Moto E

The little phone that reaches past its price point

I've been excited to have a look at the Moto E since its announcement in the middle of May. At $129 US, the Moto E is about the same price as dinner and a movie, and the buzz about how well it performs in the entry-level smartphone domain put it at the top of my wishlist. I've had a little time with it, and have to say I'm not disappointed in the least.

Motorola is no stranger to budget-priced smartphones that perform well. I carry a Moto G (sadly, the generation one version with no LTE) as my backup should I do anything silly to the phone I'm using daily, and I chose it because it was cheap and would do just about anything I wanted a smartphone to do. After years of low-priced models that failed to deliver, Motorola found their niche. Now they have expanded it with an even lower priced model in the Moto E. Let's have a quick look at how it fares in daily use.

All the Motos

The Moto E looks very much like it's big brothers the Moto G and the Moto X — two phones I'm very familiar with. You've the same friendly rounded design with a scalloped top on the back, the same rounded corners and camera trim ring, and even the buttons and ports are in the same spot. The back is a removable plastic shell, and like the Moto G there are replacement covers in an assortment of colors. It's slightly smaller — especially compared to the Moto X — but aside from a few small cosmetic differences, the design language follows through the whole family. Ask anyone using a Moto X or one of the Droid variants on Verizon and they'll tell you that this is a good thing. It fits well in your hand, feels solid, and while not made of any fancy materials like wood or aluminum, it's very well built. Better built than the $129 price tag suggests.

The screen resolution takes a bit of getting used to

Internally, you have a dual-core Snapdragon 200 (compared to the Moto G's Snapdragon 400 and the Moto X's Krait-inspired X8 design) and 1GB of RAM. The storage is quite low, checking in at only 4GB, but the addition of an SD card will allow you to hold 32GB more media or documents. The camera is a 5MP model and not a standout, but Motorola's auto-HDR function helps a good bit if you want to snap some pictures. The display is slightly smaller than the Moto G at 4.3-inches and has a 256 ppi 960 x 540 resolution. Finally, the 1980mAh battery rounds out the unapologetic low-end specifications.

Moto E

But don't let those specs fool you.

Unless you're loading up a graphic-intensive game (I tested using Badland by Frogmind) you'll not notice any severe slowdown or lagginess. I fully expected to be able to grind things to a halt by having a bunch of apps open, but it just didn't happen. the choppiness and ultra-low framerates we are used to seeing on budget models isn't there. Is the Moto E slower when under pressure than something like the HTC M8 or even the Moto X? Yes, it is. But it's not dreadful nor will it make you want to stop using it for all the things you're using it for. I came away impressed.

I came away impressed with the performance

The screen takes a bit of getting used to, as I haven't used a qHD device in quite a while. I notice it when reading black text on a white page, and wouldn't want to use the Moto E for my daily eBook reader. For things like casual gaming or general web surfing, it's just fine. For viewing images or video, you'll see how high ppi displays have spoiled you quickly. A budget screen is part of the budget price, but Motorola did fairly well picking out a bright and clear one. At $129, I've no real complaints.

The battery life isn't quite "all day" as advertised, but it's not horrible considering the small size. My personal battery test is the He Man Heyyeayea song for 10 hours video played through the YouTube app, and the Moto E lasted just about 6.5 hours with auto-brightness enabled. Compare this to the Moto G, which lasts a little more than 8 hours. Certainly this isn't the most scientific test (it is the most fun, though) but it should give you a general idea of battery life. And 6.5 hours of He Man is enough for anyone. Almost. Your battery life will vary based on your network and all the things you have going on in the background, of course.

Moto E

Phone calls sounded OK and were clear enough to carry a good conversation, but didn't stand out like some other phones do. Bluetooth — both through a headset and a Jambox — was fine, with a range of about 20 - 30 feet as expected. Like the battery and the camera and everything else, it's not the best I've ever used but it also isn't the worst. It's certainly better than I thought a $129 phone would be.

I'm not one who needs a lot of internal storage, but the E is just barely enough for me

One weird thing worth mentioning, and this goes for some Moto G units as well, is that you should never let the battery go completely dead. If you do, the included charger won't be enough to bring you back. If you do drain the battery completely (listening to He Man or any other way) you'll need to find a 1 Amp or higher charger and USB cable to bring it back. It's a pity that Motorola didn't include a large enough power supply to revive the Moto E, but the bundled all-in-one wall charger isn't enough to kick-start things.

