Motorola Razr Plus review: the right moves

Mobile

Products You May Like

The Razr Plus is a much better phone than the preceding models. It’s a little fiddly, but for the right kind of person, it presents a rewarding experience.

The Motorola Razr Plus is the first folding phone that makes me genuinely excited for what’s ahead. In the here and now, it’s a good device, though not quite as ready for the mainstream as Motorola wants you to believe. But for a specific kind of tech-inclined person willing to try out something new, the Razr Plus will be very rewarding.

One feature defines the Razr Plus experience: the 3.6-inch outer display. It’s bigger than anything else offered on a flip-style foldable right now — in fact, it’s bigger than the screen on the first iPhone. It’s not just a check-your-notifications display; it’s a display, full stop. It opens up a whole bunch of use cases that I kept discovering the more I used the phone. It definitely has its limits, but if you’re willing to work within them, then the cover screen becomes kind of a secret weapon.

How we rate and review products

Aside from the outer display, using the Razr Plus is a thoroughly average flagship phone experience — and that’s actually a win for Motorola. For one thing, it’s $999, which is much more reasonable than the two phones that preceded it. You can still get more phone for a grand from a traditional slab-style device, but the Razr Plus doesn’t present any major compromise on battery life or day-to-day performance. Going about your business on the main 6.9-inch screen, it’s easy to forget you’re using a different kind of phone until someone notices you folding it in half and asks you about it.

That said, the Razr Plus isn’t quite ready for the mainstream. It’s better suited for someone who doesn’t mind the certain amount of fiddling required to get the cover screen to do the things you want. You’ll encounter a stray bug or two, which isn’t unexpected on a device this complicated. And long-term durability is still a question mark — most other phones that cost $1,000 come with much more robust IP68 dust- and water-resistance ratings, but the Razr Plus is quite literally built different. 

Motorola Razr Plus in-hand showing cover screen interface.

Motorola Razr Plus in-hand showing cover screen interface.

The cover display’s homescreen includes shortcuts to the various panels you’ve enabled.

The main attraction is the best place to start talking about the Razr Plus: that’s the cover screen, of course. It’s an OLED panel that’s a few pixels shy of square. The sides and bottom of the front panel are curved, but the display stops well before the edges, and I didn’t have any trouble with accidental touches.

It works like this: you have a homescreen with notifications, the time, etc., and some shortcuts to various full-screen “panels,” which you can tap on or swipe to cycle through. The panels are… fine. There aren’t a lot to choose from, and they’re not as interactive as I’d like them to be.

Take the calendar panel: you can tap an icon in the upper right to switch between a daily or monthly view, but nothing happens if you tap on the events on your calendar. The Spotify panel is designed to let you control your music or jump to one of your recent listens quickly, but it’s a little unreliable. It frequently told me I was offline when I was very much online.

There aren’t many panels to choose from, either — so the apps panel is where the real action is. This is where you can launch full apps on the cover screen, consequences be damned. There’s no particular Moto magic happening here — just a whole-ass app scaled to the tiny proportions of the outer display. As you can imagine, some apps work okay like this, and some really, really don’t. But that, my friends, is the beauty of the cover screen.

This is also where the Razr Plus reveals itself as a gadget-lover’s gadget. If you want to use an app on the cover screen that isn’t in the handful of pre-populated suggestions, you need to give it permission in the external display settings — they’re in a menu you get acquainted with in the onboarding process, but it’s still a bit of a detour. This needs to be done for every single app you want to use. Then you can add it to the app panel. None of this is difficult, but it’s not exactly seamless.

During my initial setup, I picked a few that I thought would come in handy, but as I actually lived with the phone, I kept discovering with delight new use cases for the outer display. There’s kind of a sweet spot for these apps: functions that are too complicated or impossible to carry out on a smartwatch but don’t require the full firepower of the main screen. Things like typing a Spanish word into Google Translate as I’m reading with my son or checking bus arrival times at the stop by my house. I can do this all comfortably and single-handedly on the cover screen.

Motorola Razr Plus cover screen showing full on-screen keyboard.

Motorola Razr Plus cover screen showing full on-screen keyboard.

Typing out a text on the cover screen feels like less work than opening your device and coming face to face with everything on your phone.

In my testing, the outer screen was also perfectly adequate for answering texts. If I wanted to, like, really get into it, I would open the phone and use the main screen, but it’s helpful for quick responses. You can’t see the message you’re responding to as you type because the keyboard takes up the whole screen, but it’s fine overall, and it supports swiping, so you don’t have to peck at the slightly smaller keys. I found myself missing the space bar on the keyboard at first, but that wasn’t something I had a problem with in my long-term tests.

