A new budget LTE contender
Motorola has released an updated version of their low-cost Moto E smartphone for 2015, adding faster hardware and LTE support to an unlocked device with an unsubsidized retail of just $149. In this review we'll examine this new phone to find out if there are any significant limitations given its bargain price.
There has been a trend toward affordability with smartphone pricing that accelerated in 2014 and has continued its pace to start this year. Of course expensive flagships still exist at their $500+ unsubsidized retail prices, but is the advantage of such a device worth the price premium? In most cases a customer in a retail space would be naturally drawn to the more expensive phones on display with their large, sharp screens and thin designs that just look better by comparison. To get the latest and greatest the longstanding $500 – $700 unsubsidized cost of popular smartphones have made 2-year contract pricing a part of life for many, with contract offers and programs allowing users to lease or finance phones positioned as attractive alternatives to the high initial price. And while these high-end options can certainly reward the additional cost, there are rapidly diminishing returns on investment once we venture past the $200 mark with a mobile device. So it’s this bottom $200 of the full-price phone market which is so interesting not just to myself, but to the future of smartphones as they become the commodity devices that the so-called “feature phones” once were.
One of the companies at the forefront of a lower-cost approach to smartphones is Motorola, now independent from Google after Motorola Mobility was sold to Lenovo in October of 2014. A year before the sale Motorola had released a low-cost smartphone called the Moto G, an interesting product which ran stock Android for a fraction of the cost of a Google Play edition or even Nexus device; though it was underpowered with decidedly low-end specs. After a redesign in 2014, however, the 2nd edition Moto G became a much more compelling option, offering a unique combination of low price, respectable hardware, a stock Android experience, and Motorola’s now trademark design language, to a market drowning in bloated MSRPs. There was just one problem: while the 2014 Moto G had solid performance and had (quite importantly) moved larger 5-inch screen with a higher 720×1280 resolution IPS panel, there was still no LTE support. Selling without a contract for just $179 unlocked made the lack of LTE at least understandable, but as carrier technology has matured the prevalence of LTE has made it an essential part of future devices – especially in 2015. Admittedly 3G data speeds are fast enough for many people, but the structure of the modern mobile data plan often leaves that extra speed on the table if one’s device doesn’t support LTE.
The 2015 Moto E
The overall experience with a smartphone is a culmination of every aspect of its hardware and software, and it’s what makes assessing and recommending mobile devices so difficult. While the design of the Moto E isn’t flashy, the 2015 version is elegant in its simplicity. It has a functional design that also ergonomic, making it easy to hold and use with one hand, particularly given its 4.5-inch size. The industrial design is reminiscent of the other phones in the current Moto family, as Motorola has adopted a design language that is consistent across their product line. This cohesiveness makes each model in the series similar to use, and has primarily differentiated them based on screen size and hardware specifications rather than outward appearance. The 2015 Moto E certainly seem a bit more polished compared to what we are often used to seeing in the entry level space, and if not for its thickness it could be easily mistaken for a more expensive device.
The Moto E has a fully plastic construction (save the Gorilla Glass screen), and in hand it's lightweight while still feeling solid. There is an immediate and tangible difference when comparing this phone to a more premium device side-by-side, as it isn’t made with the same materials or sleek dimensions as a flagship phone, but it is a respectable alternative. This 2015 Moto E does have enough of the DNA of the Moto X to give it some style, but the thickness of the phone if nothing else would make it pretty obvious to anyone that this isn’t the same device.
