Moto E LTE (2015) Review: The perfect budget phone

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Last year Motorola released the Moto E, a phone that was built to last and priced for all. We found it to me a fantastic phone for the money, but with all technology, things continue to evolve, and Motorola has upgraded just about every spec on the device for 2015. Based on the suggested retail, the LTE version should cost a little more ($20) than last year’s $129 price point, but you can find it for much lower.

Is the new Moto E a worthy upgrade? Well I have spent a little over a week with it so let’s find out.

Design

At first glance, you might not be able to tell the difference between last year’s model and this year’s model. They did upgrade the display from 4.3-inches to 4.5-inches so it’s slightly bigger, but it has the same overall design. At the front, you will notice that the lower microphone is no longer covered with silver trim, which gave us the false impression that the Moto E sported stereo sound. Also at the front, you will notice a front-facing camera at the top right, which was something that the original did not have.

The back looks identical to it’s predecessor, but there is one big difference. The back plate is no longer removable. This means that you can no longer change the color of it via Moto Shells, but there is still the ability to customize. You are able to snap out the accent side band and swap it with what’s called a Moto Band, adding a little color.

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The first question I had was why not offer both customizable Moto Bands and the Moto Shells? My guess is that since the Moto E is geared towards emerging areas or those on a very strict budget, it’s unlikely the consumer would be able to afford all sorts of accessories like that. The Moto Bands might be a little too subtle based on what Motorola has done in the past, but it’s now more affordable. They offer six colors, but they are in sets of three (Turquoise, Purple, Raspberry or Red, Blue, Golden Yellow), So for $19.99 you get three colors, and you can swap out the color as often as you like depending on your mood. Changing the entire back plate might be a little more fun, but the Moto Shells cost $14.99 for each color. It might not seem like it, but Motorola is offering more customization at a lower cost.

The Moto Bands are easy to remove. You will find a tiny slot at the bottom left back of the phone. Just pull up on it, and it will snap right off. It’s kind of weird because you think the whole back is going to come off, but only the Moto Band does. The Bands have the silver buttons for power and volume that fit over the the main buttons of the device. Removing the band also reveals the microSD slot and nano SIM slot, which reside on the left side. If you get the dual-SIM version, you will find the second slot on the right side.

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The Bands fit perfectly and most people would never know that it was removable. It just looks like it’s part of the phone. That’s a result of Motorola’s fantastic engineering, which they have demonstrated very similarly with Moto Shells on the Moto G and last year’s Moto E.

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As far as overall design goes, this phone isn’t going to knock your socks off. It’s not a premium flagship phone so it’s not supposed to. However, this phone is far from chintzy, and just like it’s predecessor (and every other Motorola phone) it’s solid and feels like every attention to detail was made.

Hardware

The Moto E features a 4.5-inch qHD (960 x 540) IPS LCD display (245 ppi), a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 (3G model) or a 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 (LTE model), Adreno 302 GPU (3G model) or Adreno 306 GPU (LTE model), 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, microSD slot for up to an additional 32GB of storage, 5 MP rear camera (4:3) with 720p video capture, VGA front-facing camera, 2,390 mAh battery, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth 4.0 LE.

Bands by Model:

Moto E with 4G LTE – US GSM (XT1527) AT&T / T-Mobile
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 1700 (AWS), 1900 MHz)
4G LTE (2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 17)

Moto E with 4G LTE – US (CDMA) – Sprint / Verizon
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz)
WCDMA (850 / 1700 / 1900 MHz)
CDMA (800 / 850 / 1900 MHz)
4G LTE (750/850/1700/1900 MHz)

Moto E – US GSM (XT1511):
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 1700 (AWS), 1900 MHz)

Moto E – Global GSM (XT1505):
GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
UMTS/HSPA+ (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz)

Performance

The processor has been upgraded from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 to a Snapdragon 410 (LTE-only). What this means is that it’s now quad-core, but it’s also more efficient. I didn’t have too many issues with last year’s model. Yes it would occasionally hang, but I didn’t think anything of it with the price point. This year’s model comes with Lollipop out of the box and the quad-core might add a little more punch, but it wasn’t that noticeable.

The display resolution is the same at qHD (960 x 540), which seems so 2011, but at 4.5-inches it gets the job done. I personally think displays are becoming overrated with each passing day. Manufacturers keep pushing the envelope, and in most cases, the average consumer doesn’t see the difference. The colors on this phone might not pop as much as say the Galaxy S5 or Galaxy S6, but I don’t think the demographic is looking for that either.

I should also note that the internal storage has been bumped to 8 GB from 4 GB. Still not a lot, but there is a big difference between 8 and 4, trust me. You also have the option of inserting a microSD card of up to 32GB for plenty of pictures, music, and video.

