The Moto E is Motorola’s latest smartphone, priced at just $129 unlocked. Outside of the Nexus program and the rumored Android Silver initiative, Motorola is the one manufacturer who seems dead serious about offering consumers an Android software experience that is closely aligned with Google’s vision of the operating system. Starting with the Moto X, the company made a decision to remove a large percentage of manufacturer code from their software builds. What they found was a nimble operating system that didn’t need the latest and greatest processor in order to provide for a great experience. Features in the Moto X were incremental. They were far from bloatware, instead building in options that really resonate with customers. In the Moto E, their best selling device to date, they delicately removed some of the higher end features. The removal was offset by value, with a $200 price point that did not require a contract. Last month, the company set out to prove they could go even lower. Did they make too many compromises or will the Moto E redefine expectations of what you can expect from a $129 smartphone? Okay, the title of our Moto E review is a bit of a spoiler, but read why this phone succeeds.
This phone was built to take on the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5s. That’s the job of the flagship Moto X and soon to arrive X1. This phone is targeted at feature phone users, which still account for up to 75 percent of the 4.3 billion mobile phone users. I think Motorola might find the market for this phone will expand beyond those moving from feature phones.
The 4.3-inch display is plenty big and its 256ppi display was bright, vivid with its only drawback being visibility in sunlight, an issue which also affects the higher end Moto X. The display uses Gorilla Glass, so it should provide sufficient protection against scratches. The backplate is removal, letting you personalize with one of the twenty or so colorful options. The phone is terribly light and has a thicker chassis. Still, its curved back and Motorola’s now-signature dimple makes this a comfortable phone to hold and use. I wasn’t particularly rough with the device, but it does have all of the markings of being durable. Its powered by a 1980 mAh battery and I had no problem with this phone lasting a day plus with moderate to heavy activity.
Owning a Moto X, I was curious as to the software experience and differences as compared to the E. For one, they both run Google Android KitKat version 4.4.2 (the X now runs 4.4.3). Motorola guarantees this phone will receive the next major update to Android, which is far from a given with Android devices, even the premium models. The software experience is essentially a stock Android experience and it’s wonderful. By keeping things simple, Motorola is able to deliver an incredibly low-cost device that is also a true performer, provided you’re not looking to run processor intensive games. It will run Angry Birds and the like without any issues. Buzzing around the interface, the lack of bloatware was reflected in the peppy performance of this phone that’s barely above $100. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 with 1.2Ghz dual-core A7 GPU, Adreno 302 GPU and 1GB of RAM.
From a storage perspective, Motorola does a good job straddling the demographic for this phone, while keeping costs down. It comes with only 4GB of storage, low by any standards, but plenty for basic smartphone functions. My parents have zero content on their smartphone and have installed only two third party apps – both Solitaire games. For this type of user, upgrading from a feature phone, 4GB is plenty. For young people who are snapping photos, installing apps and uploading music, there is a microSD expansion slot that supports 32GB cards. You can find these at stores like Amazon for under $30. Offering memory expansion on such a low cost phone is a major win.
When you price a phone at $99 unlocked, concessions need to be made. It doesn’t offer the bells, nor whistles like Active Notifications found the Moto X. The Moto E does not have a front-facing camera, so you’ll have to rely on the back shooter for selfies, a somewhat glaring omission for a phone that will be a good first phone for pre-teens.
The back uses a 5-megapixel sensor and does not have a flash. Image quality in daylight is passable. Low-light photos were dark and blurry. Shooting indoors is going to be a mixed bag.
Guaranteed Software Update To Next Major Version of Android
Comfortable to hold, built for durability
No front-facing camera
No 4G LTE
If you are an enthusiast, this isn’t going to be your primary phone. It does however make for an inexpensive backup or a great way for folks on other platforms to test drive and experience Android as it was intended. Outside of the Nexus program and rumored Android Silver phones, Motorola is the only manufacturer making phones that ship with a pure Android experience, going as far as to guarantee you’ll receive an update to the next major version of Android. When you remove all of the bloat, Motorola has found that you don’t need the fastest processor to provide users with a great experience. The Moto E isn’t without its flaws, notably in the camera department and lack of 4G LTE. I found it to be an incredibly capable and well designed smartphone. For someone upgrading from a feature phone, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better smartphone at $129.
The Moto E is available for purchase from Motorola, Amazon and other retailers.