It is slim pickings for small phone lovers in today’s market. Though some more petite options do exist, they are often pitched towards the higher end, though not so with the Moto Edge 30 Neo. With an under-average size footprint and a snazzy design, it does a lot to endear itself, only helped by a great screen and fast charging. With poor low-light camera performance and a general lack of power, it does come with caveats, but as an overall package is easy to recommend – especially to those with hobbit hands.
- Stunning lightweight design
- Gorgeous Pantone colour finishes
- Flat to full in just over 30 minutes
- Hit-and-miss camera performance
- Snapdragon 695 could do more
- Slim, lightweight buildThis handset just weighs 155g, and it’s 7.8mm thick.
- Rapid fast-charging techThis handset supports 68W fast charging that’ll get you a full charge in just over half an hour.
- Motorola ReadyFor supportMotorola’s ReadyFor support brings notifications, Android apps and more from the Neo to connected Windows laptops.
Few design concepts in the smartphone world are as long in the tooth, and arguably none are as dogged in their refusal to die. Since the mobile phone first became a fixture in modern life there have been designs characterised as ‘too big’ and others that emphasise pocketability – both being heavily contextual to the time period in question.
In the present, the Motorola Edge 30 Neo is a ‘small’ phone, though with a screen of over 6 inches it is still gargantuan by the standards of a decade ago. It is positioned against its more premium brethren, the Ultra and the Fusion, as a more utilitarian, everyman option though it does come with an interesting sheet of specifications.
Though it may be smaller, and cheaper, than its kin, it has a 1080p OLED display, a 50MP camera, a powerful processor and an interesting design to boot – so it is hardly a poor cousin. This said, at the price of entry it finds itself up against a host of powerful players, each offering options that blend a similar set of specs, though all of them are larger.
The question then, as it has ever been, is: does a smaller form factor do enough to distinguish the Neo, both from more premium members of the same device line and the competition?
Design and screen
- Has a flat OLED screen with 1080p resolution
- Rear is encased in coloured plastic
- Doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack
The Motorola Edge 30 Neo, over all of the competition, is one thing, and that is small. A phone designed first and foremost with one-handed usage in mind, it weighs almost nothing (155g) and is simple to use on the go. If you are someone who has small hands, or trouble with larger phones, the Neo should be on your list by default. There are few other options on the market offering a similar form factor, and almost none at the same price.
Beyond simple size, the Neo is a well-built phone. The lack of weight can be initially jarring, a consequence of the light plastic used in its construction, but it is nicely balanced and feels as though it could survive an impromptu drop. This is with the important caveat that said drop should not involve water or liquid of any sort, there is no water resistance here, only splash resistance. Much of the competition is in a similar position, but the lack of proper resistance is still a drawback.
The phone is constructed entirely of plastic, with a rough grippy texture on the rear. Beyond making it immune to the death drops that glass devices seem so prone to, it means that this is a phone that can be used naked (i.e. without a case). That isn’t to say that it will be able to survive a big drop, that certainly isn’t the case, but that the rear can survive an encounter with keys in a jacket pocket and emerge unscathed.
Happily, colour options are a strong point. At some point in the past, it was decided by a shadowy court that black, white and grey were the sole colour options for mobile phones that the public could have – and the Neo exists in rebellion of that decision. My review unit came in a fetching purple, and there are three other options available.
Overall the Neo isn’t necessarily the most interesting phone on the market, or at the price point, from a design perspective, but it is robust and comfortable to use, both of which are significant strong points. That it has wireless charging too is a nice surprise, as it is something that much of the competition at the price point omits entirely.
On the front, the display impresses too, with enough in the way of oomph to stand up to its peers. At 1080p it has resolution enough to keep things sharp while sporting strong colour saturation and contrast as a result of its OLED construction. With a screen that refreshes at up to 120Hz the phone feels fast and fluid in general use, and the thin aspect ratio keeps it easy to use with one hand.
Though it doesn’t make many grand strides to prove its quality over the competition, the display on the Edge 30 Neo is pleasant in every metric that matters. Though it might not have the acreage to be immersive in the way that some larger devices can, that it is usable one-handed means that it has some important advantages.
- Rear main camera has 64MP and OIS, flanked by a 13MP ultra-wide
- Front facing camera is 32MP, binning to 8MP
- Can be launched with a double-twist of the wrist
There are caveats attached to smaller, thinner, phones that might not be expected. Of course, a smaller screen and general footprint will mean reduced battery life and slightly worse viewing experience with video, but there are consequences for the camera too.
Modern smartphone cameras, though tiny, benefit heavily from extra space to include niceties such as larger sensors and optical image stabilisation among others. With an emphasis on being petite, the Edge 30 Neo then theoretically has a lot to prove over its bulkier brethren.
Starting with the app, it doesn’t deviate from the norm (i.e. the standard iOS/Pixel layout) but it manages two important things. The first, it launches quickly – too many apps, especially on budget phones, have a ponderous opening time which can mean regularly missing impromptu shots. As phone photography still leans heavily on spontaneity, this is therefore a major disadvantage. With the ‘double-twist’ gesture, opening the app on the Moto Edge 30 Neo is a quick and painless proposition.
