Android Central Verdict
The Motorola One 5G Ace might have launched at a price that doesn't make sense, but since then it's dropped in half and is actually finally worth your money. With a fast processor, 5G support, a big battery, and an Android 12 update around the corner, the Motorola One 5G Ace is actually a good buy so long as you don't need good cameras.
Snapdragon 750G is fast and responsive
Fantastic battery life
IP52 water resistance
There's a headphone jack
One of the cheapest 5G phones available
Bland, cheap design design
Camera is slow and lacks OIS
5G is limited to sub-6 speeds
Ships with Android 10
Promised just one OS update
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2020 was a mixed year for Motorola in the Android space. The Moto G Power stands out as one of the very best cheap Android phones of the last year, Motorola finally dove back into the flagship space with the Motorola Edge+, and the company made massive progress in the foldable niche with the RAZR (2020).
For all of those highs, however, there were also a few stumbles. Not only does Motorola's lackluster software update policy get more and more annoying with every year that passes, but outside of the G Power, most of the company's other budget phones failed to find strong footing. Sticking with the strategy of throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, Motorola's kicking off 2021 by launching four new budget-minded devices all at once.
The Motorola One 5G Ace is leading that charge, touting the title of Motorola's most affordable 5G phone to-date. It's a notable release as far as 5G is concerned, but as an overall product, it ends up being a device that's challenging to recommend.
Motorola One 5G Ace Price and availability
Pre-orders for the Motorola One 5G Ace are live right now, with regular sales beginning on January 14. The phone is available universally unlocked at Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Walmart, and Motorola's website for $399.99.
The One 5G Ace will also be headed to carriers later this year. According to Motorola, we'll see the phone arrive at AT&T, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity. Carrier availability for the Motorola One 5G Ace will launch "in the coming months."
Motorola One 5G Ace What I like
Before we get too deep in the bad stuff surrounding the Motorola One 5G Ace, I do want to highlight the things about the phone that work — starting first with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor.
|Category||Motorola One 5G Ace|
|Operating System||Android 10|
|Display||6.7-inch LCD, Full HD+|
|Rear Cameras||48MP primary, 8MP ultra-wide, 2MP macro|
|Dimensions||166.1 x 76.1 x 9.9mm|
This is the first phone launching in the U.S. to be powered by the 750G, and for all intents and purposes, it's an ever-so-slightly underclocked version of the Snapdragon 765G that we saw in so many devices last year. Despite being a technical downgrade, the 750G has been every bit as reliable as the 765G in my day-to-day use. In other words, it's a very fast and capable processor that most users will be served perfectly by.
Apps open quickly, 6GB of RAM allows for good multitasking, and I rarely found myself waiting on the phone to do what I wanted. It's obviously not the same flagship-grade experience available on much more expensive devices, but especially at this price point, there's little to complain about.
I've also been really impressed by the Motorola One 5G Ace's battery life. It's packing a 5,000 mAh battery, and as expected with a capacity that large, this is a device you can use for at least two days on a single charge. Big battery capacities are something Motorola really got right in 2020, and I'm thrilled to see the company's commitment to that holding true in 2021. Still being limited to 15W charging does put a damper on things, and sooner or later, Motorola needs to move beyond this antiquated charge speed.
Performance and battery life are where the One 5G Ace really stands out, with the rest of the positives being smaller but helping to round out the device as a whole.
The lack of a 90Hz refresh rate for the display is irritating, but thanks to a Full HD+ resolution and LCD panel, everything still looks crisp and offers pretty good colors. There's 128GB of storage that you can expand with a microSD card, Motorola still gives you a headphone jack, and there's NFC for contactless Google Pay support (something we don't often see with affordable Motorola phones). There's even an official IP52 rating for water-resistance, which is a great value add for a device this affordable.
As for the presence of 5G, it's..a thing. The Motorola One 5G Ace is limited to sub-6 5G speeds, meaning you'll likely see faster performance than LTE but nothing too substantial the way you would with mmWave. It's a good spec to have as far as future-proofing is concerned, but as it goes with any 5G phone, it's not reason enough to buy the Ace over a competing device specifically for the 5G connectivity.
Lastly, there's the software experience we've come to know and love from any Motorola phone. The interface is very clean and reminiscent of what you'd find on a Pixel, and for the extra features that Motorola has added, they all provide legitimate value to "stock" Android.
Twisting the One 5G to open the camera app is convenient, chopping it to open the flashlight is always fun, and Peek Display (the band formerly known as Moto Display) continues to be one of the very best always-on display features on the market. Motorola's software has always found a good balance of remaining simple while still providing plenty of function, and whenever I get to use a phone from the company, that always stands out as one of the main highlights.
Motorola One 5G Ace Where things fall apart
Unfortunately for the Motorola One 5G Ace, that's where the compliments stop. Even with a retail price of $400, there are things about this phone that are really difficult to overlook.
Let's start with the design, which is — as my colleague Hayato so accurately put it — grotesque. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and at least to my eye, the Motorola One 5G Ace is a really unattractive gadget. It's every bit as big as the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the reflective back pattern looks horribly cheap, and the overall construction feels worse than last year's Moto G releases. The frame is noticeably separate from the back plastic, and as such, you can feel the lip of the frame every single time you hold the phone. That doesn't sound too bad in writing, but in daily use, it makes the One 5G Ace unpleasant to the touch.
I've been handling the One 5G Ace side-by-side with the Moto G Power (2021) and Moto G Play (2021), and despite both of those phones costing less than 5G Ace, they feel better in-hand compared to their more expensive sibling. Their plastic backs aren't reflective, their frames and more tightly integrated with the rest of the body, and they're just more enjoyable to use. Out of all the new Moto phones coming out in early-2021, the Motorola One 5G Ace certainly got the short stick in the design/build quality department.
More concerning than a bad in-hand feel is the looming uncertainty of durability for the Motorola One 5G Ace. My unit has two really nasty scratches after just about a week of normal use, and in my years of testing/reviewing phones, this is about the fastest I've seen such deep marks on a phone's display.
Motorola tells me that the One 5G Ace uses NEG glass, or Nippon Electric Glass. It's the first time I've ever heard of the company, and after my time with the One 5G Ace, maybe there's a good reason for that. Every smartphone is bound to show signs of use at some point in its life, but this level of wear-and-tear after a week is incredibly disappointing.
On another design-related note, I hate that the only external speaker you get is a mono one on the bottom frame. It does get surprisingly loud, but the audio quality is bland, and the speaker is very easy to cover completely. We've seen other budget phones like the Pixel 4a use its front earpiece with a bottom-firing speaker for stereo sound, so why the Motorola One 5G Ace doesn't do this is beyond me.
Then we have the camera situation, which is about what you'd expect from a lower-cost Motorola phone. The primary sensor you'll be using the most is a 48MP lens that outputs to 12MP using pixel binning. This seems to be the exact same sensor found on the Motorola One 5G from late-2020, and just like on that phone, it's a mixed bag.