Motorola certainly hasn't been sat around while other phone brands have risen to prominence. The American company, since its acquisition by Lenovo, has been putting out umpteen mid-range phones. But there's been one notable black hole: where's the flagship Moto been hiding?

Well, 2020 is the year Motorola wants to answer that in multiple ways. Following the Razr flip phone capturing headlines in late 2019, the flagship for the masses comes in the form of the Motorola Edge+, complete with its edge-to-edge curved OLED display.

There's also the step-down model, the Motorola Edge, which features the very same design but cuts back some hardware features for the sake of price. Does that make it the savviest Motorola to buy, or does it lose out to the abundance of other tempting handsets out there today?

Design & Display

  • 6.7-inch curved OLED display, 1080 x 2340 resolution
    • 19.5:9 aspect ratio, 90Hz refresh rate, HDR10
  • Dimensions: 161.6 x 71.1 x 9.3mm / Weight: 188g
  • Water repellent design (not IP rated)
  • Under-screen fingerprint scanner
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • microSD card support
  • Finish: Noir Black

There's been a race on to see which company can reduce screen bezel the most in recent years. From earlier Xiaomi Mi Mix models, to the more recent Huawei P40 Pro curving all its corners, or the Vivo NEX 3's waterfall display. Motorola's approach in the Edge is what is calls an Endless Edge display - similar to the Vivo, really - where the left and right edges curve around at such an extreme that there's no really any side bezel whatsoever; it's hidden to the point of almost being around the back.

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Having such an extreme curve comes as both a positive and a negative though. It introduces additional features, such as a virtual trigger buttons for gaming, Moto Edge Touch for app shortcuts to hide within the curved edge until called upon, Edge lights to use the edge portion only for notification illumination, and similar such alerts. But accidential touches can't always be avoided, while content can be harder to see in certain apps - which can become irksome for certain games in particular (it can be switched off in an app-by-app basis, but if it wasn't curved it wouldn't be an issue anyway).

Perhaps the most notable downside of such a curve, however, is that it results in a physical seam between screen edge and the actual rear of the phone. As such the Edge just doesn't have as refined a look as some other flagships. Furthermore the seam is big enough for debris to get stuck within - including in and around the buttons, and even the top speaker grille opening - to a greater degree than we've noticed on most other phones we've reviewed.

The screen itself is a 6.7-inch OLED panel, which might sound huge, but as the aspect ratio is 19.5:9 it's actually more tall. That makes reaching across the panel really easy with a thumb. It's nicely proportioned.

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As for brightness and colour, there's plenty of punch here. We sat the Edge side-by-side against the OnePlus 8 and the Motorola has a more saturation and slightly cleaner visual appearance given its colour balance. For an elongated panel such as this, the Edge also has ample resolution. Interestingly there's no major difference between the Edge and Edge Plus' screens (except the Plus can handle both HDR10 and HDR10+, the Edge just the former high dynamic range format - not that we think it matters on a device of this size).

That also means the panel is capable of a 90Hz refresh rate, which is very much flavour of flagship devices these days. In the Edge, however, we've found it to add no benefit: its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to apply appropriate frame-rates depending on which app you're viewing has resulted in lower-than-usual frame-rates for, say, our banking apps and Twitter - which seems entirely contrary to the point of a higher refresh rate panel. Even when digging into settings to apply 90Hz at all times we've not been getting consistent results.

Another downside is the implementation of the  under-screen fingerprint scanner. We love using such scanners for their ease of use when it comes to logging in, but the Edge's one just feels like it's a generation old - it fails all too frequently. Features such as dragging a notification icon on the lock screen to quickly load that specific app is a great idea, but its implementation fails too often and reverts to PIN login instead.

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Overall, then, we feel that the Motorola Edge's display has a lot to shout about - but it's a tale of two halves. It's look-at-me curved design is certainly eye-catching, but it doesn't bring a huge deal of must-have functionality. The 90Hz dislay is an oversell here, sadly, as frame-rate playback has been sloppy. But the important things are in check: there's enough brightness, colour and resolution, plus Moto's previously overzealous auto-brightness is finally in check.

Performance & Battery

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 processor (octa-core), 6GB RAM
  • 4,500mAh battery capacity, 18W TurboPower fast-charging
  • Android 10, Moto app (Display, Actions, Gametime, Tips)
  • 5G connectivity

It's with the internals that the Motorola Edge differs the most compared to its Edge Plus cousin. But as top-tier processors tend to be beyond what most normal folk really need these days, the use of a Snapdragon 765 here sounded to us like it would be more than enough. Generally speaking it is: you'll be able to play games, run multiple apps, sort out tasks, and not think much of it.

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But the SD765 shows it's not the top-end processor when you start looking at the finer points. We're avid fans of South Park: Phone Destroyer, for example, which runs lag-free in play, but doesn't always present perfect fluid animations like it does on other recent review phones (the OnePlus 8, again for example, simply runs the game better).

