Motorola Moto E offers low-cost option for 1st-time smartphone buyers

With the Moto E, Motorola set out to make a well-designed affordable smartphone with a long-lasting battery. Mission accomplished.

The Moto E is by no means perfect, and customers who buy the device will have to compromise on certain features. But the Moto E is a great smartphone for customers who don't want to pay much or to be tied down to a service contract.


At $129, the Moto E is one of the cheapest smartphones customers can get. By comparison, a 16 GB iPhone 5s costs $649 without a contract. But despite its low price, the Moto E gets the job done where it counts.

During my week with the device, the Moto E performed admirably in nearly all the tasks I would consider essential to a smartphone. The gadget delivered clear voice calls, delivered my text messages just fine and provided me with a quick Internet connection when I surfed the Web or used apps such as Facebook.

The Moto E turned out to be speedier than I expected. With no way to connect to high-speed 4G LTE networks, the Moto E is relegated to running on the 3G networks of years past. I tested it using T-Mobile -- but it works with all U.S. carriers -- and it performed very well. Don't get me wrong. The Moto E is not nearly as fast as an iPhone 5s or a Galaxy S5, but its speed never frustrated me.

Customers will also be happy to know that the Moto E runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the latest version of Google's mobile operating system. Motorola has also committed to updating the device at least one more time, so customers can count on their gadget having the latest software for at least the next two years.

Another highlight of the Moto E was its battery life. Motorola said it designed the Moto E to have all-day battery life. That's been part of the company's marketing pitch on numerous devices for several years, and the Moto E was no exception. Using the device as a secondary phone, I was able to get more than two days of full battery from the Moto E. Used as a primary device, the Moto E should deliver on its full-day promise.

The Moto E's exterior design also stood out. The phone is by no means a sexy gadget. In fact, it's a bit chunky and made out of pedestrian plastic material, but the design works because Motorola made the Moto E very comfortable to hold. With a rubbery, curved-back, the Moto E is easy to grip. The back cover also features a round indentation under the Motorola logo, designed for one's finger when holding the gadget to make a phone call. Overall, the Moto E is a very ergonomic device.

Customers can also add some character to the phone by mixing up its color scheme. When buying the device, customers choose between a black and white front cover. They can then choose from various different colored back cover shells. After buying the device, customers can purchase more shells individually from or that start at $14.99.

Although the Moto E is worth its price tag, the phone does make compromises that may bother some customers.

For starters, don't purchase the Moto E if you intend to take selfies. Unlike most smartphones on the market, the Moto E has no front-facing camera. That means that if you want to take a selfie, you'll have to go old school and either take a picture in front of a mirror or turn your phone around and hope your face is within the photo frame.

Unfortunately, the back-facing camera on the device is sub-par. The Moto E has a 5-megapixel camera, which simply doesn't hold a candle to the photos you can shoot with top devices. In comparison, the Galaxy S5 has a 16-megapixel camera. But megapixels don't tell the full story. The Moto E's camera was a letdown because the pictures aren't as sharp as what you get from other devices. So if you buy the phone, don't be surprised if your Instagram pictures don't come out as well as your friends'.

Another limitation that could affect users' photo-taking with the Moto E is that the gadget offers a mere 4-gigabytes of internal storage. That's quite limited, but with so many services being hosted in the cloud, most consumers should fare just fine. If not, Moto E owners can snap off the gadget's back cover and slide in a microSD card into a little slot on the side of the device. The memory card is sold separately.

Another weakness of the Moto E is its screen. At 4.3 inches, the screen offers quite a bit of real estate. It's bigger than the screen of any iPhone, but the Moto E's display has a low resolution of 540 by 960 pixels. That means users get less-than-HD screen quality, and it is noticeable. The screen isn't as vibrant as that of top phones, pixels are very distinguishable and video quality is not crisp. The Moto E's screen doesn't break the value of the phone, but customers should have tempered expectations if they buy the device.

I recommend the gadget for those who have never owned a smartphone. The Moto E is a nice, cheap way to try out a smartphone for the first time. It will give you an idea of what these devices can do. And if you decide that you want a gadget with more capabilities, you can leave the Moto E behind immediately and not worry about a contract.

I also recommend the Moto E for consumers who simply want a device that gets the job done and don't like being tied to contracts. As I said before, the Moto E does everything a smartphone should, and at $129 it's a pretty cheap investment.


But if you don't mind getting stuck with a contract for two years, a better option would be Apple's iPhone 5c. That device includes a very sharp 4-inch screen, a front-facing camera, and a rear-facing camera that takes top-notch photos. The gadget is also capable of connecting to 4G LTE networks. Customers can get the iPhone 5c from most carriers for $99 on a two-year contract, but retailers like Best Buy often have the device on sale for even less.