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I’ve reviewed phones for 10 years — this is my favorite one of 2023

The Motorola Razr Plus with its cover screen on, showing the home page.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

I’ve been reviewing smartphones for a long time — over 10 years, to be exact. I’ve reviewed many of the best phones of all time, some mediocre ones, and a few duds that I’d rather forget about. It can be difficult to keep track of all the phones I’ve tested and evaluated in the past decade, but there are a few that truly stand out. The Motorola Razr Plus is one such smartphone.

The Motorola Razr Plus has been my go-to smartphone for a few weeks now, and it’s one of those rare phones I can’t stop thinking about. Is it perfect? Not at all. The cameras should be much better, especially given how expensive it is. The battery doesn’t last any longer than a day. Wireless charging is slow, and there’s no reverse wireless charging. Motorola’s track record for software updates leaves a lot to be desired.

Those things all work against the phone, and it’s why it scored an 8 out of 10 in my Motorola Razr Plus review rather than a 9 or a perfect 10. And while those are very real and very important cons, that hasn’t stopped the Razr Plus from creating a special place in my nerdy heart. Here’s why.

The Razr Plus is a work of art

The red Motorola Razr Plus propped open.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

I typically don’t care too much about how my phone looks. In a world where most phones are just slightly tweaked versions of a glass slab, it’s hard to get too excited about smartphone design in 2023. The Razr Plus has been a wonderful exception to this.

By nature, folding phones are already more visually interesting than non-folding ones. The Razr Plus already has that going for it, but Motorola went a step further and made the phone one of the most striking I’ve seen in years. A lot of this has to do with the Viva Magenta color you see in the photos here. As someone whose favorite color is red, I’m a bit biased toward any red-clad smartphone. But the Razr Plus is — by far — the best red phone I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.

Close-up shot of the Viva Magenta Motorola Razr Plus and its leather back.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The glossy aluminum helps the red color stand out no matter what angle you’re looking at the Razr Plus from. The buttons, frame, and aluminum peeking out over the cover screen are all easily visible — meaning there’s no hiding its bold look. But that’s not even the best part.

Rather than using glass or plastic, the back of the Viva Magenta Razr Plus is vegan leather. Leather is a material we rarely see on smartphones today, and it’s been an absolute treat to have on the Razr Plus. It’s grippy and comfortable, and it gives the phone a distinct look/feel from almost anything else on the market.

Calling it a “work of art” may sound superfluous, but I truly can’t remember the last time I had a phone where the design stood out this much to me. I regularly find myself simply looking at and appreciating the Razr Plus’s design, and that’s something I’ve not done with a phone in a very long time.

A cover screen that’s everything I wanted

The apps page on the Motorola Razr Plus cover screen.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 was my first introduction to the world of folding flip phones, and it immediately sold me on the form factor. But one of my biggest annoyances with it was the small, limiting cover screen. And even as other phones have shipped with larger cover screens, they’ve been hesitant to let you do anything interesting with them (I’m looking at you, Oppo Find N2 Flip).

Once again, the Motorola Razr Plus stands out here — and for the better.

The specs of the 3.6-inch cover screen, like the OLED panel and 144Hz refresh rate, are outstanding. But the real magic lies in the software. More specifically, how Motorola lets you run virtually any Android app on the Razr Plus’s cover screen.

Pocket Casts app running on the Motorola Razr Plus cover screen.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Using apps on such a small display may sound like a silly idea, but in practice, it’s shockingly useful. I can easily scroll through Telegram messages and respond using Gboard. When I’m out shopping, I can view and check items off my grocery list with ease. It’s the perfect little canvas for controlling podcasts on Pocket Casts, using my smart lights from the Google Home app, scanning my barcode to pay at Starbucks — you get the idea.

Would I want to waste hours playing Marvel Snap or doom-scrolling Twitter on the Razr Plus’s cover screen? Not really! But that’s what makes it so perfect. It’s just big and functional enough that I can do all of my necessary and mundane tasks — but not so much that I accidentally get sucked into an app or game I don’t need to be on. I love it.