I’m generally terrible about getting back to texts, and I don’t have hard data on this, but I think my average text response time was much improved while using the Razr Plus. Maybe the cover screen reduces the emotional overhead of unlocking your device and coming face-to-face with absolutely everything else on your phone. It’s kind of soothing knowing you can just type “lmao,” hit send, and just move on with your life without getting sucked into an unscheduled social media scrolling session. 

The cover screen does have its limits, of course. Things get lost behind the camera cutouts in the full-screen view, UIs break, and sometimes you have to tap a pop-up text option the size of a toothpick. But the badness is also kind of great. You can tap on an Instagram notification and start mindlessly scrolling through your feed, but it’s an objectively terrible experience. At that point, you come to your senses and either stop or commit to opening your phone. 

Motorola Razr Plus fully unfolded.

Motorola Razr Plus fully unfolded.

Unfolded, the Razr Plus feels thoroughly average.

Guess what: there’s a whole other phone attached to this phone! The inner screen is a familiar 6.9-inch OLED with up to 165Hz refresh rate. It gets just bright enough to combat direct sunlight, and I have no qualms with it. There is, of course, a modest crease. It’s something I noticed when I swiped my thumb across it, but in most situations, it’s actually quite hard to see unless you’re looking for it.

Motorola moved the fingerprint sensor to the power button in the Razr Plus — last time around, it was awkwardly placed in the rear panel “M” logo. With the phone closed in one hand, my thumb falls naturally on the sensor in its new spot so I can unlock it quickly and type out my little text replies. Much improved, I’d say.

The whole thing is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, which came out in the second half of 2022. In the phones I’ve tested, it’s proven to be more battery efficient while running a little cooler than the original Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. It does an admirable job in the Razr Plus, where it’s paired with 8GB of RAM. It doesn’t cut through demanding games quite like this year’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, but it’s good enough to keep day-to-day tasks flowing smoothly. It does heat up with a lot of video recording or portrait mode photos, but I never saw that compromise performance.

The Razr Plus ships with Android 13 and is promised three OS upgrades and four years of security support. Recent Motorola flagships have only come with a couple of years of OS upgrades, so that’s great news. You’ll still get more out of a Samsung flagship — four OS updates and five years of security patches — but I’d call it acceptable, even if there’s room for improvement.

The Razr Plus carries an IP52 rating, which means it offers some protection against dust and just a little protection against water; Motorola defines this as “spills, splashes, or light rain.” Dust is a major concern with a foldable — a little dust under that inner screen is very bad news. So some dust protection is good, but it’s not clear to me how it will hold up in the long run, IP rating notwithstanding. There’s plenty of dust already gathered up along the edge of the hinge on my review unit after a couple of weeks. After years of use, how much of that ends up inside the phone, mucking things up? What happens if you drop it in a toilet? It’s just impossible to know at this point, and it’s a major point of consideration if you’re interested in buying one.

The Razr’s hinge allows the two halves of the phone to close almost completely flat — not the case with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4. But unlike the Flip, the Razr Plus’ hinge doesn’t quite support the screen open at every angle. Once you get it almost all the way open, it kind of flops flat. Likewise, the top will flop shut once you close it down past about 45 degrees. I ran up against this limit once when I was trying to angle the front camera just right, but otherwise, it didn’t bother me. Crucially, it will sit upright in the 90-degree laptop position to play Elmo for your toddler so he will brush his teeth. Ask me how I know.

The Razr Plus is actually two small phones wearing a trenchcoat, which means it has a very specific small phone problem: a small battery. There’s a 3,800mAh cell here, which falls well short of the 5,000mAh batteries on a lot of big phones these days. But I’m going to cut to the chase: battery life is fine. It is thoroughly average, and for a small battery, that’s actually great.

On a day with three hours of screen-on time, using mostly mobile data, I was down to about 40 percent by the end of the day. When it’s time to recharge, there’s fast 30W wired charging available (AC adapter sold separately) or wireless charging at a glacial 5W. I’m used to plopping my phone down on a wireless charging stand at the end of the day, so the slow pace didn’t bother me. The Razr Plus fits just fine on the Motorola-branded charging stand that came along with my review unit, but I have to open the phone and position it just right to get it charging on my Belkin charger.

