|+ Nice design and top build quality||- Not much internal storage|
|+ Bright, quality display||- Can be a bit slow|
|+ Pure Android||- Lacks 4G|
|+ Futureproofed for a major upgrade at least||- Average rear snapper and lacks front-facing model.|
"The best of the under-£100 devices, the Moto E shows that smartphones can be cheap yet desirable."
We spend a lot of time deciding whether, Apple, Samsung or HTC have won the premium smartphone wars, as they bring out bigger, better and more expensive devices, but there is a quiet revolution going on in the cheaper phone bracket, thanks to Motorola.
At the beginning of the 21st century, it was Motorola that was making a name for itself with the likes of the Razr, but they have been overshadowed by the big guns of late. But now Motorola has taken over the mantle of making budget smartphones.
First off they came up with the Moto G, and now they have broken through the sub-£100 price barrier to bring the very promising Moto E – an Android device for less than £90.
So let’s find out whether a smartphone can really be cheap, cheerful and worth buying…
If you’re familiar with the Moto G, you’ll recognise that the Moto E is just a smaller version – it’s got the same look, with a soft-touch plastic back (which can be taken off and switched for one of a different hue), touchscreen covered by Gorilla Glass – and under the hood an almost unsullied version of Android 4.4 KitKat.
It’s not the slimmest or lightest device around – it weighs in at 142g and measures 124.8 x 64.8 x 12.3mm. But its build quality is excellent – it feels like a well constructed piece of kit, with a finish worthy of a company that has been making phones for a long time, as Motorola has.
There are no claims of dustproofing or waterproofing, but it feels solid enough to cope with being jostled around in a handbag with your keys and loose change, and to not disintegrate if it is dropped occasionally.
The display sits surrounded by a shiny black plastic bezel, while the chrome finish appears on the power and volume keys, around the snapper, loudspeaker and earpiece to add a touch of quality.
Turn it over to find a curved back cover, which can be swapped for one of nine different colours. This is also where you’ll find the microSD card slot, which allows memory to be expanded up to 32GB.
In terms of size it is a little bulky, and the bezels could do with being smaller, but really for this price you can hardly go wrong.
Often budget phones are let down by their screen but the Moto E does a grand job – sure the screen is neither the brightest or biggest around and colours can appear a tad too warm, but nothing is a big issue.
PPI comes in at 265, while resolution is 540 x 960 – amazingly good for the pricetag. The pixel count is just enough to ensure text stays rounded and icons appear sharp. Look closely enough and you might see the odd jagged line. Colours are accurate and the backlight manages to put paid to most reflection and glare that you encounter on a sunny day. Viewing angles are acceptable.
The cheaper touchscreens tend to be fingerprint magnets thanks to the fact they have no oleophobic coating but again the Moto E doesn’t do too badly – although you will find yourself wiping it on your jeans every now and gain.
Of course you can’t expect HD at this price but again the screen will be sharp enough for your average user – and it does mean battery life is improved.
The weakest part of the Moto E setup is the five-megapixel snapper. It has Motorola’s own smart camera app, which lets you changing settings, zoom in and look at the gallery by swiping your thumb, but it still offers only average results, It is a fixed-focus model, so can’t refocus on subjects that are close up or far away – try to snap anything closer than about a foot away and you’ll suffer from blur. Nor can you focus on one object – just tap on the display to take your snap.
It also suffers from lag if you’re taking one snap after another; there’s a good few seconds before it’s ready to take another shot. Also photo quality is fine for social media, but don’t expect to print out big images for your wall – mind you, you have to remember this phone costs less than 90 quid.
And you won’t be taking selfies either, as there’s no front-facing snapper.
The operating system of choice is Android 4.4 KitKat, which has been left virtually in its original state. The snapper has been changed for Motorola’s own, with gestures and swipes for zooming in, opening up settings and looking at your gallery. It also features Motorola’s excellent Migration app, which allows you to move texts, photos, contacts and so on from your old Android device using Bluetooth.
Motorola Alert is a new facility that lets your friends and family know where you are – useful for parents who want to make sure their kids have got where they are going without embarrassing them with constant phone calls.
Under the hood sits a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 dual-core processor that has been clocked at 1.2GHz, coupled with 1GB of RAM. It may not sound impressive but it gives the Moto E all the power it needs.
We found that games and apps fired up speedily enough, although they could take a few seconds to shut down. The device isn’t as speedy as some of the top-of-the-range models but it’s no surprise at this price – and it certainly gives enough performance for most users.
Running games doesn’t cause the phone to overheat – a problem for some of the thinner phones – but the lack of onboard memory can be a problem for games such as Grand Theft Auto, which won’t fit on the device without you laying out for a microSD card.
It’s also a shame there’s no 4G – but then Motorola has only just included it on its mid-range phone the Moto G, so it’s not really a surprise.
Motorola has also promised that the Moto E will benefit from the next major Android update to Version 5.0, when it appears later in the year.
Battery life is decent – streaming around half an hour of Netflix over Wi-Fi only took 12 per cent of the charge. You should get a full day with average use, and if you’re only using the phone occasionally it should last all weekend.
The best of the under-£100 devices, the Moto E shows that smartphones can be cheap yet desirable. It is not the lightest or slimmest phone, nor does it have the largest display, fastest chip or most memory. But on its side is the fact it is affordable, has decent specs, top build quality and it looks good. Its near-pure Android version will go through a major upgrade in the next year.
Dimensions : 124.8 x 64.8 x 12.3mm
Weight: 142 grams
Screen size: 4.3”
Screen Resolution: 540 x 960 display resolution
Pixels Per Inch (PPI) : 256
Processor: 1.2GHz Dual core application processor
RAM: 1 GB
On-board Memory: 4 GB
Camera: 5MP (rear)
Operating system: Android 4.4.2
Ultrafast / 3G / 4G LTE: Yes/ Yes/ No
Bluetooth / NFC : Yes/ No
Battery capacity: 1980 mAh
Colours: White and Black
Launch Date: Out Now
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