Moto E

The software is very much like the Moto G, shipping with Android 4.4.2 KitKat and quickly updating to 4.4.3 just for fun. It's basically "stock" Android, with a few goodies like Moto Alert, Moto Migrate, and a slightly hampered version of Moto Assist (no car mode or home mode) included. You'll definitely be heading to Google Play to add a few apps like I did, and once the E was all set up and syncing 30 days of Gmail I had about 1.5GB of internal storage left. Keep that in mind should you be considering the Moto E, because that's not enough for folks who like to game or need a bunch of apps from Google Play. I'm not one who needs a lot of internal storage, but the E is just barely enough for me.

The software experience is where the Moto E shines, though. You'll swipe through home screens and the app drawer with nary a stutter, and the whole thing feels very fine-tuned to the hardware. Just trying a Moto E for a few minutes is enough to make you wonder why phones with twice the hardware inside can't manage to be as fluid as the E is when you're doing things like opening your messaging app or the dialer. Motorola deserves a bit of praise for the way the E feels and acts given it's decidedly low-budget internals.

The bottom line

Moto E

I wouldn't recommend it over the Moto G

If you're trying to decide between something the LG G3 or the Samsung Galaxy S5, a phone like the Moto E won't be on your radar. It shouldn't be, as it's not in the same class of device as the 2014 powerhouses are and will be. But if you want the very best phone you can buy while spending the least amount of money for it, the Moto E fits the bill. Quite frankly, it's the best bottom-tier (and I hate using that phrase) phone from any manufacturer, and is better than most vendors give you at $100 more. It sets a mark that the folks at LG and Samsung and HTC and the rest need to strive for.

But I wouldn't recommend it over the Moto G.

At $179 ($219 if you want the LTE version) for the Moto G you're getting the one thing that Motorola can't fix with an update — more internal storage. You also get a better screen and better battery life. Unless you absolutely can't spend the extra $50 — and we know times are tough — you should probably step up to the Moto G.


Reader comments

Moto E review


Hehe, yeah. If you spend $130 on a dinner and a movie, this phone is definitely not on your radar... :)
(edit: only saw the 16GB price before)

Maybe he went to one of the specialized theaters where they serve you dinner while watching the movie. Or maybe he drinks Top Shelf liquor with his meals. Good wine can be up to $100 a bottle.

Maybe he was drinking some Dom Perignon with his McDoubles

I wish this was available a few months ago. I got a Moto G as my work phone (I use a Note 3 as primary device). It's a great device but since I use it for voice calls, email and nothing else, I wouldn't have minded stepping down to this and saving $50.

Posted via Android Central App

Dinner for 2? £50 easily unless you are in McDonald's. 2 cinema tickets is £30. Add on another £10 for drinks and popcorn. So yeah, pretty much.

WOW. England if that's where you are is rather expensive. Dinner can get expensive but £30 for "normal" movie tickets is expensive.

Posted via Android Central App w/ Moto X

Movie tickets is one of the few things that's cheaper where I'm at than most of the USA, not quite sure why since most things are the same here or more expensive (Puerto Rico). $6.50 for a regular nighttime showing (or any showing really), booyah...

Like someone else said, unless this is a really special occasion, if you're spending that much on dinner and a movie, you're not even thinking about a budget smartphone. Or maybe you are because you're spending so much on dinners and movies.

I guess it all depends on where you are. In NYC, a single movie ticket is about $14.50. Add 3D, IMAX, or both and you push upwards of $20 a ticket. Dinner at a decent restaurant with appetizer and entrée can easily push $50 a person. Add on drinks and that adds anywhere from $6 to $15 a person. For a couple, a dinner and movie night can easily push $150.

Meh, 19 years married, and the most expensive couples dinner we've had was just under $60 and that was just one time, neither of us drinks, so that expense is out as well. Have no idea what the cinema costs, as I've not been near one in a decade or so. All in all, the Moto E would amount to about 3 dinners out for us in this area. I would get more out of it, even with it's lowered specs, than dinners or a movie.

it's not really a flaw as such. you are going to have that problem if you run your device completely flat and then choose to charge it via usb. a proper power adaptor will solve that issue :)

^^ This. At 1% charge, it's not an issue. You only see it if you let it go the whole way to zero. It becomes a problem because of the little 585 milliamp wall charger that's bundled.

