Not since the iconic RAZR of 2004 has the thought of owning a Motorola been something to set your pulse racing. Whilst the Moto E isn’t likely to catch the imagination in the same way, the first new handset to appear since Google sold its struggling Motorola smartphone business to Lenovo in January will be key to reviving the fortunes of the brand.
It’s never going to take on the iPhone or the Galaxy S5, but at £89.99 in the UK ($129.99 in the US) the Moto E is set to take smartphone ownership into a whole new marketplace. Indeed the company is aiming at customers who are switching from older conventional handsets.
But at that price can it be any good or is it merely a way of getting people to see what a smartphone can do before they throw it away and buy something better?
What do you get for your money?
First impressions are good, Forbes notes that, “The back is rubber with a tasteful matt finish that is both easy to grip and hides fingerprints while the front is Corning Gorilla Glass, the same stuff used in iPhones, the HTC One M8, Nexus 5 and Galaxy S5. Motorola has also matched these handsets by giving the Moto E an oleophobic coating to reduce finger prints.”
The Moto E’s screen is a 4.3-inch unit with 960 x 540 pixels delivering 256 pixels per inch. This is no Apple Retina Display but it’s way better than the 3.5-inch screens typically found on cheaper phones. CNET comments, “We did notice, in our brief hands-on time, that the Moto E’s viewing angle wasn’t great – tilting the phone away from our line of sight resulted in some colour distortion.”
The Register though was more impressed, “For a budget touchscreen there is surprisingly little chromatic shift when viewed from obtuse angles – it can be seen, but it’s nothing to get bent out of shape over. It’s impressively colourful, bright and sharp with the individual pixels being invisible to the naked eye. In short, it’s an order of magnitude better than you have any right to expect for the money.”
Moto E comes with a dual-core 1.2GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM and runs the latest Android KitKat, plus The Register notes, “Motorola guarantee at least one update to the operating system. So despite the cheap as chips asking price, you won’t be left out in the cold when the next incarnation of Android comes into view.”
As you might expect at this price there are compromises. There’s no 4G and no front-facing camera – so no selfies or video calls. Also the Wi-Fi is only 802.11n rather than the newer, faster 802.11ac. The rear camera is 5MP, which is okay but not exceptional, and it doesn’t have a flash. There’s only 4GB of internal storage too but Motorola has provided a microSD slot which can take cards of up to 32GB.
Here’s a quick promo video of the Moto E:
Will I be ashamed to be seen with it?
The problem of buying a budget phone of course is the feeling of inadequacy when your mates whip out their premium models in the pub. The Moto E should allow you to hold your head high, CNET says, “Physically, it’s easy to see the family resemblance to the Moto G and much pricier Moto X. Although smaller, the E has the same rounded corners, along with the gently curving back panel.”
That back panel can be swapped too so you can give your phone a makeover with a different colour or simply swap a scratched or battered panel for a new one.
TechRadar says, “It appears that Motorola has done it again. It’s created a desirable smartphone with an impressively low price tag and a decent set of specs.”
The Moto E was launched alongside a 4G version of the Moto G, selling for £149. That extra £60 gets you not just 4G but also a better screen, a front-facing camera and a rather sleeker design. Serious users will want to spend the extra, but for first time smartphone owners the Moto E has a lot to commend it. As TechRadar says in its verdict, “You won’t find a better offering at this price point, and even with a few limitations the Moto E could be the perfect first-time or festival smartphone.”