Low-cost Android martphones have almost always gotten a bad rap because of the compromises made with their processors, the quality of their screens, and more in order to achieve a low price. That’s changed recently, though, with affordable Android phones becoming increasingly attractive to shoppers on a budget. Motorola has played a large role in that change with its Moto series of smartphones, specifically the Moto G and Moto E.
Motorola Moto E was quite a popular phone when it had launched last year. In fact, it was the best phone under Rs 10,000 till other phone makers started offering affordable price points. While the Moto E had been released at a time when Xiaomi was yet to debut in India, the second generation Moto E surely isn’t the only affordable device in the segment. In fact, Lenovo started the trend this year by introducing the 4G enabled A6000, and this was quickly followed by Xiaomi’s Redmi 2; both of which come at the same price point as the Motorola Moto E (2015). But does it make too many compromises in order to reach that low price? Let’s find out.
Hardware and Build Quality: 7.5/10
The Moto E (2nd Gen.) features several notable upgrades over its predecessor. The front of the new Moto E includes a 4.5-inch display that’s slightly larger than the original E’s 4.3-inch screen, but they’ve both got the same 960×540 resolution. Up above the Moto E (2nd Gen.)’s display is a VGA front-facing camera, which is a step up from the Moto E (1st Gen.) that didn’t have any front-facing shooter at all. Both Moto E models have 5-megapixel rear cameras, but the second generation model’s is an auto focus shooter and the original’s is fixed focus. Finally, the new Moto E’s got double the storage of its predecessor (8GB vs 4GB), a 2390mAh battery that’s considerably beefier than the first Moto E’s 1980mAh battery, a new Snapdragon 410 processor, and 4G LTE connectivity. So yeah, there are a lot of upgrades here.
In terms of design, the two Moto Es don’t look terribly different, though the latest model does only have one silver bar on its face for the loudspeaker, whereas the original model had one earpiece up top and one speaker at the bottom. It’s not a bad thing that the two models have a similar design, though. The Moto E (2nd Gen.) has a plastic body that feels solid and a curved back that rests nicely in your hand. Motorola has also used the well-known dimple found on older Moto devices, giving you a place to rest your finger during phone calls.
One other hardware detail that’s worth mentioning pertains to customization. While there’s no Moto Maker to let you totally customize the Moto E (2nd Gen.), there are Motorola Bands that you can buy. They cost $19.99 and come in packs of three: one has turquoise, purple, and raspberry, while the other offers red, blue, and golden yellow. The bands are easily removed and snapped onto the Moto E (2nd Gen.)’s body, letting you quickly give your phone a touch of color, and they’re also textured to provide a little more grip.
Motorola also sells Grip Shells that are priced at $19.99 each and come in blue, raspberry, turquoise, golden yellow, and charcoal color options. These Grip Shells have a thick, rubberized outer ring that offer considerably more protection than a Motorola Band, and they also have a plastic rear to protect the Moto E’s backside.
It’s also worth pointing out that in order to access the Moto E (2nd Gen.)’s SIM slot of microSD card slot, you simply remove the Band or Grip Shell that you’ve currently got on the device. Both slots are on the opposite side from the power/lock and volume buttons.
While the Moto E (2nd Gen.) isn’t quite as customizable as its Moto X sibling, Motorola does offer several different color options to add a bit of personality to your Moto E. And between the different colors and levels of protection, most people should be able to find a Band or Grip Shell that appeals to them.
Considering this is Motorola’s entry level phone, the new Moto E sports a 4.5-inch 960 x 540 pixel display. It must be considered that competition has already added on HD displays at the same budget. The phone runs Android 5.0.2 and houses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 SoC which has a quad-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz along with an Adreno 302 GPU. This is paired with 1GB of RAM.
Motorola’s also included a few other custom apps with the Moto E (2nd Gen.) Motorola Alert will let you designate emergency contacts and, if you’re in an emergency, you can press a button to quickly shoot off a text message, call an emergency service, and sound a super-loud alarm. You can also send a Meet Me message to a friend with your location or use Follow Me to send your current location in selected intervals to certain recipients.
Also included is Motorola Camera, an app that I went over in the Camera section of this review, and a custom Gallery app that’ll let you view your Camera Roll, Albums, Highlights, and Videos. Finally, there’s Motorola Migrate, which will help you to migrate things like photos, videos, music, call history, messages, contacts, and more to your Moto E (2nd Gen.) or from the Moto E to another device.
It may sound like Motorola has packed a lot of its own apps into the Moto E (2nd Gen.), but that’s really not the case. Several of them are hidden away in the Moto app, and if things like Motorola Alert and Motorola Migrate really bother you by sitting in the app drawer, you can disable them and hide them for good.
