The world of 5G is finally becoming affordable — kinda — as Moto takes on the mid-range of sorts with the $999 Moto Edge.
Motorola has had one of the longest histories for any mobile company, and many would argue the longest. It made mobiles well before the smartphone era, and it has seen mobiles literally in all shapes and sizes. Motorola even had the first iTunes-equipped phone before the iPhone, the Motorola Rokr.
You’d think this long-established generational understanding of mobiles would give the company some form of an edge in developing its mobiles, but it feels like Motorola has been lagging, at least in the world of 5G. While the 5G world kicked off properly last year, Motorola hasn’t had a showing.
And now we do, as Motorola has launched its very first 5G phone, the Edge. Arriving for $999, it’s the first Motorola phone that feels like a proper flagship the way so many other phones do, arriving with a curved screen and high-speed connectivity. Is it the 5G flagship Motorola needed to make, or could Moto do more?
The first of a new breed of phones for Motorola, the Moto Edge is something that’s a little different from Motorola.
It’s slick, shiny, curved, and stylish, and genuinely feels more like the sort of thing Samsung would make, not necessarily Moto.
Yet this softened rectangular block is a Moto handset, adopting a slick almost holographic black finish atop a long rectangular shape that sits comfortably in the hands.
The cameras are a new approach for Moto, with the typically centre-focused design sitting on the side, dotting a path down while the front-facing camera sits in the left-most corner. It’s easy and familiar, and we’re fine with that.
Inside, Motorola has opted for an eight-core mid-range chip, and one that’s beginning to grace quite a few of the entry-level 5G handsets we’re seeing of late: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765. This is paired with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, with a fairly stock version of Android 10, something Motorola learned well from the time Google owned it several years ago. You’ll find support for a microSD slot here if you think 128GB isn’t enough, though, so don’t worry if 128GB feels a touch small (it shouldn’t by today’s standards).
At the back, there are four cameras for this phone, sporting a 64 megapixel standard wide camera set to F1.8, a 16 megapixel ultra-wide at F2.2, and an 8 megapixel 2x telephoto at F2.4, plus a Time of Flight depth sensor to measure depth for portrait shots. The rear camera should provide some versatility in stills, while video can capture at a maximum of 4K Ultra HD. On the front, there’s a 25 megapixel selfie cam, as well.
Connection-wise, it’s a pretty standard approach for a 5G handset that isn’t in the flagship, with Bluetooth 5, GPS, Near-Field Communication (NFC) for Google Pay, and 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi (no WiFi 6 here, sadly), plus that 5G connection capable of some very fast speeds. Physical connections are also quite friendly, with Moto leaving the 3.5mm headset jack standard, while also using that Type C USB port we’ve become so fond of for data and charging.
You will also find a fingerprint scanner in the screen, which itself is a 6.7 inch AMOLED display curving to each side, supporting the Full HD+ resolution of 2340×1080. It sits in a body made of aluminium and glass weighing 188g and measuring 9.29mm thick. Motorola has also included a smidgen of water resistance, which isn’t enough to hold water, but will repel a little, supporting IPX2, which is basically just light water-repellant, something Motorola describes as “whoopsie proof” (in case you spill a glass of water on your phone or something like it).
And beneath it all is a 4500mAh battery, though it can only be charged through the Type C USB port at the base of the phone. Unfortunately, there’s no wireless charging here, despite the glass design.
Switch on the Moto Edge with its ridged and textured side power button, and you’ll be treated to a bright and crisp AMOLED screen that curves to the edges in a way Motorola hasn’t yet tried. It’s a nice look, and one that helps the Edge feel more like a device from the future, though we’re sure we’ve said the same about devices from Samsung in the past.
Motorola has clearly had less experience with curved screens, and while the edge-less screen is definitely pretty, the edges bleed completely to the sides, causing you to lose the odd detail of edges and words as you hold the Moto Edge, and even trigger parts of an app you might not intend to. Great on a desk, nice in the palm of your hand, but a little edgy so to speak once you grip and hold.
Fortunately, the performance of the Moto Edge is sufficient, though you may encounter the odd speck of lag from time to time.
The Snapdragon 765 in time is snappy and the 6GB RAM sufficient for most things, though we did find a little bit of lag opening the camera app, jumping through Chrome tabs, and multitasking from time to time. It’s not enough to suggest this phone has problems, more just a bit of a slowdown worth noting, and no big deal whatsoever, and can eave you focused on what you’re doing. Take a breath and focus maybe on the mobile performance, because that’s not bad, either.
When performance comes down to 5G, you should find decent 5G connectivity, which we were able to test when 5G worked, though this largely comes down to reach of 5G networks.
They can be a little hit and miss at times, but we found speeds as high as 490 Mbps were possible when testing the Motorola Edge 5G on the Telstra 5G network in Sydney, while 4G handled itself well enough, too. It’s worth noting that 5G devices work on both networks, so even if 5G isn’t the best, you have options for hitting high speeds, as well.
