In an effort to avoid shelling out for a new phone get to know the Ting smartphone lineup a little better, I’ve been trying out a different Ting-compatible phone every month for a few months.
I’ve been focusing on phones at the sub-$200 level to start. The Moto E 2nd gen, which I’m just getting ready to give back to the Ting device pool after a month and a half trial run, is the first one that’s actually felt worthy of deeper discussion.
For one thing, it’s very sub-$200, starting at just $120 ($150 for the LTE model).
Other sub-$200 phones I’ve tried haven’t been bad. That’s not what I’m saying at all; they offered a perfectly serviceable experience. A perfectly serviceable experience is very different from a great or otherwise discussion-worthy experience, though.
With every sub-$200 phone I tried, once the talk of raw specs vs. price tag was over, they brought me no joy. The were perfectly serviceable (there’s that phrase again) slabs of technology that left me neither really satisfied nor really disappointed.
I didn’t get that with the Moto E. While it’s obviously not what anyone would consider a particularly powerful or premium smartphone, I actually kinda fell in love.
Not to get too hyperbolic here, but the Moto E 2nd gen is the vanguard of the sub-$200 smartphone world. Obviously it can’t hold a candle to the $500+ flagships, but just the fact that it runs Android 5.1, Lollipop and isn’t bogged down with a bunch of annoying add-ons puts it head and shoulders above the competition in the category.
This was the first and the biggest difference I noticed in switching to the Moto E 2nd gen from some other sub-$200 phones. The phone just felt good in my hand. Because the screen is clad in Gorilla Glass (otherwise absent in other phones at this price, to their serious detriment) I wasn’t worried about it being in my pocket either.
There’s nothing creaky or particularly cheap feeling about the Moto E 2nd gen. It’s obviously not clad in super premium materials, but it does feel like a fully thought out and realized product, which is more than can be said for some of the others I’ve tried in the price range.
Where other phones run older versions of Android and updates are at worst non-existent and at best, poorly documented, the Moto E 2nd gen running Android 5.0, Lollipop, is a refreshing change. While Motorola seems to have oversold the updates that the E will receive (it sure sounded like it’d get Marshmallow, Android 6.0, though it actually tops out at the newest build of Lollipop, Android 5.1) it’s still at the head of the budget phone class, at least at the time of writing.
In my month with the Moto E 2nd gen, I certainly knew that I was using a budget device but not at every turn. Performance was objectively good. Not the buttery smooth experience you’d get on a top-end phone but, again using other sub-$200 phones as the benchmark, a great and reliable experience. I didn’t find myself getting frustrated with the phone often. Opening apps wasn’t instantaneous but it didn’t feel like an overly drawn out process either.
The camera is perhaps the place where Moto E 2nd gen’s budget badge becomes most apparent. It’s a 5MP shooter without a flash. It’s lost in anything other than great lighting conditions.
The 4.5-inch 540×960 screen is small by today’s standard. While things can certainly get a bit cramped when using the on-screen keyboard (especially when using the phone in landscape) it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
Battery life didn’t leave me wanting; the Moto E 2nd gen easily outlasted my day with moderate use.
Storage space was, far and away, the biggest annoyance in my Moto E 2nd gen experience. I had a 16GB microSD card installed for photos, videos and music and even without this stuff cluttering up device storage, I was constantly running into error messages when I tried to add or update an app. Consider a microSD card a must if you’re considering a Moto E.
I guess the bright side is that I was forced to clean house often, removing apps I don’t really use. On the negative side, I had to get rid of some apps I’d really rather have kept to make way for other apps that I needed more. Even app updates became a problem after a while.
Who should consider the Moto E 2nd Gen?
If you’ve got less than $150 to spend on a phone, you should seriously consider the Moto E 2nd gen. I mean this in a positive way: I don’t think you can do any better than the Moto E for the money in today’s market. In the month that I used it, it was just my phone. It ceased to think of it as a budget phone and was only really reminded of its accessible price tag when receiving the seemingly inevitable “out of storage space” messages that I grew to anticipate.