Motorola Moto E review

A nail in the coffin of feature phones

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Motorola Moto E
  • Motorola Moto E
  • Motorola Moto E
  • Motorola Moto E
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Dual-SIM
  • Inexpensive smartphone
  • Light Android 4.4 overlay
  • Expandable memory

Cons

  • No front camera
  • Poor rear camera

Bottom Line

Motorola’s Moto E is a smartphone shaved down to the basics, but all of the basics have been done properly. This isn’t the fastest or flashiest smartphone around, but it certainly has a whole lot of mobile smarts for its $179 price.

Would you buy this?

Good budget smartphones meet your everyday needs when you’re used to using phones of a flagship caliber. We were using the LG G3 — arguably the most advanced smartphone on the market — prior to testing the Moto E. Stark differences set the two smartphones apart, but each of them prove impressive in their own right.

A smartphone for all

The Moto E is petite by smartphone standards. It’s one of the few smartphones that nests comfortably in the palm of your hand; a welcomed departure from the phablet-esque smartphones of late.

The Moto E is straddling the limits between smartphone performance and feature phone price

The screen measures 4.3 inches diagonally, has a low resolution of 540x960 and a resulting density of 256 pixels-per-inch. Do the math on these figures and they’ll add up to a decent enough user experience.

Genes from the Moto G can be spotted on the cheaper Moto E. A curving rubber back is one of its better design traits as it hides the price of this smartphone so effectively.

Tuck a finger under the lip of the microUSB port to peel the back cover off. Doing so reveals two HSPA SIM slots and a microSD memory slot. There's also a 1980 milliamp-hour battery capable of powering the setup for a day, give or take a few hours.

The front’s thick bezels and chrome insets are more telling of the Moto E’s budget construction. These traits are signs Motorola has had to make concessions it previously didn’t with the Moto E’s more expensive sibling, the Moto G. Buying the black coloured Moto E will help conceal the smartphone’s fat.

Read more: Top five budget smartphones money can buy (Part I, 2014)

No fat Android, basic hardware

Flagship smartphones push the envelope on what’s technically possible. They have eight-core processors in uber thin bodies with all day battery life and laser focusing cameras. Budget smartphones worry about a whole other kind of envelope. In the case of the Motorola Moto E, it’s straddling the limits between smartphone performance and feature phone price.

Only on a few occasions will you see the Moto E chugging along

The $179 Moto E packs a Snapdragon 200 chipset with a 1.2GHz dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of internal memory and support for expandable microSD cards up to 32GB. This kit is just enough to deliver a complete smartphone experience — the emphasis stressing ‘smart’.

Only a handful of applications have been added to the Moto E’s Android 4.4 operating system. You won’t find a custom music player or a differentiated homescreen. Additions such as these add needless bloat to what should be a light overlay. It is only by keeping the Moto E’s software as stock as possible that the budget hardware can deliver a brisk experience.

Keeping the software stock helps Motorola push out software updates quickly
Keeping the software stock helps Motorola push out software updates quickly
Read more: OnePlus One: Australian hands-on

Dual-SIM settings make it possible to assign different roles to each SIM. One can be set as the default SIM for data, while another can be assigned as the default for texting or calls
Dual-SIM settings make it possible to assign different roles to each SIM. One can be set as the default SIM for data, while another can be assigned as the default for texting or calls

Frankly the experience delivered is hard to fault. Every Android function runs smoothly. Only on a few occasions will you see the Moto E chugging along, with rare animation judder revealing the dual-core CPU is working to its limitations. These moments, which are few and far between, aren’t enough to shake our confidence in the Moto E.

Connectivity for the most part is well catered. In addition to its dual-SIM abilities is single-band Wi-Fi (802.11n), Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS.

Old-school selfies, 5MP camera

Missing to the chagrin of ‘selfie’ lovers is a front-facing camera. Selfies will have to be taken the old-school way with the 5 rear megapixel camera. Photos captured are plagued by image noise, some colour bleed and flaring. Snapped pics are suitable for the digital space of social networks and little else.

Taken with the Motorola Moto E - HDR enabled
Taken with the Motorola Moto E - HDR enabled

Taken with the Motorola Moto E
Taken with the Motorola Moto E

Taken with the Motorola Moto E
Taken with the Motorola Moto E

The real standout in the photographic department is the Motorola camera interface. Gestures play a leading role in what is a simplistic and intuitive arrangement. Swiping towards the right generates a settings wheel, which includes options for HDR, control exposure, panorama and geotagging. Touching the screen works as a shutter and, if you keep your finger planted, the camera captures photos in burst mode.

The camera's interface is both feature rich and simple to use
The camera's interface is both feature rich and simple to use

Final thought

Motorola’s Moto E is a smartphone shaved down to the basics, but all of the basics have been done properly. This isn’t the fastest or flashiest smartphone around, but it certainly has a whole lot of mobile smarts for its $179 price.

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Read more on these topics: Google, 4.4, Motorola Moto E, Moto, Android, KitKat
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