Moto_E_2
Motorola continues to play in the budget/low cost space with the extremely affordable Motorola Moto E. But is it money well spent?

Budget phones are, by their nature, an exercise in compromises.

You’re not paying top dollar for top-end performance. You’re paying mid to low level money for a device that should be “good enough” compared to other budget devices at the same kind of equivalent price point.

That’s the market that Motorola’s latest budget device, the Motorola Moto E aims for. By all accounts they’ve had a lot of success in the budget space, claiming that the Moto line of phones — the Moto G and X previously, with the Moto G also due for a 4G update while retaining the same nomenclature — are the most successful phones in the company’s history.

I’m on record as being a big fan of some of Motorola’s output. The Razr M remains my favourite “small” Android phone, because at the time it came out, there were literally no other high-end, small screen (and therefore pocket friendly) Android phones. Actually, that’s a statement that’s still broadly true, so I had high hopes for the Moto E to continue this small, powerful trend.

But then there’s that question of budget compromises. The Motorola Moto E retails for $179 completely unlocked, which puts it very much in the budget space, and there are some obvious signs of where Motorola’s cut costs.

You wanted more than one camera? What are you, some kind of egotist?
You wanted more than one camera? What are you, some kind of egotist?

Firstly, there’s the cameras, or I should say, camera. Like the Nokia 635 you’re plumb out of luck if you want to indulge in some selfie action, because there’s no front-facing camera on the Moto E at all. The rear of the Motorola Moto E houses a terribly ordinary 5MP camera that struggles with anything but the most basic photography.

The build design is actually quite pleasant, with a range of removable covers available as options to brighten up the experience. There’s no doubting that this is a cheap phone when you hold it in your hand, however.

It's a simple design that doesn't thrill, but equally doesn't look bad either.
It’s a simple design that doesn’t thrill, but equally doesn’t look bad either.

In a pure specification sense, the Motorola Moto E runs on a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core A7 CPU, 4GB of onboard storage (plus microSD), 1GB of RAM sitting behind a 4.3 inche 540×960 256ppi display. It’s Gorilla Glass 3, which is pleasantly high quality for what is still a budget device. It’s also dual SIM if that kind of thing excites you, although 4G is notably absent.

Does two SIM slots mean you can afford two phone services but only one phone? Or is it a play to maximise your phone budget spend? I guess that's up to your perspective.
Does two SIM slots mean you can afford two phone services but only one phone? Or is it a play to maximise your phone budget spend? I guess that’s up to your perspective.

It’s not a shock that what is effectively a relatively low-range device doesn’t benchmark terribly impressively, managing a score of 598 in Geekbench 3’s Multi-Core test. This isn’t a high end phone, and it doesn’t act like one.

Motorola makes the claim that it’ll offer Android upgrades for the Moto line, including the Moto E to Android L when it becomes available. I haven’t tested Android L on the Moto E, although it did pick up an upgrade to Android 4.4.4 during the test period.

Pop off the plastic cover to reveal the 1980mAh battery. Although for some reason it's sealed.
Pop off the plastic cover to reveal the 1980mAh battery. Although for some reason it’s sealed.

Motorola’s software approach to the Moto E is a mostly hands-off affair, which is a relief compared to some of the horribly discordant launchers the company has pitched in the past. I’m not sure if the budget space cares much about a vanilla Android experience, but if you do want that, the Motorola Moto E is about as vanilla as they come. It certainly beats uninstalling bloatware, if you’re even allowed to do that at all.

Later in the year, the Moto E will be getting Android L, K? K.
Later in the year, the Moto E will be getting Android L, K? K.

The Motorola Moto E isn’t a stunning exercise in high end smartphone technology, and it’s priced to sell as a budget proposition. Within that space it offers good value. There’s no onboard 4G, and you will almost certainly need to to drop a few more dollars for a microSD card unless you stream absolutely everything to your phone, but at the asking price it’s a compact and enjoyable device.

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