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Why Motorola wants your next phone to have a 200MP camera — or be purple

What do Pantone’s Color of the Year 2022 and a 200-megapixel camera have in common? Both are attention-grabbers for Motorola as it gets ready to catch your eye next time you’re shopping for a new smartphone.

Digital Trends talked to Ruben Castano, Motorola’s head of customer experience and design, and Rahul Desai, Motorola’s director of camera and imaging, about the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra and the Edge 30 Neo. The 30 Ultra is the first internationally available phone with a 200MP camera, and the 30 Neo is the brand’s first phone created with color experts Pantone.

Meet Motorola’s standout phones

The back of the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra and Edge 30 Neo.
Motorola Edge 30 Ultra (from left) and Edge 30 Neo Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Edge 30 Ultra and Edge 30 Neo are the latest devices from Motorola. Both represent new territory for the brand, with the Edge 30 Ultra being a true flagship smartphone — a segment that hasn’t really been Motorola’s focus for a while — and the Edge 30 Neo being the first device created with Pantone.

The headline feature of the Edge 30 Ultra is the 200MP main camera, which is Samsung’s ISOCELL HP1 sensor that we also recently tried on the Xiaomi 12T Pro. It sits alongside a 50MP wide-angle camera and a 12MP telephoto camera with a 2x optical zoom. Powering the phone is a Qualcomm 8+ Gen 1 processor with 12GB of RAM, and the screen is a 6.67-inch curved pOLED panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and a 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution. What else? There’s a massive 60MP selfie camera, a 4,612mAh battery, 125-watt wired fast charging and 50W wireless charging, an IP52 water resistance rating, 5G, and Android 12.

The Motorola Edge 30 Ultra and Edge 30 Neo's screens.
Motorola Edge 30 Ultra (from left) and Edge 30 Neo Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Edge 30 Neo is a different beast, and it’s all about the colors. It’s the Very Peri model in our photos, based on Pantone’s Color of the Year, and if that’s too bright, you can also get it in Ice Palace, Black Onyx, and Aqua Foam colors.

The phone is distinctly midrange, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 695 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 6.28-inch pOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, an IP52 rating, 5G, a 4,020mAh battery, and 60W wired fast charging and wireless charging.

Bringing a 200MP camera to the Edge 30 Ultra

The camera on the back of the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

“It is a massive sensor,” Castano smiled as we discussed how the 200MP camera affected the Edge 30 Ultra’s design. “It occupies quite a bit of space, so we celebrated the fact that we have this camera, and it’s a very prominent element. It’s pretty much the first thing you see on the rear of the device, with a lot of focus on quality and details. We landed on this idea of creating almost a layered approach between the flash, the two secondary cameras, and the main camera as the most elegant way to integrate it. Yet it’s a very thin device with a curved display on the front and curved glass on the back. So a lot of research was actually done, with a lot of fine-tuning and refinement until we got to the point where we were getting reactions of, ‘Oh, that looks nice, that looks premium.’”

It certainly stands out on the back of the Edge 30 Ultra, but not so much that it’s all you see. The module sits proud of the frosted, matte-finish glass rear panel and its layered plinth, but it’s great to see such a large sensor treated with subtlety and wrapped up in an 8.4mm-thick device that weighs only 198 grams. I asked Desai what makes the 200MP camera so exciting, and what you should think about when shooting with it?

“The best way to take advantage of the additional level of detail is with really expansive landscape photography. We’re talking pictures of mountains, lakes, and nature in general. This is the best way to show it off,” Desai revealed, before adding a word of warning. “When you operate in the 200MP mode, it is critical that you have a lot of light. We recommend brighter scenes to really take advantage of it. It’s not really meant for taking photos inside the house, for example.”

For the times you aren’t taking photos using all of the 200 megapixels, the Edge 30 Ultra’s camera takes quad-pixel 15MP shots.

“In everyday circumstances, [the camera] operates in a pixel-binning mode where we combine a certain number of pixels at a lower resolution for much better lowlight performance.” Desai continued. “People get the benefit of either choosing a really high resolution, or getting really good performance in their everyday use as well.”

Motorola has worked hard to maintain consistency between the cameras, and also on the software driving them.

“We think of the camera as a camera system, not just one standalone camera,” said Desai. “A lot of the software work involves making sure the 200MP main rear camera works well with the wide-angle and the telephoto cameras. From a user perspective, we want to ensure they aren’t aware which particular camera is being chosen, so the transition from one camera to another is smooth. It also involves making sure that the tuning of each individual camera matches, so that when you zoom, for example, from the main camera to the telephoto camera, the colors don’t suddenly change.”

The Edge 30 Neo’s stunning Pantone colors

The Motorola Edge 30 Neo's Pantone logo.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Consistency in the colors produced by the camera is essential, but there’s a lot more experimentation when it comes to the Edge 30 Neo, the first smartphone Motorola and Pantone have worked on together. The phone you see in our photos is in Very Peri, Pantone’s 2022 Color of the Year. We asked Castano what attracted Motorola to work with Pantone:

“Color has a huge impact on the emotional reaction that consumers have with our products,” he said. “Internally, we do a lot of color research and quantify the emotional reaction [to the color], something that Pantone, through their expertise after many years of working in the field of color, have really perfected. They can not only anticipate trends, but also understand how people will react emotionally to a color almost at a psychological level. That was what initially attracted us to work with Pantone.”

But surely a color is a color, right? Castano talked more about our relationship with color, and why it’s important to get it right on a smartphone.

“Mobile phones are becoming vessels of self-expression. We do everything on our devices. So there’s a lot more [to choosing a color] than just taking the device and dipping it in a bucket of color that we hope will be trendy for the next six to 12 months. Color is a powerful tool. Pantone’s data shows that color influences purchase decisions by up to 85% and also increases brand recognition by up to 80%.”

If color is that important, how was the decision on the four colors of the Edge 30 Neo made?

“The 2022 Color of the Year was, in a way, almost a no-brainer,” Castano said. “We were announcing our partnership with Pantone, and it’s the most important color this year, so it had to be one. The two complementary colors to that, Ice Palace and Aqua Foam, were the result of working with Pantone and identifying two additional shades that were relevant and would complement the meaning of the Very Peri color. The fourth one is a neutral, dark black. It’s still needed as part of any product lineup.”

“There’s a reason behind why we select a camera, why we select the chipset, and why we select the display,” Castano concluded about the brand’s approach to making phones. “Now, there’s also a strong reason why colors are selected and the meaning behind them.”

Motorola, megapixels, Pantone, and the future

The Motorola Edge 30 Neo being held in a person's hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Motorola has a multiyear partnership with Pantone, and it’s exclusive too, meaning you won’t see any other smartphone makers collaborating with the company in the same way. It’s also notable that the Edge 30 Ultra is the first smartphone to be sold outside China with the 200MP ISOCELL camera inside. These two devices also arrive at the same time Motorola has launched the new Motorola Razr 2022 folding smartphone. There’s no doubt Motorola is working hard to attract attention, and with colors like Very Peri on its phones and 200MP cameras topping spec lists, it’s certainly doing that.

At this time, neither the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra nor the Edge 30 Neo are available in the U.S., but have been released in the U.K. The Edge 30 Ultra costs 750 British pounds, or about $875, while the Edge 30 Neo is 350 pounds, or around $408. There is a chance both devices may arrive in North America in the future, perhaps under different names.

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