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Motorola Moto E – Entry Level Excellence

My first mobile phone cost me £90 in 2001. This was a time when the term ‘smartphone’ was in little use and most business users had a pager or a BlackBerry. It was a great device, with a battery that lasted for days, unless I played the sand art game or browsed WAP. Using the internet on a phone was wholly unheard of, it cost 10p per minute to read pages of text. Oh, what a time to be alive.

So, with that brief insight into my device history, I bring to you the review of a ‘smartphone’ that costs just about the same as the Sony J5 did. The Motorola Moto E, £89 at most places of commerce, is the lowest device from the soon to be Lenovo company. Is it worth the minor outlay? Or should you save a little bit more money up and buy a Moto G? Well, I spent a week with this as my only phone, for reals. I put my beloved Moto X in its box and went full on reviewer to find out.

I should preface this whole review by pointing out that I have not used a low-end device for any prolonged period of time since about 2005. Thus some of my pre-conceived notions will be based on devices that cost upwards of four-times the E.

The build quality on the Moto X is fantastic, if you order one that is made in China. The fit and finish are great, no real seams and great quality control. The same can be said of the Moto G, a device less than half the price. Thankfully, and owing in some part to Motorola actually understanding how things work, the Moto E shares exactly the same level of production. The same materials are used and overall, while a tad hefty in weight, it is excellent in hand. The E retains the stylised M dimple of the recent Motorola phones, this one ever-so slightly less recessed than the X, mainly due to the removable rear shell, of which Motorola has a bunch of replacements available in a selection of colours, I have recently purchased a red one. A couple of small grievances which are personal things for me – the thickness is a little too much while the sides are angled slightly and it can push into your hand if you hold it a little tightly. Also, visually the front is made worse via the silver accents on the speaker pieces, had they been black it would be stealthy beautiful.

Only the silver speakers break up the sleek front.

Only the silver speakers break up the sleek front.

A variety of coloured backs are available for the E.

A variety of coloured backs are available for the E.

Speaking of those, the sound quality is really quite poor. Lacking in depth of noise and clarity, especially when playing at anything over 3/4 volume, this is not going to allow you to be the DJ of a party. The speakers are about the only real issue I have with the hardware of this phone, however, the camera is one too, but not for the reasons that you might think. There is no front-facing camera, and with the rear shooter being a 5MP sensor, I was not expecting miracles. Safe to say that the E does not even try to bring any. The images lack detail in patches of concentrated colour. Really I could live with that, my main area of concern is that the camera is fixed focus. I have not used a fixed focus camera since 2009 and this is a real pain to deal with. Pretty much none of my indoor shots with the E have been in focus, I am unable to actually find where its point of focus lies, somewhere in the infinitum I guess.

The Moto E and the Moto X

The Moto E and the Moto X

On to the main part of a smartphone. The display. Being 4.3” in size and running a resolution of 540×960 you would be forgiven for assuming that it leaves a lot to be desired. Well, it is honestly a great display. Colours are more accurate than the Moto X and the display has high contrast to boot. Motorola have certainly calibrated this one well.

Yes, you can see pixels, but you are not really going to care about that. Being an LCD panel it provides a better image when using a white theme within an app. The opposite of an AMOLED display and something that blinds me every time I use it. On the whole I think it is a perfectly good display and my initial thoughts that it lacked in touch sensitivity have been alleviated due to it being an issue where I was not used to the smaller display and was missing touches instead of the display not registering.

The entire Motorola family. X, G and E.

The entire Motorola family. X, G and E.

I am not going to rattle off any more specifications about this device as those who would be interested are not bothered in the slightest what runs Android 4.4.2 here. The 4.4.4 update has very recently come through to the phone. It is utterly brilliant that such a budget device is getting software updates that it puts some OEM flagships to shame.

Motorola has as per its norm now, done very little to the base Android. The enhancements this time lie mostly in the additional software that Moto provides. Motorola assist is here to know when you are sleeping and in a meeting, lacking the driving detection from the Moto X. The Moto E has 4GB of onboard storage which is in reality only 2.16GB on first boot. However, Motorola has seen fit to incorporate a Micro-SD Card slot, something many might welcome.

As close to stock Android as you get without running stock Android.

As close to stock Android as you get without running stock Android.

Battery life, the none-removable one in this device is 1980mAh, is par for the course for any smartphone. With the demographic that this phone is aimed at, I would guess the older users will see two days and the younger, with games and Facebook usage will see one day, or maybe just a school day. Nothing special here, but then nothing dire at all.

In day-to-day use the E did everything that my X can do, nothing more, but it didn’t feel like a hindrance at all. Of note, while on 4.4.2 it managed to reboot itself quite a few times. So far 4.4.4 has not seen things of the same ilk happening.

For the price you pay for the Moto E, I would highly recommend you get this phone. If, however, you can stretch the extra £10-20 for a Moto G I would get that instead.

For once I would be happy to recommend the entire lineup of devices from one manufacturer.


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