For many, the reason you buy a phone today is for the camera, and that’s an area Motorola has tried to be a little more forward thinking in. We’re seeing better attempts from the company as of late, what with cute macro cameras that are great ideas, yet let down by silly megapixel counts that dent the validity of such a cute inclusion.
In the Moto Edge, we’re seeing a more refined attempt at versatility which follows in the footsteps of other phones we’ve seen prior. A big standard camera, a decent ultra-wide, and a usable telephoto combined with the depth measurement system results in solid images in daylight and strong light, as well as some acceptable low-light albeit a touch noisy imagery, as well. It’s not the best low-light, and you may find the stacking of Night Mode gives you better results, but it should suffice.
The portrait mode handles its own decently, as well, something we suspect the Time of Flight depth sensor is having a hand in, and you should find the camera performs well enough throughout the day to day.
We wouldn’t say the image quality is remarkable here, either, just decent enough. Motorola hasn’t created a standout camera that impresses in versatility or even camera prowess. Rather, the Moto Edge offers a camera that handles well enough, but mostly plays catch up to the phones offered in the past few years by other brands.
Where the Moto Edge camera struggles a little is the speed for the camera itself, which we noted slightly in the performance. Simply put, it can be a little slow, and while the app will fire up, the viewfinder might not be as ready as you are.
It can be one of those “hold still” sort of cameras, which seems a bit of a shame given the instant speed of everything else the Edge 5G is going for. And it’s not the only spot where we were left wanting just a little more.
Armed with a 4500mAh battery, you might expect the Moto Edge 5G to hit a solid two days of life, given that 4000 to 5000mAh typically results in two days easily.
We found a little less was possible from our time with the Moto Edge 5G, achieving closer to a day and a half, which isn’t bad, but not the best we’ve seen from that sort of capacity.
Granted, every Edge owner will see a slightly different battery life, but the two days we expected didn’t quite deliver, leaving us wanting just a little more from that huge battery supply.
Yet at $999, the price for what you get on paper isn’t terrible, but it’s also not fantastic. The slightly sub-thousand dollar price of the Motorola Edge in Australia seems to roughly be where the entry level is for 5G locally, short of devices like under LG Velvet which hit a hundred lower.
But at $999, it feels like it misses something. While Moto hasn’t skimped on the necessities like a big battery and NFC for Google Pay, and even opted to keep the classic headset jack, it misses out on other things we’ve seen in headphones hitting high price tags over the years.
That leaves the Edge in a rather curious position.
What needs work?
While the Moto Edge is one of Motorola’s nicest phones to date, it can feel a little incomplete. There are things you just expect a phone hitting this close to a thousand dollars to have that Motorola has confusingly omitted, and they let down the rest of the package.
Things like wireless charging, which is missing in action here. Never mind that it’s not exactly a new technology and can be found on many phones, Moto hasn’t included it on the Edge, telling journalists at a briefing that it just “wasn’t designed in by the product team”. The technology has been in mobile dating as far back as when Nokia produced the Lumia phones with Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, which doesn’t even exist anymore.
It’s a similar issue with proper water resistance, another premium feature missing in action on the Moto Edge, with Motorola adding water-repellent grade resistance, with the claim is “whoopsie-proof”. Proper water resistance is fairly desirable in phones, and to not have it here seems like a major miss for the price. Like wireless charging, it’s not exactly a new feature, and has been popping up in phones since the 2014 Samsung Galaxy S5. Six years on, Motorola is still not including it.
There’s also the camera, which is a little slow to fire, a problem that seems very well connected to Motorola’s handsets. It was an issue in the Moto G8 we recently checked out, and even though the twist gesture to launch the camera is still cool, physically pressing the on-screen shutter wasn’t as instantaneous as we’d like initially.
A patch in the Edge seemed to have fixed a bit of that halfway into the review, which is great, but can still deliver images in low light with a blur you might find a touch unbecoming.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
We’re also really unsure about the pricing and Motorola only selling this one outright. While the $800 to $1000 range is becoming the new mid-range for 5G, regardless of what manufacturers believe, it’s still not cheap, and veers closer to the price of a high-end flagship phone. Granted, the price of a flagship phone has changed a lot over the years, but anything that hits close to a thousand is still expensive, especially if it’s only available outright.
And therein lies the problem.
The Moto Edge is one available outright in Australia, and at $999, feels like an incomplete flagship, given what it misses.
Yes, the Edge is Motorola’s most interesting and exciting phone of recent, and gives the company something that finally (finally!) resembles a flagship in Australia, and not just some cool experimental idea it won’t let reviewers review. But it’s also missing the true sense of value Motorola is known for, and muddling things in the process.
The Motorola Edge is a good 5G phone, but it could be better, and at $999, we really want it to be, especially if you have to swallow the cost at once, which you do.
At a grand, it feels like it should be a flagship, but doesn’t completely nail that approach. The Moto Edge is a somewhat flagship that would definitely work, but needs improvement, and frankly, feels like it would achieve it properly in version two.