also defaults to showing you a keyboard when you open the app drawer so you can search for the thing you want rather than scrolling for it. Useful in theory, but I’d rather just find the right icon on my own, so I disabled this feature, which is easily done. It took very little work to get the app drawer back to the arrangement I liked, but that’s not something I expect to have to do on a Motorola phone.
Otherwise, there aren’t many surprises in Motorola’s take on Android 12. There are lots of personalization options that you can customize individually or apply through a handful of preset themes. The Edge Plus isn’t quite as customizable as the Pixel 6, but you do have access to plenty of options like different icon shapes and fonts — enough to make it easy to spend 30 minutes tinkering with your choices. The Verizon version I tested comes with a lot of pre-downloaded apps and Verizon software, some of which can be uninstalled.
The Edge Plus has a 4,800mAh battery, and stamina is generally good. With most phone settings at default, I can easily get through over a day of moderate use, but it’s not hard to run down the battery much faster than that. With brightness maxed out and 144Hz refresh rate enabled at all times (it’s on auto by default) and on 5G rather than Wi-Fi, I saw the battery drain about 10 percent in 30 minutes of Instagram and TikTok viewing.
All told, it seems to have a little more stamina than the Galaxy S22 Plus and will last a full day of moderate and some heavy use. Streaming a lot of video or doing more gaming will probably require a recharge during the day, but there’s great news on this front: Motorola includes a wall charger in the box that supports the Edge Plus’ 30W top wired charging speed. It can take a completely flat battery to full power in about an hour — speedy indeed. You won’t find a charger included with either the Galaxy S22 Plus or Pixel 6 Pro, so that’s nothing to sneeze at these days. Wireless charging at up to 15W is also supported.
Of course, the Edge Plus offers 5G, including C-band support. That’s definitely good to have if you’re on AT&T or Verizon and less important if you’re on T-Mobile. The unlocked version doesn’t include mmWave, which is the very fast, highly scarce brand of 5G you might encounter in a football stadium and basically nowhere else. The version sold by Verizon does include mmWave 5G because Verizon has historically insisted that it be included on all the phones it sells, though Apple apparently gets a pass on that.
Unfortunately, one place where Motorola hasn’t kept up with Samsung and Google is its software update policy. It’s only promising two OS updates and three years of security updates for this high-end device — well behind Google and Samsung’s five-year security support policy. The Edge Plus’ hardware is capable of keeping up for longer than five years, so that’s a disappointment and something to consider if you’d like to hang onto your phone as long as possible.
You’ll find three cameras on the Edge Plus’ rear panel, but only two of them are truly useful: a 50-megapixel f/1.8 standard wide with optical image stabilization and a 50-megapixel ultrawide. The third camera module houses a 2-megapixel depth sensor that ostensibly helps out with portrait mode. There’s a 60-megapixel f/2.2 camera on the front panel that produces highly detailed 15-megapixel selfies — maybe even too detailed. Video recording at up to 8K / 30p is supported, along with 4K / 30p and 1080 at 30 or 60p. An HDR10 Plus setting is available when recording in 4K / 30p, which does a nice job of pulling back blown highlights.
What’s missing from the Edge Plus’ camera hardware configuration is a telephoto lens — the 2020 model had one, but it wasn’t very good. Both the S22 Plus and Pixel 6 Pro offer a telephoto camera. Otherwise, the Edge Plus’ cameras are just fine without particularly standing out in any way. As is the case with most high-res phone cameras, both the standard and ultrawide use pixel-binning to produce 12-megapixel images. They both take good photos in daylight, though the ultrawide leans toward a slightly warmer white balance.
Photos from the main camera are a little oversharpened for my taste, but overall, I like how it handles high-contrast scenes without going overboard trying to rescue highlights or brighten shadows. Photos in low indoor lighting look good, too — the phone strikes a nice balance between maintaining details and noise reduction. Dim light photos from the ultrawide look a little softer, as I’d expect, but are definitely a cut above what you get from a lower-res ultrawide camera in a budget or even midrange phone.
Samsung and Google have put a lot of work into the software behind their portrait mode photos, and Motorola can’t quite compete. The Edge Plus’ subject isolation just isn’t as sophisticated — looking close, you can see where it gives up on cutting out strands of hair and just blurs fine details into the background. It’s not as savvy as the S22 Plus at identifying beards and glasses rims, either. Night mode is a similar story — Motorola’s Night Vision produces images that look artificially over brightened.
The midrange Moto Edge we tested recently had some autofocus problems, and Motorola has avoided them in the Edge Plus by adding more autofocus pixels to the main camera sensor. Focus is quick for stills and video recording, and I didn’t see any AF failures even when shooting in low light.
This version of the Edge Plus proves that Motorola can make a good mainstream, no-funny-business, high-end Android phone. But “good” isn’t a sufficient selling point when you’re up against Google, Samsung, and Apple, which all offer devices around the same price with stronger cameras, build quality, and support policies.
Most people won’t pay the Edge Plus’ $999 asking price and will either buy it at a discount from Motorola or have it financed through their carrier. If you do find it for a good price and you’re a fan of Motorola’s budget or midrange phones, then the Edge Plus is a fine choice. You get much more storage than the base model Pixel 6 Pro or S22 Plus, a very good screen, and a phone that’s enjoyable to use and just gets out of your way for the most part.
We may not have many premium Android phones to choose from in the US, but the devices we do have are really good. It takes something special to warrant a recommendation when the S22 Plus and Pixel 6 Pro are on the table, and the Edge Plus doesn’t quite have it.
Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge