Moto E (2020) review: Too cheap for its own good

Moto E 2020 Review
(Image: © Joe Maring / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: The new Moto E aims to deliver a fully-fledged Android handset at an extremely low price, and at its core, it succeeds. It runs Android 10, has all of the features you'd expect to see, and does so in a surprisingly well-built chassis. Certain expectations need to be set when evaluating a phone that costs so little, but Motorola made major cuts to a lot of key areas in order to hit the Moto E's appealing price. It also doesn't help that the company has another super affordable phone that is vastly superior in more ways than one.

Pros

  • +

    Feels substantial and well-built

  • +

    Fingerprint sensor works great

  • +

    There's a headphone jack

  • +

    Compatible with all U.S. carriers

  • +

    Seriously low price

Cons

  • -

    Limiting amounts of RAM and storage

  • -

    Very poor camera quality

  • -

    Won't get any software updates

  • -

    Micro-USB charging 🥴

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Shopping for an Android phone with a limited budget is a pretty solid experience here in 2020. You have plenty of options for $1000 flagships that'll entice you to spend more money, but if you're trying to keep costs down to around $600 or as low as $300, there are just as many choices available.

Motorola has been especially aggressive with its budget offerings this year, offering the Moto G Stylus, Moto G Power, and Moto G Fast. The G Power is arguably the best out of those three phones, making the smartest compromises to deliver a great user experience at a reasonable price.

However, not satisfied with just three low-cost Android phones, Motorola has a fourth card on the table in the form of the Moto E (2020). It's the successor to last year's ultra-low-cost Moto E6, and with a price tag of just $150, it's one of the cheapest fully-featured handsets you can buy in 2020. It succeeds in delivering a reliable user experience for not much money, but even within Motorola's own product family, spending just a little more cash can get you a vastly better device.

Design and display

Moto E 2020 Review

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

We'll start this review on a high note, given that one of the Moto E's strongest suits is its design/build quality. I wasn't expecting much in these regards for a $150 smartphone, but the Moto E feels every bit as good as its pricier Moto G siblings.

There's a decent amount of weight to make it feel substantial when held, the power and volume buttons and very clicky, and there's no rattling or creaking of any kind. This is a tightly constructed gadget that feels much nicer than its price tag would suggest, and I greatly appreciate that. I'm also delighted to see that Motorola included a fingerprint sensor, in addition to keeping the 3.5mm headphone jack.

I do have a couple of complaints about how the Moto E was designed, the first of which is with its glossy plastic back. It picks up fingerprints very easily, making the phone look grimy and nasty after just a few minutes of use. There's also the matter of the phone charging via Micro-USB, which, if you ask me, is ridiculous for a phone of any price in mid-2020. We should be fully migrated to USB-C at this point, and going back to a handset with the old charging standard (not to mention the ultra-slow 5W wired charging) isn't a great experience.

Moto E 2020 Review

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

The display isn't amazing, but for the price, it's perfectly fine.

Taking a closer look at the Moto E's display, we're met with a 6.2-inch LCD panel with an HD+ resolution of 1520 x 720. It's certainly not the best display my eyes have ever seen, but given the Moto E's price, I'm fine with it. Colors are decent, and text is sharp enough, though you will need to put up with poor off-axis viewing angles and meager max screen brightness.

There's no arguing that this is a low-quality panel, but I also wouldn't say there's anything deal-breaking about it. You can get phones with better displays, but those cost more money. I never found myself hating how the Moto E's screen looks, and when talking about a phone like this, I think that's all you should reasonably ask for.

Performance and battery life

Moto E 2020 Review

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

On the performance side of things, I've come to a similar conclusion that I have with the display. It's not amazing, but it's good enough. Powering the Moto E is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor (which is coming up on two years old) and 2GB of RAM. As you might expect, this means the Moto E comes with some performance limitations.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryDeviceNameTKTKTK
Operating SystemAndroid 10
Display6.2-inch
LCD
1520 x 720
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 632
Memory2GB RAM
Storage32GB
Expandable up to 512GB
Rear Camera 113MP primary camera
f/2.0
Rear Camera 22MP depth sensor
f/2.2
Front Camera5MP
f/2.0
SecurityFingerprint sensor
NFC
Battery3,550 mAh
5W wired charging
Water ResistanceWater-repllent design
Dimensions159.77 x 76.56 x 8.65mm
Weight185g
ColorsMidnight Blue

Apps often come with slow loading times when navigating through different parts of them, multitasking isn't the best, and the Adreno 506 GPU doesn't offer enough horsepower for intensive games. I tried playing Call of Duty: Mobile on the phone, and while it was serviceable with Low graphics and Medium frame rate settings, the gameplay wasn't entirely free of some stutters.

That said, the Moto E does still do everything you ask of it. It allows you to spend hours scrolling through Twitter, YouTube videos stream without any issues, and you can view all of your favorite websites on Google Chrome. The experience comes with jitters and slow-downs, but the Moto E ultimately gets the job done.

Going back to the critical side of my brain, I am worried as to how the Moto E will keep performing a few months or a year down the road. This is already a pretty outdated spec loadout, and as you fill the phone up with apps, games, and other digital files, it's only bound to get more and more bogged down.

Speaking of filling the phone up, you're very limited as to how much you can install right out-of-the-box. The Moto E only comes with 32GB of internal storage, meaning it won't be long at all before you find yourself running out of room. Motorola does remedy this with a microSD card slot that allows you to add up to 512GB of additional space, but even for these super cheap phones, I'd love to see 64GB become the norm.

As for the Moto E's battery life, it's actually quite good! The 3,550 mAh battery should allow for at least one full day of heavy use, or a day and a half if you're on it less.

Cameras

Moto E 2020 Review

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

If there's one part of a phone that tends to get sacrificed the most when targeting the low-end market, it's the camera. This is how the story has gone for years, with some cuts being worse than others. In the case of the Moto E, things aren't any different.

Motorola equipped the Moto E with a pair of rear cameras, including a 13MP primary camera and a 2MP depth camera. It's the first Moto E phone to have more than one camera on the back, and while seeing evolution there is great, the overall experience of using the camera is quite poor.

The camera app is laid out nicely with easy-to-use controls and direct integration with Google Lens, but boy is it slow. Focusing on subjects and pressing the shutter button to snap a photo both feel like laborious processes for the Moto E, often resulting in blurry or misfocused shots. If you do happen to get properly focused, images are still tainted with bland colors and often overblown highlights.

Moving on to the 5MP front-facing camera, it's okay for the quick selfie here and there. It's also not a terrible choice if you want to do a quick video call, so long as you don't use Google Duo. I hopped on the app just to make sure it ran smoothly on the Moto E's lesser hardware, and wow — it is a terrible experience.

Source: Android Central

Navigating through Google Duo is good enough, but the camera quality for both the front and rear camera is abysmal. It's pixelated to the point where it looks like something has to be broken, but nope. I reached out to Motorola about this, and they said it's working as intended.

Simply put, if you're a frequent Google Duo user, this is not the phone for you 😬.

Software

Moto E 2020 Review

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

The Moto E ships with Android 10, and like all other Motorola phones, comes with a slew of customizations from the company that only enhance the "stock" Android experience. The aesthetic of the software is very reminiscent of what you'd find on a Google Pixel, meaning it's simple, uncluttered, and very easy to navigate.

All of the custom Motorola bits are found in the Moto app, with some of the highlights being Moto Display, all of the various gestures bundled under Moto Actions, and the new Personalize suite for changing your font, icon shapes, and accent color. Unfortunately, the Moto E is strangely missing some features that you get in Motorola's Moto G phones — specifically, Moto Gametime (an easy way to silence notifications while playing games) and the gesture for twisting the phone to open the flashlight.

Source: Android Central