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Motorola Edge (2021) announced: Price, release date and major features

Motorola Edge (2021)
(Image credit: Motorola)

Last year's Motorola Edge featured a perfectly capable 5G smartphone undermined by lackluster cameras that failed to measure up to those on rival phones. Clearly, Motorola doesn't want that happening again with this year's version of its midrange phone.

To that end, the Motorola Edge (2021) announced today (Aug. 19) boasts a 108MP main camera — specs that match the primary sensor on Samsung's Galaxy S21 Ultra. The key difference, though, is that the Motorola Edge (2021) costs $500 less than Samsung's tricked-out flagship device.

Motorola Edge (2021) specs

Price: $699
Screen: 6.8-inch LCD (FHD+, 144Hz refresh rate)
CPU: Snapdragon 778G
RAM: 6/8 GB
Storage: 128GB/256GB
Expandable storage: Yes
Rear cameras: 108MP (f/1.9) main; 8MP ultrawide (f/2.2); 2MP depth sensor (f/2.4)
Front camera: 32MP (f/2.25)
Battery size: 5,000 mAh
Size: 6.7 x 3 x 0.35 inches
Weight: 7.05 ounces

The beefed-up camera on the latest Motorola Edge is just one way Motorola hopes its phone can stand out from a crowded field of sub-$700 5G phones. In addition to the camera improvements, the Motorola Edge (2021) also features a 6.8-inch display with a refresh rate that you typically see in gaming phones, plus the kind of multi-day battery life that's become standard with Motorola handsets.

All of that is packed into a phone that debuts at $699 — and Motorola is taking $200 off that price for a limited time. The phone arrives Sept. 2 at Best Buy, B&H Photo, Amazon.com and Motorola.com. In a few months, the Motorola Edge (2021) will be available through both Verizon and Spectrum, while Canadian shoppers will have to wait until later this year for the phone.

This new Motorola Edge is the North American variant of the Motorola Edge 20 phones the phone maker announced last month for European audiences. The U.S. version takes elements of both the Motorola Edge 20 and Edge 20 Pro, as both those phones also have 144Hz refresh rates and 108MP main cameras. Unlike the higher-end Edge 20 Pro, though, with its Snapdragon 870 system-on-chip, the Motorola Edge (2021) takes a page out of the standard Edge 20's book by turning to a Snapdragon 778G.

The Snapdragon 778G is a powerful-enough chip, and it includes built-in 5G connectivity. But it doesn't deliver the performance you'd expect from one one of Qualcomm's 8 Series chipsets. Still, Motorola claims the Snapdragon 778G can boost the Motorola Edge's graphics performance by 55% over last year's model; AI performance is set to be 2x faster.

Motorola Edge (2021) cameras

It's the camera setup on the Motorola Edge (2021) that's likely to get the most attention. In addition to the 108MP main sensor, the phone also features an 8MP ultrawide angle shooter with a 119-degree field of view and a depth sensor for more stylish portrait shots. Up front, there's a 32MP selfie cam.

Motorola Edge (2021)

(Image credit: Motorola)

Camera features offered by the new phone include a Dual Capture mode for recording with a rear camera and selfie camera at the same time. That's been featured on earlier Motorola phones, but the company says that now you choose two of the rear cameras if you prefer. Dual Capture also works with both video and still images on the Motorola Edge.

A new low-light selfie AI capability turns on automatically and determines if there are parts of self-portraits that would benefit from image enhancement. The idea is that on-board image processing can remove shadows and graininess that might mar low-light photos.

On the video front, the Motorola Edge records 4K video, and it's capable of capturing super slow motion footage that's 4x slower than on previous Moto handsets. An Audio Zoom feature tells on-board microphones what to focus on as you zoom in, blocking out ambient noise.

It's been a while since Motorola has ranked among our picks for the best camera phones. But it's clear with the Motorola Edge (2021) that the phone maker is hoping to change that.

Motorola Edge (2021) display, battery and other features

As noted above, the LCD panel on the Motorola Edge offers a 144Hz refresh rate that dynamically adjusts based on what you're doing on the phone's screen. Activities like scrolling would get a faster refresh rate, while the screen would slow things down on more static activities to preserve battery life.

Motorola Edge (2021)

(Image credit: Motorola)

Considering that the Galaxy S21 series and the latest OnePlus 9 flagships all top out at 120Hz refresh rates, the display on the cheaper Motorola Edge (2021) should be a pretty impressive sight to see.

The new Motorola model runs on a 5,000 mAh battery, a bump up from the 4,500 mAh power pack in the original Motorola Edge. That phone lasted more than 12 hours on our battery test of having phones continuously surf the web, placing it on our best phone battery life list. We're expecting big things from the Motorola Edge (2021) and its bigger battery. When it's time to recharge, the new Motorola Edge supports 30W charging.

Motorola is also touting the Edge's compatibility with the company's Ready For program, which lets you wireless connect to a monitor, turning your phone into a portable PC. Software support is less impressive — Motorola promises two years of major Android software updates, along with two years of regular security patches. Considering the phone ships with Android 11, the Android 12 update coming out shortly takes care of one of those updates right away. Compared to other companies like Samsung, OnePlus and Google, Motorola's update policy isn't impressive.

Motorola Edge (2021) outlook

We like a lot about last year's Motorola Edge and its pricier Motorola Edge Plus counterpart. The problem was those phones did little to distinguish themselves from other top Android devices. With the Motorola Edge (2021), it sounds like Motorola is making an effort to beef up some of the features in its higher-end phone lineup. We'll see how successful the phone maker is when we get a new Motorola Edge in for testing.

Philip Michaels
Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.