Moto E review: The low-end phone that Android deserves

Moto E

Last year, Motorola struck gold with the Moto X after years of releasing products that failed to capture the rapidly increasing smartphone market. Sadly, the Moto X even with its plethora of innovative features and praiseworthy reviews, failed to set the cash register on fire for the company.

It was only with the Moto G released late last year that Motorola finally managed to taste success, sales wise, and disrupt the mid-range Android smartphone market in the process. The Moto G was so good that within a few months of its release, it went on to become the most successful smartphone in Motorola’s history. However, with the Moto G selling at such a low price, most people wondered if Motorola was actually making any money off it or not, even though Motorola stated otherwise.

The company is now back with a handset that once again aims to disrupt the low-end Android smartphone market — the Moto E. If you thought the Moto G provided an insane value for money, the Moto E is here to prove you wrong with its $129 price tag.

Build Quality

The Moto E follows the same design language as the rest of the Moto family. If you have used a Moto X or a G before, the Moto E will feel right at home for you. The Moto E still has the same ergonomic curve at its back with a dimpled Moto logo in the center that makes it extremely pleasant to hold. It also retains the same solid build quality and splash-proof coating as seen in other Moto devices. While the back is removable, you are going to need a lot of effort and long nails to pry it open.

Moto E back
The dimpled Motorola logo

The front of the Moto E looks a lot like the Moto G, except for an increased bezel size and a front-facing mono speaker at the bottom, outlined by a metallic strip. Since the back cover is still removable, Motorola offers a variety of colored shells for the Moto E, allowing users to somewhat customize their handset.

Another surprise is that the Moto E display is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 with a smudge free coating, which is a rarity in low-end devices.

Generally, low-end phones offer very poor build quality and ergonomics with their cheap glossy plastic easily picking up scratches and creaking even when pressed slightly. The Moto E, however, comes as a breath of fresh air and offers the same build quality and ergonomics that other Motorola devices are known for.


The Moto E comes with a 4.3-inch qHD (640*960) display — a resolution that is better than what most Chinese OEMs offer in this price range. Head-on, the display looks strictly okay with colors being only slightly washed out. The whites, for example, have a strong yellowish tinge to them. The contrast and black levels are pretty decent for a device of this price.

The Moto E’s display is just adequate when viewed at a direct angle

However, tilt the phone slightly and you will notice that the display suffers from poor viewing angles. While the content on the screen is still visible, the yellowish tint increases significantly. Sunlight legibility is nothing to talk about with the display being highly reflective, which forces users to squint their eyes to see anything even at full brightness.


Under the hood, the Moto E sports a meagre dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.2GHz, which is paired with an Adreno 302 GPU and 1GB of RAM. Most Chinese OEMs come with a quad-core processor and a faster GPU from MediaTek, so the Moto E specs are nothing to talk about.

However, even with such a limited amount of power, the Moto E glides through normal day-to-day usage. In fact, the handset actually feels faster to use than the Exynos version of Galaxy S5 — an absolutely commendable feat to achieve.

In over a week of using the device, there was never a slight hint of lag while I jumped through the various menus of the phone. Even browsing heavy websites like The Verge was pretty smooth, though the scrolling did jitter every once in a while and animations became slightly choppy. Surprisingly, the Moto E did not skip a frame or lag even once while playing some heavy titles like Riptide GP2 and Shine Runner, which itself speaks volume about the handset’s performance and Motorola’s optimizations.

However, this does not mean the Moto E is perfect. It will lag when you try to multi-task or run some extremely heavy apps, which should not really bother many as this is a pretty limited use case in the demographic that the Moto E is targeted towards.

I have used my fair share of low-end Android as well as basic Asha phones from Nokia in this price range and the Moto E easily beats them all when it comes to performance. Motorola has managed to break the notion with the Moto E that low-end phones cannot be smooth and deliver a great experience. For a company that is struggling to even generate profit, this is truly a commendable feat to achieve. One can only hope that the market leader — Samsung — and other Chinese OEMs like Micromax take note of this.


The magic behind Moto E’s excellent performance lies not in its hardware but the software. The handset is among the rare breed of low-end smartphones that is running on Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Even better, Motorola has already started rolling out the Android 4.4.3 update for the Moto E in the United States with a wider roll-out expected sometime soon.

To sweeten the deal even further, Motorola has stated that the Moto E is confirmed to get the next upgrade of Android, something that most Chinese OEMs can never possibly offer.

The Moto E runs on a near stock build of Android with only a few minor enhancements from Motorola in the form of some pre-loaded apps like Assist, Migrate, Device ID, Alert and more. Assist helps users in automating certain day to day tasks like silencing the ringer of their phone during a meeting and more. Migrate, as its name suggests, allows new users to seamlessly transfer their contacts, messages and more from any other device whilst Alert is used to send out an SOS to your pre-specified contacts during an emergency.

The near stock Android home screen and Quick Settings
The near stock Android home screen and Quick Settings

Since the Moto E also comes with dual-SIM functionality, it has a dedicated menu in the Settings menu where users can disable or enable specific SIM cards, select connection priority and other similar options.

The Dual SIM Settings menu
The Dual SIM Settings menu

The Moto E also comes with a microSD card slot, which is pretty much a necessity here as the internal memory only has a usable space of 2.17GB. While Motorola allows users to move apps to the SD card, the option needs to be enabled by app developers first. Motorola has targeted the Moto E towards first time smartphone and Android users, so this really should not be a problem for them as their app usage should be significantly low.


If there is one place where the Moto E truly feels like a low-end device, it has to be its Camera.

Moto E camera
The 5MP rear shooter is quite mediocre

The 5MP rear camera is not capable of auto focusing, which means that most of your shots are going to be a blurry mess. In low-light, things worsen even further with the Moto E camera being practically unusable, thanks to the amount of noise that seeps into the images.

Moto E fixed focus camera sample
Since the camera has a fixed focus, close up shots will turn out to be blurry

As if the poor rear camera was not enough, the Moto E lacks any kind of camera on the front, instantly making it a deal breaker for young teenagers who are pretty fond of Snapchat and Skype. If there is one place where the Moto E truly disappoints, it has to be in the imaging department. The 5MP snapper at the back is only good on paper and is of hardly any use in the real world.

Moto E HDR camera sample
Even in daylight, the images have a lot of noise.

The handset is also able to record videos in FWVGA (854*480) resolution in MP4 format, which just like the still images, is nothing to talk about. The fixed focus nature of the camera sensor means that there is no issue of the subject going out of focus or videos becoming blurry due to focusing issues.

Battery Life & Conclusion

The Moto E comes with a non-removable 1980mAh battery that provides more than enough juice for the handset to make it through a day of heavy usage. Even when using two SIM cards with a lot of phone calls and Google Drive usage, the Moto E easily lasted a day for me with 35% juice still left at the end of the day.

The Moto E is truly a remarkable device for the price it’s selling at. Just like the Moto G, it bests the competition in nearly every possible aspect, except for the camera, and makes other low-end devices feel downright awful.

Apart from its sub-par camera, the Moto E is a top-notch device in every segment. Even with its dual-core processor, the handset offers excellent performance, thanks largely to Android 4.4 KitKat and the deal is further sweetened by Motorola’s promise to upgrade the handset to the next version of Android. If you are in the market for your first smartphone or are looking for an Android device on a shoestring budget, the Moto E is an excellent choice that you cannot go wrong with.