Secondly, it locks focus quickly, which leans into the former point regarding spontaneity. Important settings are also never difficult to reach, which is of course a minor victory too.
As for actual image quality, though it doesn’t quite stand up to the more premium competition, for the most part it holds its own. On the whole, the 64MP sensor kicks out images that have enough detail (binned to 16MP) and strong colour reproduction.
Dynamic range can be a bit hit or miss, with the Auto HDR working to restore highlights but not effectively in some difficult situations – as with sunsets. Coupled with the relatively quick focussing time, this is a camera that will work well for most ‘smartphone’ photography, even if it doesn’t hold a candle to more capable devices.
Low-light performance, though it might be expected, was not a highlight. Though the included night mode works to bring out saturation and detail in images, still it doesn’t do enough to keep them from looking muddy and washed out.
Selfies from the front-facing camera are a strong point, however, showcasing decent dynamic range, good skin tone reproduction and enough detail. The ultra-wide doubles as a macro cam and produces workmanlike images that have decent colour but that are lacking in detail, as is often the case at the price point.
Though you would be mad to pick up the Neo for its camera performance alone, on the whole, it performs capably and doesn’t prove to be an overall setback, which is still something of a win given its budget context.
- Runs a Snapdragon 695 processor
- Comes with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage by default
- Runs mostly ‘stock’ Android with a Moto twist
If the Edge 30 Neo has seen investment in its screen and general design, an area of clear sacrifice has been its performance.
With a Snapdragon 695 and 8GB of RAM, our review unit was able to handle most basic tasks with ease, which is to say swiping through the interface and messaging plus social media. If you are a light user, the Neo will fly.
Moving on to more demanding tasks such as gaming, and the situation understandably changes somewhat. Titles such as PUBG run slowly and will need to be run at lower resolutions, if therefore you are someone who places a lot of emphasis on mobile gaming you’d be best to look elsewhere.
The Neo isn’t lacking in general speed, but it doesn’t have the necessary grunt to push heavy games. This is borne out by the 655 single-core and 1862 multi-core scores in Geekbench 5, which is sufficient but hardly pushing the boundaries of performance in smartphones.
As is ever the case, given that it is a phone from Motorola, the Neo comes running the ‘Moto Experience’. This is the manufacturer’s attempt to give the base Android experience a little favour and improve its usability in many situations.
These are mostly in fairly small ways, such as with the addition of gestures to open the torch and camera, and an always-on display that is customisable and which provides useful information.
Perhaps the biggest and most significant inclusion is ‘Ready For’, an app that promises extra functionality for the device when connected to a computer, tablet or display. On the latter two, this means receiving texts on your tablet and is mostly a case of redundancy. When connected to a computer the feature becomes significantly more useful however. With the correct mode active the Neo can be used as an impromptu webcam, or can even provide a desktop environment of its own.
While some software skins grate even after only a few minutes of use, the Moto skin is generally useful and never proves to get in the way, only ever working to benefit the overall experience.
- Has a 4,020mAh battery
- Offers 68W fast charging via PowerDelivery
- Charges over USB-C
It is inevitable – with a smaller body comes a smaller battery, and of course a trade-off in battery life.
With a 4020mAh unit, the Neo lacks the large power packs of its peers and so is therefore at an inherent disadvantage when it comes to battery life, or so the story is on paper.
Across several days of real-world usage, a second picture appears. This is a phone that won’t win any endurance competitions, but one which proves to be entirely adequate for everyday needs. That is to say, it will last a full day in most use cases for many people, but it doesn’t have the capability to make it through to a second day.
This is the same as much of the competition can accomplish, and is a consequence of a relatively power-efficient processor and a laidback software skin.
Charging up proved to be something of a highlight, with the included fast charger it was possible to regain 80% from scratch in under 30 minutes. This isn’t the fastest available on the market today, but is more than enough to be useful in a pinch.
Should you buy it?
You want a premium-looking phone without the associated price tag:
The Motorola Edge 30 Neo puts design first with a slimline, lightweight design and a collaboration with Pantone on available finishes.
You want a top-performing smartphone:
The mid-range focus of the Edge 30 Neo means it’s not the most powerful smartphone around, especially when it comes to gaming.
The small phone is a noble ideal, one that is unlikely to die anytime soon and the Edge 30 Neo is a prime example of why. With a great screen and a pocketable form factor, it has an allure beyond the typical specs appeal that gives it an edge over the (bigger) competition. This is only compounded by its decent camera system, fast charging and generally acceptable performance and battery life.
The picture, of course, isn’t wholly positive, with middling performance, lack of waterproofing and poor low-light camera performance. If you are in the market for a reasonably priced small phone, it should be near the top of your list, but if you need more power or the best cameras, you’d be best to look elsewhere.
How we test
We test every mobile phone we review thoroughly. We use industry-standard tests to compare features properly and we use the phone as our main device over the review period. We’ll always tell you what we find and we never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
Used as a main phone for the review period
Thorough camera testing in a variety of conditions
Tested and benchmarked using respected industry tests and real-world data
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A charger is included with this phone.
It is rated for splash resistance.
It doesn’t have a headphone jack.
It does have wireless charging.