Other than that, it charges the phone just fine and fast enough with the screen off.

How long does it take to charge from 1% back to 100%?

I'm the kind of guy who stops a microwave at one second to feel like a bomb defuser.

Nokia lumia 630 should have 8gb storage and be priced around $100 with bigger screen. Nokia lumia 520 is $50 and you can buy it now. So IDK where this fits in. More expensive than cheap lumias and for $70 more you can get motorola moto g. They have cdma moto g for under $100.

Posted via Android Central App

There are cheaper Androids but.... This is the highest of the lowest?!?!? Something like that.

Posted via Android Central App

There seems to be growing interest outside the United states. There are many countries where it has broken the 10% barrier.

Posted via Android Central App

You're comparing an unlocked phone with locked phones. If/when the Moto E is available in locked versions, it will be cheaper.

Verizon already has a locked version on their prepaid service for $79. I was just looking at it on their site this evening.

the moto g on Verizon is $91 here in the US, if you're up for a device without a sim. but imo it's worth it.

Posted via an AT&T Galaxy S III LTE

If you were fast enough Best Buy had the Verizon Pre Paid Moto G for $49 last week. Picked one up was a wifi only media player and set it up with VoIP just in case.

Seriously, guys. Can we lose the apostrophe on "its" in that headline, please?
Edit: subheadline. Whatever.

Sounds like this would be an excellent starter phone for a pre-teen or teenager. Good enough hardware and reliable and if it's lost --- not too much money tossed away.

Great Review! I have a buddy with an old Ascend II that I keep telling him to get rid of. I have been trying to convince him on the Moto G, but the cheap sucker might go for this. He is on Straight Talk. I hope they will support it.

if Moto E at $129 is "dinner and a movie"
then what is my Moto G at $49? Popcorn
and sodas?

$49 is what I paid for my Verizon prepaid
Moto G at Best Buy a week ago. Actually,
I only paid $39 plus tax, after a $10 BestBuy
reward certificate.

What do you pay a month? The Verizon prepaid plans start at $45 a month for 500MB. This is why their Moto G is cheaper.

Posted via Android Central App

For the $39 Verizon Moto G that I bought from BestBuy,
I didn't even bother activating it.... so I pay Verizon exactly
$0 per month.

It is the best $39 player for Netflix, MKV, MP3, YouTube,
MLB.TV, and even checking emails.... all while sitting on
the toilet. Can't care less if I drop the $39 phone in the
toilet... which is why I bought it in the first place.

No chance of me taking my $799 Galaxy Note 3 to the
toilet. (paid full retail for it)

I have this phone battery last me all day love it rums 4.4.3 kit kat and said to receive 4.5 or 5.0 lollipop some time soon when it is released

Posted via Android Central App

It's wrong. Keylime Pie was the internal name for 4.4 until the announced the deal to call it KitKat. The next version will be a name beggining with an L. Although they may choose to keep the KitKat name for 4.5 (if it is 4.5, and not 5.0) like they use Jelly Bean for 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3.

Posted via Android Central App

Wow...multiple type-o's in the first few paragraphs. Not just type-o's but words missing completely. Very disappointing in what could have been a good review. The poor grammar kills it. I thought this site was run by professionals? Jerry needs to step his game up. I've noticed this happening more frequently with his articles.

Example: "You've ____ the same friendly rounded design"

Example 2: "Better built THAT the $129 price tag suggests"

Example 3: "I haven't used a qHD device IS quite a while."

After finding 5 errors so far this is a pretty pathetic review. Do you guys not check ANYTHING anymore? Terrible...simply terrible.

Okay, jrb363, story time! How were you persuaded to shorten "typographical error" to "type-o"?

Posted via Android Central App on my HP TouchPad (Schizoid PAC-ROM 4.2.2)

I believe LEAVING WORDS OUT is a pretty big freaking deal for a "professional" who gets PAID to write articles and reviews. It's nothing but lazy journalism and you can't defend that.