Battery

The battery gets a significant upgrade, from 1,980 mAh to 2,390 mAh. If there was one issue I had with last year’s Moto E, it was the battery, but it looks like Motorola has fixed this. The bigger battery obviously helps, but the Snapdragon 410 being more efficient is also a factor. I ran my usual video rundown test in which I loop video constantly while connected to LTE (3G last year) to see how fast the battery depletes. Last year’s model was only good for about 6 hours, which is pretty dismal. This year’s model was a lot better lasting 10 hours and 23 minutes. Now we know that the average Joe isn’t running video all day, but this test gives us a clearer indication on how good the battery is. In everyday life with moderate use, you will have no problem going from wake up to bedtime. Motorola promises 24 hours, but I see it more like 16 to 20 with moderate use.

Software

The Moto E sports Android 5.0.2 Lollipop out of the box and the best part of it is that it’s fairly stock as in Motorola has barely skinned it like other manufacturers such as Samsung and HTC. They do make some subtle changes here and there though. For example, when you first power on the phone, the stock Lollipop restore apps feature has been replaced with Moto Migrate, which is Motorola’s own app for restoring apps, contacts, music, etc. from a previous phone to a new phone. Most of everything else is just like a Nexus device right down to the Google Now Launcher.

Probably the best part of the overall software is that Motorola was able to include more of their proprietary features on this year’s Moto E. For example Moto Display is now available, which lets you see your notifications without turning on the entire display of the phone. You also get QuickCapture, which lets you open the camera app with a quick double twist of your wrist. The popular Moto Assist and Moto Alert return as well. Assist allows you to set certain functions for when you’re sleeping or in a meeting (from your calendar). Moto Alert allows you to share your location to others. I have include videos below of Moto Display (from the Moto X 2014), Moto Actions (from the Moto X 2014), and Moto Alert (from the Moto E 2014).

Moto Display

Moto Actions (Note: the Home and Driving functions as well as the Wave To Silence and Approach for Moto Display are not available on the Moto E)

Moto Alert

Motorola has done a great job with offering apps that are actually useful rather than serve as bloatware. That’s something that you can’t say about other manufacturers. Throw in Lollipop, which is the most recent version of Android, and you have a winner.

Camera

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What can you expect from a camera that’s on a phone that costs only $149? Certainly not award winning, but it more than gets the job done when there is a decent amount of light. It actually does a decent job in low light, but expect a lot of noise. I should also note that there is no flash for those really dark shots. The rear camera will give you 5 MP if you set it to 4:3. However, you will only get 3.7 MP in widescreen mode, which happens to be the default. The front-facing camera was non-existent on the original Moto E so it’s nice to have it here, however it’s only VGA (640 x 480).

The software is pretty much identical to what you will find on other Motorola phones. It’s a very simple interface in that when you swipe to the left, you will get to the Gallery and swiping to the right will bring up the Camera Settings. You won’t find all that many settings to tweak as this software is meant to just point and shoot. Speaking of that, you can tap anywhere on the display to capture a photo, which makes it so much easier. As I mention earlier, you can use QuickCapture to open the Camera App quickly by double shaking your wrist (even when the display is off). For a $149 off contract phone with LTE, I was happy with the overall performance.

Here are some example shots in a variety of situations.

Outdoors

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Low Light

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Closing

The suggested pricing for the Moto E (2015) is $149 for the LTE version and $119 for the 3G version. However, you can find the LTE version for as low as $99 on Verizon and Boost Mobile/Sprint Prepaid. Yes, there are other inexpensive phones out there, but those are generally from lesser known companies or the specs aren’t as good. The Moto E is made from Motorola, one of the pioneers of radios and cell phones. I was buying Motorola phones back in the early 1990’s so there is a lot of history there. If you’re going to buy a budget phone, doesn’t it make sense to buy one from a trusted and known company like Motorola? Now don’t get me wrong. The Moto E isn’t just about the brand because buying on brand name alone isn’t worth anything unless it’s backed up with a great product. The Moto E isn’t the perfect phone, but it’s probably the perfect budget phone. It not only makes sense for developing countries, but it’s also perfect for seniors and children.

Motorola took what was already great and made it into something even greater. You can’t go wrong with that in my book.

 

 

 

 


About the Author: Robert Nazarian

Robert lives in upstate New York where he was born and raised. Technology was always his passion. His first computer was a Radio Shack TRS80 Color that used a cassette tape to save programs, and his first laptop was a Toshiba T1200FB that sported a CGA greyscale screen and two 720kb floppy drives (no hardrive). From the early 90’s through late 2011, he only owned Motorola phones starting with the MircroTAC all the way through to the Droid X. He broke that streak when he bought the Galaxy Nexus. Now he's sporting a Galaxy Note 4, and absolutely loves it. He has a wonderful wife and a 6 year old son. In his free time he enjoys sports, movies, TV, working out, and trying to keep up with the rapid fast world of technology.


  • QwertyJuan

    Looking good for a budget phone! Great work Motorola!

  • prashant chugh

    yuphoria is still a better device at 6999

  • Zeltyc

    What is that litle sticker that comes out of the the right side of the phone??????????? Should i pull it????