Outside of those few custom apps, the Moto E (2nd Gen.) runs a vanilla version of Android 5.0.2. Lollipop here is just as you’d expect, with Material Design notifications, new Quick Settings, and updated software navigation buttons. It’s great to see plain ol’ Android on a device that’s not a Nexus or Google Play edition, especially since the Moto E (2nd Gen.)’s low price means that most anyone can see what vanilla Lollipop tastes like. This approach also means that Motorola can push Android OS updates out fairly quickly, which it has done quite a bit in the past.
While testing the specifications on the CPU-Z utility, we were shown the SoC as Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, which is not the case. On the storage front, you get 8GB of storage of which 5.03GB is available for use. There is a 5MP rear camera without an LED flash unit and a VGA front-facing camera.
Considering it houses the entry level Qualcomm system-on-chip, performance numbers aren’t the best. But thanks to no skin on the phone, the response is quite smooth. Swiping through home pages or the app drawer is fast and casual games such as Angry Birds are playable. High end games such as Asphalt 8 will stutter.
Call quality was good with the earpiece speaker providing good quality audio. You can even listen to songs without plugging in your earphones within your room. There wasn’t any distortion even at high volumes.
Software and Motorola Apps: 9/10
The Moto E runs a nearly stock version of Android 5.0 Lollipop, and just as on the Moto X and the Moto G, comes with plenty of personalized software to make life a little easier.
With the Moto app, you can set your phone to keep the screen off at specified times (such as at night when you’re sleeping). Android’s Downtime Settings silences your notifications and only alerts you when someone on your Favorites list calls or sends a message. You can also set an auto-reply to missed calls from your Favorites when you’re in a meeting.
Motorola packed nifty gestures into the Moto E as well. You can launch the camera app by flicking or twisting your wrist quickly twice, and repeat the action to turn the selfie cam on. While I appreciated this convenient feature, it’s a rather odd gesture — my roommate was worried I was trying to throw away the phone instead of launch the app.
Lazy users like myself will appreciate being able to say “OK, Google” when the Home screen is open to activate voice control. The Moto E recognized my commands well, opening Chrome and showing me the weather forecast, despite a noisy episode of Spartacus: Vengeance playing in the background. Unlike on the Moto X, though, you’ll only be able to use the “OK, Google” command to activate Google Now on the home screen.
Just as on the Moto G (2014), Motorola has bundled the Alert app to send your location to emergency contacts. You’ll also get Migrate for porting your contacts, photos and accounts to or from a different phone, whether it’s a Moto, iPhone or other device. Motorola also tosses in an FM Radio app so you can tune in to your favorite channel by plugging in a set of headphones.
The Camera app on the Moto E (2nd Gen.) is a custom-made Motorola app, and it’s pretty simple and straightforward to operate. You can move the focus ring around the screen to focus on certain objects. You can also slide your finger up and down to zoom, and sliding your finger out from the left of the display will display options for HDR, panorama, a timer, and more. There are also a pair of on-screen buttons for switching to the video camera or flipping to the front-facing camera.
When it comes time to take photos, the new Moto E’s 5-megapixel camera takes decent shots. The shooter performed well during the day, producing photos that may not be the sharpest that you’ve ever seen, but that will be adequate for posting to social media accounts. Things change in low light, though. The new Moto E doesn’t have a flash, and so don’t expect to get much if you’re shooting in a dimly-lit place. If you’re in a situation with little lighting, you’ll need to find a way to brighten things up a bit, or you’ll be left with some low-quality shots.
Turning our focus to the front-facing camera, well, don’t expect much. The fact that there’s a front-facing shooter at all is a welcome change from the original Moto E, which had no camera at all on its front. However, the VGA front camera on the Moto E (2nd Gen.) produces photos that are lacking in detail and can be a bit fuzzy. The front-facing shooter could be of some use if you ever find yourself making video calls, but for still photos you may want to try flipping the phone around and attempting to take a photo of yourself with the rear camera.
The Moto E (2nd Gen.) comes equipped with a 2390mAh battery, which is quite a bit larger than the original Moto E’s 1980mAh battery. And while the new model includes LTE, which was missing from the original, the Moto E (2nd Gen.) still manages some impressive battery life. In my time with the new E, I found that it had no problem lasting a day with normal usage that included checking social media, browsing the web, taking photos, streaming music, and some light messaging.
The entry-level smartphone market isn’t one that’s filled with much glamour, and it doesn’t seem to get a ton of love either. Motorola is giving a lot of attention to that part of the market, though, and that has made devices like the Moto G and the original Moto E some of the best affordable smartphones on the market. And that focus on making low-cost devices actually good continued with the Moto E (2nd Gen.)
The new Moto E is a pretty great little phone. It’s got a few shortcomings, most notably in the camera department, but thanks to its combination of software features, solid build quality, LTE connectivity, and long battery life, the new Moto E is one of the best sub-$200 smartphones that you can buy!