Motorola’s excellence is everywhere

Someone holding the Motorola Razr Plus, fully open with the screen showing one of its home screens.
Motorola Razr Plus Joe Maring/Digital Trends

I’ll sing my praise for Motorola’s software any chance I get. I’ve used a lot of various Android interfaces over the years, but Motorola’s take on Android continues to be the one I love coming back to the most.

Why? There are a lot of reasons. Chopping the phone to turn on the flashlight — while not a new trick for Motorola phones – remains delightfully useful. The same is true of quickly twisting the phone to open the camera app. They’re quick, simple gestures that make the Razr Plus legitimately easier to use than phones without them.

Motorola’s take on Android continues to be the one I love coming back to the most.

I also think Motorola’s approach to software design is one of the best out there. The user interface is basically identical to a Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro, meaning Android 13 gets to shine the way Google intended without any unwanted cruft. And if you do want to tweak the aesthetics, the Moto app has an excellent customization suite for quickly changing the phone’s accent color, font, app icon shape, etc. As someone who could lose hours mindlessly changing how my phone looks, it’s dangerously good.

Little, charming details make the difference

The Motorola Razr Plus, half-folded with a Lock Screen clock on the cover screen.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Some of my favorite aspects of the Motorola Razr Plus don’t really make sense. They aren’t things you can easily quantify in a review, and they have little impact on how good or bad the phone objectively is. Even so, they’re details I simply adore.

Take the Moo time clock face as an example — one of the many clock faces you can set for the Razr Plus’s cover screen. It displays an animated cat-like cartoon character that does various tasks throughout the day. In the morning, it’s getting ready for the day with a cup of coffee. During the afternoon, it sits at its laptop, working away right along with me. It takes a subway ride home later on in the evening, hops on its Motorola-branded phone while lying in bed to relax at night, and eventually falls asleep once it gets late enough. If you tap the little cat creature at any point, you get a surprise animation (making it take a sip of boba, furiously type on its laptop, or something else).

This doesn’t technically make the Razr Plus any better or worse in any way, but it adds a sense of charm and character that’s lacking far too often from smartphones.

Retro Razr mode on the Motorola Razr Plus.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Razr Plus also comes pre-installed with an assortment of games optimized perfectly for the cover screen. Marble Mayhem is a marble puzzle game that has you rotate the Razr Plus to try and roll a marble into the end of the maze (which happens to be one of the cameras). Stack Bounce is equally great. Tap the screen to crush the ball through colored blocks, avoid black ones, and try to get the highest score you can. They’re fun, simple timekillers that exist only to make the phone the phone more fun.

And, of course, there’s the Retro Razr mode that turns the Razr Plus into an old-school Razr flip phone — complete with a functional dialer, messaging and internet shortcuts, and more.

The Razr Plus isn’t perfect — but I love it

The Motorola Razr Plus with its display half-shut.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Motorola Razr Plus isn’t perfect. $1,000 is a lot of money to spend on a smartphone, and if you want the most bang for your buck, there are objectively better options out there.

But we shouldn’t only think objectively about phones. Smartphones are very personal devices, and naturally, there’s a subjective nature to them. Performance, battery life, and camera quality are obviously important. But you know what else is? How a phone looks. How it makes you feel. In the words of Marie Kondo, does it spark joy in your life?

I can think of few other phones I’d recommend more than this.

Those aren’t things you can easily rate or compare, but you damn well know when you see them. And, at least for me, the Motorola Razr Plus is one of those rare phones that nails those more subjective questions. It’s not the Android phone I’d recommend to replace your iPhone, but if you’re ready for something fresh, charming, and different, I can think of few other phones I’d recommend more than this.

Editors' Recommendations

Joe Maring
Section Editor, Mobile
Joe Maring is the Section Editor for Digital Trends' Mobile team, leading the site's coverage for all things smartphones…
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