You haven't done anything to me. In fact, I usually enjoy your writings. However, they've recently been rather lacking grammatically and I don't know if it's your fault (the author), Phil's fault (the editor) or Mobile Nations fault for accepting and knowingly publishing such lazy journalism. If that was a paper written at a University you would have failed. FAILED! F for you, no pass and GTFO of the University please. How is such drivel acceptable in a professional setting?

He gets paid doesn't he? Jerry gets mad when others point out his mistakes, right? If he didn't care or if this was just a 'for fun' personal blog then he could tell me to f*** off and be done with it. Yet, he can't do that because he would get in trouble. Why? Because it's NOT PROFESSIONAL. lol...this is supposed to be a professional site. Don't be an idiot.

I will repeat "when did AC become professional" I dont think you understand or if you are just a bit slow....if you have taken a close look or even a back seat approach and skimmed the articals you would realise that AC is no where near a professional setting....runners for crack dealers get paid, that does not make him a professional, nor does his grammer and manners make a professional setting.... I dont agree with a lot of the articals but the grammer is the last thing on any tech minded person seem to be very ignorant and very small minded as your mind is more focused on one issues and thats grammer, which is a mystery because this is a site about devices which are supposed to be run on android not about poems or essays at uni... I suggest you look up about how AC was founded and at the profile of the reviewers and it paints a perfect pitcure of what you can expect from come across as a very un educated person, with a very immature attitude.

Posted via Android Central App

I'm pretty sure getting an F on a college paper doesn't get you kicked out of said college. I never got one personally but knew many folks who did. They were always at school the next day. If you've only recently noted typos then you're not a longtime visitor here or you're not paying attention. Either way, just calm your tits. He writes the articles and someone else (ostensibly) has the job of editing and spell-checking. You should find out who that is and punish them with your angry commentary.

This is a terrible review. Everyone could have written it with only knowing the Moto E facts from the Amazon product page.
What did you really test? Not a thing. Just one little example, everybody is repeating "it's only supporting 32GB microSD cards." Motorola is saying it and everybody is just copying it. This is bad journalism or even bad blogging. Because it's not true, just put in a 64GB microSD card and you will find out, that it works too. Next time, please put some work into your review, because this here, this is just a waste of your and our time.

FWIW, I prefer to call phones in this tier "entry-level"; "bottom-tier" implies a lack of value which is definitely not the case for this phone. Go into any major carrier store and any phone at this price point will look like a dog compared to the Moto E.

Motorola needs to launch a non Camera version of this device
There is no smart phone without Camera available, apart from old blackberry devices, and there are like zillions of companies in Asia that ban staff members from keeping Camera phones. This shall be bought in entire lots (my office alone has a strength of 2000 people)

Posted via Android Central App

Though she denies needing a new phone, the wife's Galaxy Nexus is past its prime and should be replaced. Would she find this to be an upgrade suitable of the $129 I would spend to get it for her? Besides storage space, is there anything that would make her overtly angry at me if I just bought one and handed it to her?

Great write-up, Jerry!

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I have just bought this phone to compare it to the nokia lumia 630. I paid the same price for both phones. Have to say both phones are amazing value but I have to give nokia my vote. It beats the moto e on camera, memory and processor. The moto e has higher resolution screen and more apps, but the ones I use are all in the windows App Store. Plus the nokia comes with Nokia music allowing you to download free playlist to the phone. For the price both phones are excellent value and no one should be disappointed with either.

After receiving a Moto E I learned that it is almost the same form factor and similar to the Lenovo A390T except for a few upgrade/updates as well as removal of a few good features in the the A390t that were not included.
Compared to A390T:
- Moto E has more memory and updated OS support
- Positive or negative depending on preference - A390T has no GPS (a good thing sometimes)
- A390T has a removable battery - good for rapid replacement and good for actually ensuring the phone is off
- A390T has a more ergonomic shape (IMO)
- A390T has dual SIM sockets - handy for many places

So, it seems to me; basically, the Moto E is a spruced up A390T ($72 USD when I got it).

Since GSM services in USA are patchy at best neither are very useful for me except when I travel internationally. So, I cannot give a reasonably good review of call quality or Cell-based functionality. If I had purchased the Moto E in a manner I could return it - I would and just use the Lenovo A390T.