The 2015 Moto (left) is quite thick compared to the 2014 Moto X (right)
Now we'll check out the full specifications for this LTE version of the 2015 Moto E from Motorola (US GSM model XT1527):
- Operating system: Android 5.0 Lollipop
- System architecture/processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (1.2 GHz quad-core CPU, 400 MHz Adreno 306 GPU)
- Memory: 1GB
- Storage: 8GB
- Removable storage: Supports up to 32GB microSD card
- Display: 4.5" 540×960 (245 ppi) IPS LCD, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, Anti-smudge coating
- Networks/Bands: GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 1700 (AWS), 1900 MHz), 4G LTE (2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 17)
- Rear camera: 5 MP, f/2.2 aperture, autofocus, 4x digital zoom
- Video capture: 720p HD Video, 30 fps (MPEG4, H.264)
- Front Camera: VGA
- Connectivity: Micro USB, 3.5mm headset jack
- Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 LE
- Speakers: Earpiece, loudspeaker, 2-mic support
- NFC: No
- Location services: GPS, AGPS, GLONASS
- Sensors: Accelerometer (x2), Ambient Light, Proximity, Sensor Hub
- Battery: 2390 mAh
- Water resistant: Yes
- Dimensions: Height: 129.9 mm (5.11 inches), Width: 66.8 mm (2.63 inches), Thickness (curved) 5.2 – 12.3 mm (0.20 – 0.48 inches)
- Weight: 145 grams (5.11 ounces)
Upon removing the Moto E from the no-frills packaging you'll be presented with the standard Android welcome screen, and (in addition to the phone) the box simply includes a wall charger and some basic documentation.
Next we'll take a closer look at the design and display of the 2015 Moto E.
Slight typo on page
Slight typo on page 2
Essentially 540×960 offers the usable space of a sharper 1080×1920 panel, but with only half of the pixels the scaling looks at best soft on the Moto E
It’s a quarter of the pixels, half in each direction.
These budget phones look pretty decent, honestly. If Verizon would let me bring my own phone at a discount (which I don’t think they do currently) I’d buy my own phone and use it at the lower price. As it is, I decided to get one of those fancy flagships on Edge, which does give the per-line discount. Paying more than I’d like, but where I live Sprint and T-Mobile aren’t great. 🙁
Thanks – fixed the typo. I
Thanks – fixed the typo. I wish everyone had the option to BYOD, and while Verizon has such a good reputation for coverage the lack of device freedom is why I stick with AT&T.
I’m pretty sure verizon
I’m pretty sure verizon knocks the line fee down to $15 if you are not under a 2-year contract. I think they change that fairly recently.
I’m done with subsidized
I’m done with subsidized phones, we have 2 OnePlus One’s and a Moto G in this house.
Have 2 moto e 2 nd gens and 3
Have 2 moto e 2 nd gens and 3 HTC 510’s on Cricket. $100 month no contract. No plan to ever be gouged by Verizon again. Love it.
Just installed CM12.1
Just installed CM12.1 (Android 5.1) on my Galaxy S3 last night. It’s like getting a new phone!
Who cares, that has nothing
Who cares, that has nothing to do with the article or what anyone is talking about.
You LL want the motog first
You LL want the motog first gen without LTE ,gpe!1280x720p is the sweet spot for smartphone,size can change but the rest as to be 1280x720p .hspa+is also a sweet spot.LTE is a battery hog.the Asus zen2 has all a user need (the 1280x720p version,hopefully the max combo can be outfitted with a 1280x720p.sadly I don’t think zen 2 is gpe !tho Intel does promise update close to same time as android.if true?(usually Intel deliver on their promise)zen 2 will be best bang for $ for a while
I’ve used a SIM-only deal
I’ve used a SIM-only deal here in the UK, for years, with a preSmartphone Nokia, an HTC Desire and now the impressive Moto G
Cannot see the point of essentially leasing or hiring a phone, unless u just HAVE to have the latest flash kit. I pay c£9 (c$13) for 1000 mins ago of calls, unltd texts and a gig of data, plus cellphone companies here are will always haggle to keep u as a customer. Buy the Moto model that appeals – or even cheaper, buy one in India – the rupee is worth £.01 – a UK penny!
Thanks for the review. This
Thanks for the review. This will be in the short list of phones I will consider when and if I finally break down and get my first smartphone.
I currently own a first gen
I currently own a first gen moto G but a model with LTE(I suppose that model only launched in certain parts of the world like the EU). I like the smaller screen better than the new G, it has a higher resolution screen than the new E and an SD card slot. Still waiting for my Lollipop upgrade though…
I got one in the US, so it’s
I got one in the US, so it’s not just an international version. I’m quite happy with it. I got it for the uSD slot not the LTE. I do with they would hurry up with 5.1, though. You did hear the news that they were skipping 5.0.2 and going right to 5.1, right? Downside: it’ll take even longer to get here. But, better late and right than early and broken.