Photo of Motorola Razr Plus in L shape with camera app on and plants in the live preview window.

Photo of Motorola Razr Plus in L shape with camera app on and plants in the live preview window.

Hands-off photography is one of the flip-style foldable’s benefits.

There’s a stabilized 12-megapixel main camera and a 13-megapixel ultrawide on the rear panel cover and a 32-megapixel selfie camera on the inside. Overall, photos from the Razr Plus are what I’ve come to expect from Motorola: occasionally great but somewhat inconsistent. I’m never sure when it’s going to go overboard on the HDR or saturation, but most of the time, it’s fine.

Photos in good lighting show plenty of detail, and the Razr Plus is capable of holding onto detail in dim lighting. In the main camera mode, it struggles to keep the shutter speed fast enough to avoid blur from moving subjects, but it actually does a bit better in portrait mode under the same conditions. Subject isolation isn’t nearly as good as on the Samsung Galaxy S23, which is the gold standard right now, but it’s passable. 

There’s a lot of fun to be had once you close the phone and open the camera app from the front display. You can take selfies with the main camera, which is better in low light than the actual selfie camera (or pretty much any other selfie camera out there). There’s also a photo booth mode, which shows a countdown and takes photos on an automatic interval. I have an adorable series of photos of me and my toddler where he grows increasingly determined to snatch the phone out of my hand.

What I liked best was the ability to utilize the front-facing screen with the phone open. You can have the cover screen show a cute little animation to get a child’s attention so you can take their photo. The “get the attention” part worked, but he looked like a deer in headlights in my photos as he tried to figure out what the hell he was seeing. What worked better was using the cover screen to show a live preview of what you’re photographing — that’s when I got the best photos of my kid grinning and goofing off for the camera.

There’s also the flip-phone advantage I appreciated from the Galaxy Z Flip 4: you can set the phone down to take photos or video. I can stay engaged in whatever my kid is doing — rolling a bus toy back and forth across the kitchen, in our case — and get a cute video or some photos in the meantime. I will very much miss this when I switch back to a slab-style phone.

Video quality is good enough, though clips in dim lighting can look a bit dark and overly contrasty. You can choose from 4K or 1080p at either 60 or 30 fps — standard fare. 

Photo of Motorola Razr Plus propped up in tent formation with cover screen showing Spotify panel.

Photo of Motorola Razr Plus propped up in tent formation with cover screen showing Spotify panel.

If you’re the right kind of person, the cover screen can be your secret weapon.

I like the Razr Plus quite a bit, but I recommend it with some reservations. It requires you to be a little more hands-on with your phone than I think most people prefer — setting app permissions, wrangling apps on a small screen, dodging the occasional bug. You’ll also need to be mindful that it’s not as dust or water-resistant as most thousand-dollar phones. If you’re prepared for all that, then using the Razr Plus is a rewarding experience.

It’s unfair to compare it to a phone that doesn’t exist yet, but it’s impossible to ignore the Galaxy Z Flip 5 looming on the horizon. We’re expecting it to launch in July, and rumors all point to a bigger cover screen on that device similar to the Razr’s. It’ll likely come with the same IPX8 rating that the last Flip offered — meaning protection against full water immersion — as well as a more powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. If all of that comes at the same $999 price as the Razr Plus, then it’s hard to see how Motorola will be able to compete. This is all based on speculation, but it’s worth considering before you sink a thousand dollars into a new phone. 

The summer of 2023 is, as we all know, Hot Foldable Summer, and at least part of the excitement around the Razr Plus is that it finally presents some real competition for the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip series. But more than that, this is a likable phone all on its own. Finding new use cases for the cover screen is genuinely delightful. I got some candid photos and video of my kid that I don’t think I could get with a slab-style smartphone. I generally just felt like I was more in control of how engaged I wanted to be with my phone at any given time. For the right person, I think these things are worth $999. They’re all things I absolutely want more of from my phone, and I’m glad that Motorola is back in the foldable conversation.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge

Correction June 22nd, 1:52PM ET: An earlier version of this review stated that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 comes with an IP68 rating — it in fact has an IPX8 rating. We regret the error.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Best video game TV show ever?
Fubo Review: Top-Tier for Sports, but Channel Selection Falls Short – CNET
The 17 Best Video Game Movies And Shows
I Tried Hungryroot. It’s a Quirky Mix of Meal Kits and Grocery Delivery to Fuel Your Busy Week – CNET
9 Natural Remedies for Soothing Anxiety Without Medication – CNET

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *