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Featured Review: Motorola Moto E (2015) 4G LTE

March 14, 2015 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Back in late 2013, Motorola announced the Moto G, which started their own race to the bottom. It quickly became the company’s most successful smartphone in history. Which I’ve said many times that is not hard to do. Seeing as most of their smartphones had been carrier or country exclusive. A few months later, in 2014, Motorola announced the Moto E, which was an even cheaper smartphone. Around the $100 mark, while the Moto G was around the $175 mark. Last year, Motorola announced the Moto G (2014) along with the Moto X (2014) and Moto 360. They just recently announced the Moto E (2015), and we’re hear to take a look at it. Does it stand up to other “cheap” smartphones out there? Well that’s what we are here to find out.

Editor’s Note: We’ve been using the White Moto E (2015) 4G LTE on AT&T and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network for a little over 2 weeks. It’s also running on Android 5.0.2 Lollipop.

Hardware

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It’s tough to compare the Moto E to some of the high-end smartphones out there because it’s not a high-end smartphone. So it’s a bit fatter than most phones, it’s also smaller, and doesn’t have an HD display. Which is why it’s important to remember the price. It’s $119.99 for the 3G model, and $149 for the 4G LTE model. That’s an off-contract price too folks.

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While the Moto E does boast a Snapdragon 410 processor here along with a gig of RAM, and 8GB of storage. It does handle just about everything you through at it. Obviously the gaming aspect won’t be as good, due to the internals. But it does work. In day-to-day use, including using Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other apps like that, the Moto E performed quite well while running Android 5.0 Lollipop. The device is quite capable, actually.

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Onto the display, we have a 4.5-inch qHD display here. Yes that’s a lowercase q there. Meaning 960×540 here. While we used to hate qHD displays so much, I actually think it’s not a bad panel at all. It is just 4.5-inches, so you do still have a pretty high PPI. The pixels per inch is sitting at 245. It’s not as high as some other smartphones, but it’s not bad either. This is where I remind you of the price.

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The look and feel of the Moto E does look familiar, as it does look a lot like last year’s Moto E and this year’s Moto G, just a bit fatter. But when we’re looking at a sub-$150 smartphone, the looks don’t matter as much. You have the signature Motorola dimple on the back, as well as the power on the left side and volume on the right. Headphone jack at the top and microUSB port at the bottom. All the usual stuff in the usual places.

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One of the features that Motorola has baked into the Moto E 2015 is the ability to remove the frame of the device. With the Moto G and the previous Moto E, you were able to remove the back cover and replace it with other color shells. That’s not possible this time around. However, you can remove the frame of the device, which will uncover the SIM card slot and micro SD card slot as well. Our review unit came with red and blue frames in addition to the white one that came with the white model. It’s actually a cool way to customize your Moto E.

Battery Life

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When I first opened up the Moto E and saw the specs, I was a bit shocked. The Moto E 2015 has a larger battery than the Moto X 2014. Not by much, but it is bigger. The Moto E has a 2390mAh battery inside powering that 4.5-inch qHD display, and fueling the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor inside. So you’d expect it to perform pretty well, right? Well it definitely does perform well. Now for some reason Google Play Services kept the device awake for a bit these last few cycles, so you don’t get the full picture. But the point that the Moto E has pretty darn good battery life, is proven.

Software

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This part was a bit surprising to me. So we all know that the Moto E comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop. But what was surprising, was that almost all of the Moto X features made it to the Moto E with the exception of Moto Voice. So we have Moto Display here, Assist and all the other goodies. Which is a great thing, especially when you look at Motorola’s user experience across all of their smartphones (Moto G, Moto X, and Droid Turbo – Moto X Pro if you’re in China).

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So Moto Display is here, but it’s not here in the same capacity as it is on the Moto X and the Motorola Droid Turbo. So with the Moto X, we have those four IR blasters in each corner. So you can wave your hand over the device and it’ll wake up and show you, your notifications. The Moto E 2015 doesn’t have that, and arguably that’s to keep cost down. However, it does still know when you pick it up, or take it out of your pocket, and lights up the Moto Display. So the functionality is pretty much the same. When it comes to Moto Display you can still choose which apps appear there, as well as hiding notification details. Which is an important feature for those that want to keep their data private.

Moto Assist is here as well, but again, it’s not here in the full capacity as it is on the Motorola flagships. With Motorola Assist you only have the option for sleeping and meeting. No driving options, unfortunately. But at least you do have their version of Do Not Disturb. And you can even override it by using Lollipop’s Downtime settings.

Finally there’s Moto Actions, which we only have one on the Moto E 2015. Which is Twist for capture. So you can twist your wrist twice quickly and it’ll open up the camera, and you can use the volume keys to take the picture. It does sound a bit strange, but it works really, really well.

Camera

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We have a 5-megapixel camera here, not the best in the world, but definitely not the worst. This is where I again remind you of the price of the Moto E 4G LTE, which is $149.99 off contract and unlocked. By default, the Moto E snaps at 3.7MP, which is a 16:9 aspect ratio. You can change that to 4:3 and get the full 5MP, which is what I’ve done for most of the pictures. A few of the ones below were taken at 3.7MP, those are the ones from Barcelona.

The camera UX is very easy to use, and if you’ve used a Motorola smartphone recently, it’ll be really familiar. Swipe out from the left and you get your settings, swipe out from the right and there’s your gallery. Pretty simple. Down below we’ve got a bunch of pictures taken with the Moto E. Feel free to have a look.

Final Thoughts

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I didn’t get a chance to play with the first-generation Moto E. But I did get to use the Moto G 2013, and 2014 and knew that those two were pretty amazing smartphones, considering they were under $200 unlocked. Now to have the Moto E coming in at $149 unlocked, with 4G LTE, a decent processor, a smaller screen, but still pretty decent, and it’s running the latest version of Android (well technically it’s not, but when it launched, it was). It’s pretty crazy. I’ve spent the past couple of weeks using the Moto E and can actually say that I could live with this $149 smartphone. And I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a cheap, low-end smartphone like this before.