Last year, Motorola launched the impressive Moto G — a mid-range handset that offered better UI performance than some high-end flagship handsets. The company then followed it up with the $99 Moto E — a handset targeted towards emerging markets — that redefined the low-end smartphone market in many countries.
This year, the company has given its low-end wonder a spec upgrade to make sure it still remains a worthy option in 2015. But, since the launch of the Moto E last year, the low-end smartphone market has changed drastically with Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei coming out with their own impressive offerings.
So, how does the new Moto E stack up against offerings from Xiaomi and other Chinese players? Is it still a low-end budget wonder that it was last year? Read our review to find out.
The Moto E (2015) looks like a slightly grown up version of its predecessor with just a few minor design tweaks here and there. On the front, the biggest change — apart from the bigger display — is the removal of the speaker grille from the bottom. Unlike the Moto E (2014), which used the speaker on the bottom as a loudspeaker, its successor uses the speaker on the top as a earpiece as well as a loudspeaker.
The new Moto E also sacrifices the removable back found on its predecessor for a removable band. The removable back on the original Moto E was not exactly helpful since the battery was still non-removable, so I doubt anyone is really going to miss it. The new removable band, however, offers potential a great way to customise the phone, and Motorola is already selling a bunch of them in different colors.
Another notable addition in the new Moto E is a front-facing VGA camera, which was a glaring omission on its predecessor.
As for the back, it is made of plastic and has a very grippy feel to it. The overall shape and size of the phone also makes it very comfortable to hold and use ergonomically.
Dimension and weight wise, the new Moto E is 3 grams (145g) heavier than its predecessor. It is also bigger due to the large display, but retains the same thickness (12.3mm), though the slimmer edges (5.2mm) give the effect of the handset being thinner than it really is.
The new Moto E comes with a bigger 4.5-inch display compared to its predecessor’s 4.3-inch, but its resolution remains the same at 960 x 640 (qHD). While this lead to a reduction in the pixel density, the difference is not big enough so as to bother anyone using the phone.
The maximum brightness of the display is pretty good, though there is a notable color shift at maximum brightness. The display also tends to be very reflective, which almost makes it unreadable in bright sunlight.
The black levels of display is, again, decent, but not exactly earth shattering. Considering that the Moto E comes with Moto Display, slightly better black levels would have further enhanced its experience, like it does on the Moto X.
Overall, the display on the Moto E is strictly average in every sense: brightness levels, contrast, sunlight eligibility and viewing angles, and does not really perform exceptionally well in any department. That’s not really a bad thing, but it is noticeably a step or two behind the competition.
Motorola has launched the Moto E (2015) in two different variants: 3G and 4G. Both variants use different chipsets: the 3G variant makes use of a Snapdragon 200 chipset, while the 4G variant uses a more powerful Snapdragon 410 chipset.
We are reviewing the 3G variant here, but it looks like the handset does not come with a Snapdragon 200 chipset from Qualcomm. Instead, it looks like Motorola has used a hybrid chipset of sorts. The Snapdragon 200 chipset comprises of a quad-core Cortex-A7 processor clocked at 1.2GHz and an Adreno 302 GPU. However, the chipset used on the 3G variant of the Moto E, and the version which we are reviewing, comes with an Adreno 305 GPU, though it is still presumably a Snapdragon 200 chipset. At the moment, it is unclear if this is a simple board identification error from Motorola’s part or they have indeed used a hybrid chipset on the 3G variant of Moto E.
Irrespective of what chipset Motorola is using on the Moto E, it is clear that it is not sufficient when the handset is put under load. The new Moto E is substantially more responsive than its predecessor, and it performs just fine in day-to-day tasks. However, once you load too many applications or start browsing heavy websites on Chrome, the handset starts struggling.
For its price, the new Moto E performs just fine, especially if you will just use the phone for WhatsApp and casually browsing some websites. However, handsets from Xiaomi and Micromax in the same or slightly higher price bracket perform notably better when under load when pitted against the Moto E, which makes the latter a strict no-no for power users.
