2013's Moto G was arguably one of the most significant handsets ever produced by Motorola, and that's saying something when you consider just how long the company has been making mobile handsets. It is apparently the firm's best-selling smartphone of all time, and attained that status by providing fantastically capable tech with excellent software at a bargain price.
Does the Moto E compete? Or is it just a cut too far? Join us for our full review of the Moto E.
Motorola Moto E Review: Design & Display
At first glance you would be forgiven for assuming the Moto G and Moto E are identical; they both share a minimalist design, with a largely plain front and a matte-touch back panel which is rounded neatly so that it sits perfectly in the palm of your hand. Motorola has been subtle when it comes to embellishing the phone, too. The iconic "M" logo resides on the rear of the handset, but aside from that, there's little else in the way of innocuous branding.
Upon closer inspection it becomes clear that the Moto E lacks some of the physical refinements of its slightly more expensive sibling. The build quality remains excellent, but it feels a little less robust than the Moto G. It's slightly chubbier too, despite the fact that in length and width, it's actually a smaller handset.
There are some neat touches, however: the silver strips above and below the screen, which double up as grilles for the earpiece and speaker, conspire to break-up an otherwise monolithic frontage. While the back panel of the Moto E can be removed – just as was the case with the Moto G – the battery contained inside is not removable. It does support MicroSD cards, however.
The Moto E's screen is one of the most obvious areas where Motorola has cut back costs. Here we have a 4.3-inch 960 x 540 pixel display, which is a step backwards from the 4.5-inch 720p screen we were greeted with on the Moto G. As a result, you'll notice that it's possible to pick out individual pixels on certain images, text especially. On the whole, however, the difference probably isn't as pronounced as you might imagine. The lower resolution also means that the phone's slightly weak CPU doesn't have as much heavy lifting to do, which is a bonus.
Despite its bargain basement price, Motorola has ensured that the Moto E can withstand the usual everyday punishments we put our tech through. The screen is constructed of Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which is a super-tough material designed to withstand marks and scratches, as well as prevent unsightly smudging. We're happy to report that it performs its role admirably; compared to our Nexus 5, which has a screen that attracts greasy fingerprints with worrying regularity, the Moto E's display managed to remain almost entirely smudge-free during the review period.
The bodywork of the phone is also splash proof, which means you don't have to be too concerned about getting it wet when you're running for the bus on a rainy Monday morning. However, it doesn't offer the same protection as truly water-resistant phones, like the Galaxy S5 and LG G3, so don’t go getting in the shower or bath with it.
Motorola Moto E review: Software & User Experience
One of the most appealing elements of the Moto G was the fact that it used stock Android, with only a smattering of exclusive apps to set it apart from the likes of the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5. Stock Android is generally faster and slicker than the UIs produced by the likes of Samsung and HTC, and this is because it hasn't been tinkered with in any way –– it's a "pure" version of Google's OS.
Motorola has wisely maintained this stance with the Moto E, which is running Android 4.4.2 and will be getting an upgrade to the next version, Android L, once it becomes available later this year.
Motorola Moto E Review: Hardware & CPU
The Moto E is packing a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor backed by 1GB of RAM, and an Adreno 302 graphics processor. If that doesn't mean anything to you then take it from us, this isn't a cutting-edge handset. Even so, the overall performance isn't to be sniffed at. The Moto E may not offer the silky-smooth feel of the Nexus 5 or Galaxy S5, but it's still more than adequate for most users and not a million miles away from the experience provided by the Moto G, which is running a more powerful set of internal specifications.
Benchmark tests prove what we already know; the tech inside the Moto E isn't going to win any awards when set against the very best that Android has to offer. Running AnTuTu delivers a score of 12647, putting the Moto E well behind the likes of the HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and LG G2.
On Geekbench 3, the phone scores a 594 multi-core score, and a 322 single-core score – again, well below cutting-edge. Such figures sound damning on paper, but in reality the gulf isn't as pronounced as you might expect. 3D games naturally don't run as quickly or as smoothly, but every day usage is perfectly fine.
Motorola Moto E Review: Battery & Memory
The Moto E comes with a 1920mAh battery, which can clearly be seen when you remove the back panel, but sadly cannot be accessed or removed. Motorola boasts that the phone is capable of lasting an entire day, and during our review this claim seemed to hold water.
We managed to get past that all-important 24-hour marker before a trip to the nearest wall socket was needed, but when we adopted a more aggressive usage pattern the stamina dropped massively. The Moto E may have a more modest CPU, but the fact that it's one of the older Snapdragon processors means that it's also not as economical with the juice and, therefore, won't last as long as its more expensive stable mate.
The Moto E comes with just 4GB of internal storage, of which you only have access to just over half – 2.16GB, to be precise. Needless to say, this fills up pretty quickly, so you'll want to invest in a Micro SD card as soon as possible. However, due to essential security changes in KitKat, external memory isn't the wild and free place it used to be on Android. Apps can only interact with folders they have created themselves on the SD card, so while you can create folders and add content using your PC, your apps won't be able to make changes within those folders due to Android's newfound security.
Translation: if you use a lot of apps you’re probably best of looking at a phone with more internal storage – 16GB and up-levels of storage, to be precise.
Motorola Moto E Review: Camera
This is possibly the weakest point of the entire phone. The Moto E features a 5MP camera, but it's a fixed focus lens so you can't take close-up shots. There's also no LED flash.
While the auto HDR function does a good job of improving image quality, the overall performance of the Moto E's camera is rather poor when compared to most other Android phones. Colours are washed out and even on a sunny day, photos look dour and depressing as you can see below ––
The fact that it's only when you use the Moto E as a photographic device that you're reminded of its low-cost origins says a lot about the general quality of this blower, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing. Photos are increasingly becoming a major part of our mobile experience thanks to apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and there's a good chance that you'll be too embarrassed to come along to the party when you're armed with such a lacklustre snapper.
It's also worth noting that the Moto E lacks a front-facing camera, so you can't use the phone for Skype calls or any of that kind of jazz.
Motorola Moto E Review: Conclusion
The Moto G completely redefined the concept of the budget smartphone, providing an experience that most people would have happily paid twice or maybe three times as much for. The Moto E is even cheaper, but in order to shave some cash off the RRP, Motorola has had to cut corners when it comes to screen size, CPU power and camera capability.
Despite this, the Moto E remains an impressive phone that puts rival low-cost smartphones well and truly in the shade. If you're in the market for a device and price is your primary concern, then it makes sense to save the additional pennies and pick this over the Moto G, but if you can stretch the cost then Motorola's 2013 offering is a cannier purchase.