Motorola Edge 2021: Good 5G value in crowded Android smartphone market

Motorola's Verizon variant of its Edge device isn't perfect but for the price it's a keeper.

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Motorola's latest Edge device is a tweener between a mid-range and premium device, but it's one that packs a lot of value, solid camera upgrades and perks that folks expect from higher end 5G devices. The Motorola Edge circa 2021 is worth your consideration in the budget 5G space.

After a year of testing and monitoring Motorola launches, I'm finding the company's portfolio one of the more interesting ones in the smartphone race. Motorola, which is owned by Lenovo, has homed in on a category I'd call value innovation. The smartphone maker covers a wide range of price points including the Moto G Stylus, which has improved greatly in its second gen, to devices that'll cost you as much as a pair of running shoes to the border of premium.

Toss in regular Android updates and a clean experience and the value is evident. I tested Motorola's Edge refresh with Verizon's ultrawide 5G coverage. The catch is that where I live, I'm lucky to get Verizon's 5G signal at all. When I drive to Philadelphia, Verizon's speediest 5G is widely available and you see a big difference.

Bottom line: If you're buying Motorola's Edge to get Verizon's ultrawideband 5G (C-band support) your mileage will vary. Luckily, Motorola's Edge is available at retail on other carriers too. The other positive is Motorola Edge carries a price tag of $699.99. Motorola offered a $200 discount for a limited time, but often discounts abound for the company's devices. The Verizon variant of Motorola Edge is available Oct. 14 at $18.33 per month for 30 months or $549.99.

As I noted when Motorola launched the Edge 5G, the company is aiming for budget-conscious consumers as well as enterprises. The latest Edge plays to that performance/value motif with a 108MP Ultra Pixel camera, a display with a refresh rate of 144Mhz, a 5000mAh battery and Qualcomm 778G processor. Motorola has also been adding business features such as Lenovo's ThinkShield security system to devices.

After two weeks with the Motorola Edge, I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars. The device isn't perfect but for the price it's a keeper. With Motorola devices, the catch has been a weaker camera system relative to premium devices from Apple and Samsung. However, the Motorola Edge's camera quality has been improving. In fact, my biggest complaint with the Edge's camera set up is that it protrudes a good bit. Again, the tradeoff with smartphones is price vs. camera in most cases.

Key points for your buying decision:

Price: The $200 discount, which I'll bet will come back should it go away for a bit, puts the Edge below the $500 mark. There's a lot of phone for the price considering there's up to 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of internal storage with SD card support and a strong display that isn't AMOLED but has a refresh rate of 144Hz and feels premium.

Camera: Motorola's 2021 Edge has an improved camera system with a primary 108-megapixel sensor that offers good low-light performance. There's also an 8MP wide-angle camera with 119-degree field of view and an 2MP depth sensor. Selfies get a 32MP camera. Photo quality is subjective, but I found the Motorola camera setup on par if not better than OnePlus 9 Pro's setup give or take a few situations. The DXO score for the Motorola Edge Plus was 117 a year ago. Motorola should be able to improve on that mark with its Edge refresh. Best in class is Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max with a score of 137.

Battery: Motorola's 5,000mAh battery is supposed to last two days and in my use that claim is legit.

Software: Motorola Edge ships with Android 11 and will get two years of major updates and two-years of security patches. Perhaps more importantly, the Motorola Android experience is uncluttered. The included My UX skin allows for personalization but doesn't overdo it. Motorola also has Ready For software, which allows you to connect to TVs and other large screens as well as desktop displays.

Display: The 6.8-inch display is strong and the 144Hz refresh rate gives the Edge some spunk.

Processor: The Edge runs on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 778G processor, which is a step down from 2020's Snapdragon 865, but it's doubtful you'd notice the difference.

What corners did the 2021 Edge cut? For starters, there isn't wireless charging support and it's not waterproof like other premium devices that carry IP67 or IP68 waterproofing. In addition, the plastic back picks up fingerprints in a hurry and the edged screen that gave the device its name is gone. In other words, you can't get everything you want for $500 to $700.

It'll be interesting to see how Motorola Edge fares as Google's Pixel 6 devices launch.