A lot of the reason for using SD765 is that it brings 5G connectivity. There's the usual 3G/4G/LTE if you're not on a 5G contract or around an active 5G network - which has been the case for the entirety of us reviewing this phone (lockdown!) - but the promise of this Motorola is that you can get super-fast connectivity without paying out a super-massive price for the handset. (Note: the Edge Plus caters for both mmwave and sub-6G networks, the standard Edge on review here is sub-6G only.)

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Despite the slightest of frame drops being visible, the Motorola Edge handles gaming rather well thanks to its Gametime mode, which comes under the umbrella of the pre-installed Moto app. The mode's ability to block calls during games, disable auto-brightness adjustment, and enhance audio is all a bonus that we find useful.

The Moto app also handles Display settings (always-on notifications, sensitive notifications, and so on), Action settings (flip to answer call, karate chop to activate flash light, and so on), Tips (walk-through for gesture navigation and Android 10 features), and Personalise (to choose styles, wallpapers, layouts and animations).

Fortunately Motorola keeps all its extras wrapped within that one app. Otherwise the software is much like Google's stock Android, meaning it's clean and easy to use - whether you're a well-established user or new to the format.

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The Endless Edge display helps the Motorola Edge not feel too big in the hand, but it's actually a rather thick phone. That's because it houses a large capacity (4,500mAh) battery within, which delivers a strong innings. At a weekend when we spent almost two hours gaming and three hours recording a Strava session, plus the usual additions of screen time and checking various apps, the phone lasted through 16 hours and still had 50 per cent battery remaining. So it's a long-laster, no doubt about that.

Cameras

  • Triple rear camera with separate Time-of-Flight (ToF) depth sensor
    • Main (26mm equiv.): 64-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, 0.8µm pixel size, Quad Pixel technology
    • Zoom (2x, 52mm): 8MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1.12µm
    • Ultra-wide (0.5x, 13mm), 16MP, f/2.2, 1.0µm
  • Front-facing camera: 25MP, f/2.0, 0.9µm

Motorola has been utilising various photography-focused features across a variety of its phones, from the One series to the G series, where we've seen high-resolution, zoom, macro, video sensors, and more. The Motorola Edge takes much of that and compresses it into its triple camera system.

There's a 64-megapixel main sensor, 0.5x ultra-wide to fit twice as much in the frame, and 2x zoom to make farther away subjects appear twice as close in the frame. A fourth - the ToF or Time-of-Flight sensor - also features, used to apply software-based blurring to backgrounds (and which some companies would use to market as a quad camera system, but Motorola admirably hasn't).

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As the Edge is a middle-price phone, it's swapped out a lot of the bigger-hitting camera hardware that you'll find in the Plus model (which has a 108MP main sensor, and a 12MP sensor on its longer 3x zoom lens). That a problem? Not really: the Edge here is well composed when it comes to the main camera, but it can't really compete with the same veracity when it comes to the ultra-wide and zoom options.

Having the option of ultra-wide and zoom lenses is certainly useful, especially in the case of the former. Sure, you won't get the sharpest images ever, and edge sharpness isn't great, but on a small screen and shared on social media we don't think anyone will mind too much. At least you have the chance to mix up that composition as suits.

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But if you do want sharpness then it's the main sensor that you'll want to be using. It doesn't output 64MP images by default (although it can, if you want), instead using an oversampling method to compress four 'pixels' into one, for increased sharpness and dynamism. It works, too, as the shots have goof detail - especially if you're shooting a close subject.

A variety of modes also feature, including Night Mode, among others, which add extra to the Edge's bow. Again, definitely nice-to-haves, but certainly not class-leading when Google has Night Sight, Huawei has Night Vision, and so on. The HDR (high dynamic range) can get a bit over the top, too, especially when it comes to clouds on brighter days. 

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Overall, you could say the Motorola Edge is on the money when it comes to its camera setup. Handsets with a similar asking price will deliver much the same feature set and results though, so there's nothing truly standout here.

Verdict

The Motorola Edge, despite having the very same design as the Moto Edge Plus, is a wholly different beast. It's pretty much half the price, for starters, which ought to give it oodles more appeal to more buyers compared to the true flagship.

The Edge's curved OLED screen is certainly eye-catching, given its more-or-less absence of side bezel, but does it truly bring anything must-have to the party? Really, we would rather have more consistent frame-rate playback (despite 90Hz it's not always on form here) and a worthy in-display fingerprint scanner (the one here feels a generation out of date) on a flatter screen.

That's the residing sense about the Edge: it's on the edge of excellence, but doesn't wholeheartedly hurdle over that barrier to become a winner in every way that it could have.

That said, if you want an eye-catching phone with a curved screen like few others, at a very reasonable price point, and which lasts for an epic amount of time, then the Motorola Edge will more than give the competition a run for their money.

Also consider

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OnePlus 8

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With a more powerful processor, flatter screen, and preferable colour finish, it might be worth paying the little extra to get hold of OnePlus' latest (there's also the Pro version, but that's a lot more cash and comparable to the Motorola Edge+).