motorola edge lead

Android flagships like the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro are great, but not everyone has upward of $1,000 to spend on a new phone. That’s where the new $499 Motorola Edge comes in. The latest version of Motorola’s mid-tier handset might not have the same bells and whistles as its fancier counterparts, but it promises a pretty compelling set of features for the price — including a few things you won’t always find on more expensive devices.

The 2022 Motorola Edge is set to launch sometime in the next few weeks, and we got to spend some hands-on time ahead of release to see how this aggressively priced phone stacks up to the competition. Here’s what you need to know.

Motorola Edge price and preorders

The new Motorola Edge will first launch on T-Mobile “in the coming weeks,” according to Motorola. The phone will then hit most major carriers as well as Best Buy, Amazon and Motorola’s website shortly after that, for a special launch price of $499. We’re not sure how long the launch window is set to last, but the phone will eventually jump to $599 after that.

A $500 phone that looks the part

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The new Motorola Edge’s curvy edges and nearly borderless display look slick from a distance, but once you pick one up, it very much feels like a $500 phone. The handset’s plastic exterior felt pretty cheap compared to the aluminum bodies on the iPhone 13 and Galaxy S22 I typically use, and the Edge’s silver backside picked up fingerprints pretty quickly. A plasticky design isn’t a deal breaker at this price — and it allows the Edge to be significantly lighter than many flagships — but it is something you’ll notice if you’re coming from a more expensive phone.

But while the Edge’s overall build is what I’d expect from a low-cost phone, the handset’s display was a pleasant surprise. This device’s seamless 6.6-inch OLED screen doesn’t quite have the same rich level of color I’m used to from the likes of Apple and Samsung, but it offered plenty of detail and clarity when I fired up the trailer for “Star Wars: Andor.” More crucially, it has a whopping 144Hz refresh rate, which means that scrolling through documents and bouncing between apps feels more than twice as smooth as it would on most phones at this price.

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This feature made swiping through the CNN Underscored website feel incredibly responsive, and allowed the high-speed racing action of Asphalt 9 to look strikingly fluid. Considering that rival budget phones like the Google Pixel 6a — and even more expensive phones like the iPhone 13 — are still stuck at a slower 60Hz, the Edge’s ultra-smooth display gives it a big advantage over other affordable handsets.

I’m not expecting the Edge’s MediaTek Dimensity 1050 processor to smoke the latest iPhones, Pixels and Galaxy devices on our benchmark tests, but Motorola’s latest phone performed perfectly fast enough in my limited testing time. Mobile games ran without a hitch, switching between apps was fast and I could even watch a YouTube video in picture-in-picture while browsing the web without any noticeable slowdown. We’ll have to see how the Edge shakes out under our typical everyday workload, but if you’re just texting friends, checking email and visiting websites, you should be just fine.

A decent camera experience and promising features

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The new Motorola Edge packs a triple-camera system that has a lot of the fancy tech specs you might find on a more expensive phone, including a 50-megapixel main lens as well as a 13-megapixel ultrawide lens for nice panoramic shots. The phone is designed to take good shots in low light, which mostly proved to be the case when I snapped a few photos of a dim, neon-lit arcade area that Motorola set up for its event. The Edge’s optical image stabilization also allowed for some decently smooth video of someone playing Skee-Ball in said area.

The standard selfies I snapped on the phone’s 32-megapixel front camera weren’t the best, though I got much better results when I switched to portrait mode, which blurred out the background for more dramatic and clear shots. I’m not expecting the Edge to hold up to a Galaxy or Pixel — especially with all of the latter’s software smarts — but I’m looking forward to seeing how its cameras hold up in real-world use.

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The Motorola Edge packs some handy extra features, such as the ability to cast whatever you’re doing to a larger screen (like a TV) and connect the phone to a Windows PC to use your mobile apps on a computer. I watched a Motorola rep beam a mobile racing game to a TV while playing with a connected Bluetooth controller, and while you wouldn’t confuse it for a console game, the experience looked fairly smooth. Same goes for the Ready for PC functionality, which looks a lot like the connectivity that Samsung offers between its phones and PCs. If you’re the type of person who’s regularly sharing files between your smartphone and your laptop, this could come in handy for you.

Fancy features aside, Motorola is promising a fairly clean Android 12 experience, and guarantees that you’ll get three years of software updates and four years of security updates. The phone packs stereo Dolby Atmos speakers, and while it’s too soon to speak to their overall quality, I was pretty impressed by the fact that I could at least hear them in the middle of a loud demonstration room filled with chatter.

The company claims that the phone’s 5,000mAh battery will get you through up to two full days of use, with fast charging support that’s designed to get you hours of battery life after just a few minutes of charging. We were impressed with the 2020 Motorola Edge’s endurance when we reviewed it a few years back, so hopefully its long battery life carries over this year.

The takeaway

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The new Motorola Edge is shaping up to be a good $500 phone. The problem is, a lot of those exist already. The Google Pixel 6a — our current best budget smartphone pick — offers a more appealing design, a great camera experience and the same fast processor as its more expensive siblings, all for an even cheaper $449. And if you’re willing to go team Apple, the latest iPhone SE has a lot of the same qualities (but within a much smaller design) for just $429. If you’re on an extra-tight budget and don’t need the latest specs, the 2021 Motorola Edge can be found for as cheap as $349 right now.

The 2022 Edge’s secret weapon against its biggest rivals is its 144Hz screen, which should provide a much smoother experience for scrolling, streaming and gaming. But when it comes to performance, cameras and day-to-day usability, the Edge has a bit of an uphill battle ahead of it if it wants to hold up to the competition. We’ll have a full review of Motorola’s latest in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.