Android 5.0 in itself is quite buggy, and it is possible that the Android 5.1 update will fix some of the performance issues that currently plague the Moto E. After all, the latest version of Lollipop brought about some significant improvement in overall system performance and responsiveness on the Nexus 6 and other high-end devices, so it is likely that some of the benefits will trickle down to lower-end handsets like the Moto E as well.
Like any other Motorola phone in recent time, the Moto E also runs on a near stock build of Android. The handset comes with Android 5.0.2 pre-loaded with some of Motorola’s own apps and features thrown in to enhance the overall experience.
The Moto E is also the first phone from Motorola to feature some of the software goodies that it has usually reserved for the Moto X, including Moto Display and a quick twist to launch the camera gesture.
Moto Display will automatically turn on the display of the Moto E to display the time and any unread notification. The display is turned on when the user waves his hand in front of the phone when it is lying on a table or when the user picks up the phone after a brief period of inactivity. It also automatically lights up after certain period of time with a breathing effect to display time and unread notifications. Think of Moto Display like the Ambient screen mode that Google has introduced in Lollipop, but something that is slightly more effective.
While Moto Display works just fine on the Moto E, the effect is not as ‘magical’ as it is on the Moto X. This is mainly because the Moto E comes with an LCD display, whose black levels are not as impressive as an AMOLED panel.
Apart from a few other Motorola apps like Assist and Connect, the Moto E basically offers the same experience as a Nexus device. All of Lollipop features like Smart Lock, Priority mode for notifications, new Quick Settings are present on the handset and work just as Google intended them to be.
One of the most welcome changes in the new Moto E is that the internal storage has been bumped to 8GB. The original Moto E only came with 4GB of internal storage, and users frequently ran out of storage space on it after installing a few apps and games. The new Moto E will provide customers with slightly more headroom in this regard.
Another benefit of running a near stock build of Android is that the Moto E performs smoothly in day-to-day tasks, and will also be among the first Android devices to receive future Android updates.
The new Moto E comes with a 5MP rear camera and a 0.3MP front camera. While the camera resolution remains the same as its predecessor, the new module features autofocus that allows the handset to take usable photos. The original Moto E lacked autofocus which led it to capture blurry photos most of the time.
Motorola states that the Moto E is also capable of recording videos in 720p HD resolution, but that option is missing from the 3G variant of the device. It is likely that the feature is only present on the 4G variant of the device that is powered by a powerful Snapdragon 410 processor.
Below are some camera samples shot from the rear camera.
As evident from the images above, the Moto E (2015) performs decently in daylight for a phone of its price, though the images do lack details, are underexposed and the contrast is pretty poor on them as well. In extreme low-light without flash, the Moto E camera fails to capture even a usable image.
On the other hand, the camera app on the new Moto E is exactly the same as on the Moto X, and offers a quick and easy way to quickly shoot pictures. The shot-to-shot time is less than a second, with the camera not taking too long to autofocus as well. The twist phone like a screwdriver gesture to quickly launch the camera, which Motorola already uses on the Moto X, is also present on the Moto E and is a joy to use. It is easily the fastest way to launch a camera that I have ever used on any smartphone.
Battery Life & Conclusion
The new Moto E comes with a 2390mAh battery, which for the size and internals of the handset, offers it more than enough power to last through a day. During my testing lasting over two weeks, I was continuously able to extract more than 4 hours of screen-on time from the Moto E over a period of 16-18 hours. The handset was easily able to last on a single charge during the weekends with light usage. Keep in mind that the phone was largely used on 3G with 2 Gmail accounts syncing in the background, and with no other battery saving method applied.
The new Moto E is not particularly a bad phone, but it does fall short of its competition. The performance of the phone is nowhere close to some of its chief competitors available in the same price bracket. While the original Moto E redefined the budget Android smartphone experience and the market, the new Moto E fails to live up to the benchmark set by its predecessor. Once you factor in that the 4G variant of the Moto E — which comes with a faster Snapdragon 410 chipset — costs only an additional Rs. 1,000, it makes almost little sense to buy the 3G variant of the handset.