- Great two-day battery life
- Screen is great for the price
- Android Lollipop installed
- 4G LTE and Dual-SIM models available
- Camera is average,
- Some regular performance bottlenecks
- Some models are 3G-only (depending on where you live)
There has been a strong argument in the past for paying top-dollar for a new smartphone. Not only is there street cred in having the latest and greatest, but certainly functionality was at stake. This is no longer the case; a cheaper phone like the Motorola Moto E is capable of most anything an iPhone can do, and for one-quarter of the price.
Since Google bought Motorola in 2011, the company shifted its design strategy and stick to it consistently ever since. The new Moto E looks and feels a lot like the more expensive Moto G, which in turn looks and feels a lot like the flagship, the Moto X.
Common to this design is an ergonomically curved back, a flat black touchscreen and a speaker grille across the top of the phone where you place your ear during calls. Another, more subtle, element is a dimple on the back of the phone emblazoned with the Motorola ‘M’ logo, which the company insists is a comfortable place to rest a finger while holding the phone and browsing the web.
Unique to the Moto E is a stiff, replaceable plastic edge which runs around the outside of the phone. Our review unit came with a straight black-coloured edge, but several bright colours are also available. The white version of the Moto E looks especially good with a coloured trim; there being primary colours like yellow and red, plus a few pastel options. Mix-and-match these with a different coloured edge and you could end up with a phone which looks nothing like any of your friends.
The plastic edge also covers the Dual-SIM slots and micro SD storage card housing. The Moto E takes a micro SIM, which is slightly larger than the nano-SIMs common in newer models.
Motorola includes an adequately sized 4.5-inch screen with an adequate 540 x 960 pixel resolution in this pjhone. This is a much lower resolution than you’ll find in top-tier handsets, but it does the trick nonetheless. Images and text are perfectly viewable on the IPS technology screen, and the Moto E has better viewing angles than you should expect for a phone at this price.
The E includes 8GB of onboard storage, which is OK unless you plan to pack your phone with music and large-file apps, like games. If so, look to invest in a micro SD storage card; anything up to 32GB capacity is compatible with the Moto E.
Motorola does skimp on the camera in the Moto E, not only in the 5-megapixel resolution of the sensor, but also in the quality of the sensor, too.
In truth, some of our test shots came out OK. There are a couple in the gallery with decent colour reproduction and good focus. Most, however, look a bit funky. The camera here skews towards a cold, blue hue and the focus can be problematic. Also, external light sources play havoc with the lens, with light bleed ruining many of our favourite pics.
But then, we don’t expect that much from a camera which only costs a few hundred dollars — even those without a smartphone attached.
Performance and battery
The Moto E scores well on performance, offering up a decent smartphone experience most of the time. The quad-core 1.2GHz processor does a good job of keep things moving smoothly, though we did encounter performance bottlenecks infrequently. Launching apps from the lock-screen window — for example, trying to open an email from a notification message — would often prove too much for the Moto E.
Battery life, on the other hand, has been stellar. During our test period, while using the phone as our daily driver, it wasn’t uncommon for us to go through two full business days without charging. The standby battery life is phenomenal, and even the drain during heavy use is superb. If you’re looking for a worry-free phone experience, we happily recommend the Moto E.
Important to the value proposition with the Moto E is the inclusion of 4G LTE radios. Older versions of the Moto E were restricted to 3G speeds, but given the ubiquity of 4G networks these days, we're glad to see Motorola up the ante with faster download speeds, even in its cheapest model.
There are few phones that deliver as well as the new Moto E between promise and price. You can’t expect flawless performance or an outstanding camera at this price, but you should expect that your smartphone will work well and have all of the components you need to keep up in a modern world. By these terms, the Moto E is outstanding.
It’s battery life alone is enough to earn our recommendation, but you get more than just oiler efficiency with the Moto E. The design is sturdy and comfortable, the screen is great and Google’s Android Lollipop comes with all the apps and tools you’ll need. Plus, you have full access to the Google Play Store for downloads, of course.
There is some competition in this space, with great, cheap phones on offer from Sony and LG (to name a few) but if you’re bargain hunting for a new smartphone, the Moto E should definitely be on your list of considerations.