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Moto E (2015) Review: When Good Enough Isn’t Enough

Motorola Moto E 2015 09

We review Motorola’s entry-level smartphone, the Moto E

Hello Moto! It’s been a while since we’ve seen Motorola officially on our shores. The last we saw Motorola locally, they were still selling the Moto Rokr. A lot has changed since they pulled out of the country. During that time, they’ve transitioned their devices to use the Android OS; they’ve been bought by Google; and downsized their devices to just three smartphones: The Moto X, Moto G, and the Moto E. Now they’re back and this time with the backing of China’s Lenovo which has bought them from Google. Along with their return, Motorola brought with them the second generation Moto X, Moto G, and Moto E Android smartphones. For this review, we will be looking at their most affordable offering, the Moto E.

Looking at the specs sheet, the hardware is on par with the budget price. You won’t be seeing the latest and greatest CPU or a vast amount of storage. The old adage, “You get what you pay for”, applies with the Moto E…or does it?

Moto E (2015) specs

  • 1.2GHz Snapdragon 410 quad-core processor
  • 1GB of RAM
  • 4.5-inch IPS qHD display, 540 x 960 resolution
  • 8GB of storage, expandable via microSD
  • Dual-SIM
  • 3G, LTE
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS
  • Android Lollipop
  • 2390mAh battery
  • Php 6,999

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Skin-Deep Beauty

Looking at the Moto E, it looks premium despite its budget pricing. The back of the Moto E is plastic with a rubberized matte finish that gives it a premium feel. The side of the phone is ridged which helps with keeping a firm grip on the phone. Speaking of gripping the phone, the iconic Motorola dimple is also present just below the 5MP rear camera. With the time we’ve spent with the Moto E, our index finger automatically looks for the dimple to rest on. It just feels right. In fact, our finger would look for that dimple even when holding other phones.

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The left side of the phone is bare except for the ridges while right has both the power button and volume rocker. Motorola did a brilliant thing by putting ridges on the power button while keeping the volume rocker smooth. This helps distinguish which is which without looking.Another thing to note with the Moto E is that charger. Usually, we don’t really take a second look at phone chargers included in the box but not with the Moto E – and unfortunately, it isn’t for the better.

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First off, the charger and cable is one unit as opposed to most chargers where the USB cable disconnects from the USB charger. This means that you will need a separate USB cable if you want to connect the Moto E to a PC. Second is that the charger itself is rated at 550mA unlike the standard 1A. This translates to longer charging times. If you are fortunate enough to a stronger charger you can use that on the Moto E for faster charge times.

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Installing a SIM card and expandable storage on the Moto E is a little weird. It doesn’t use a removable back plate like other phones – instead, you yank the plastic frame off, which reveals the dual-SIM slots and the microSD slot. Some people say that this design allows the Moto E to be splash-proof, but since the review unit isn’t ours, we didn’t subject the Moto E to this test.

Motorola should be praised for giving their phones, including the Moto E front-facing speakers. Rear speakers should have died a long time ago unless you want to watch videos while someone else is listening to what you’re watching, but I digress. You don’t have to cup your hand over the rear speaker to listen videos or music. The Moto E sports a single front speaking above the display and is loud enough to be heard across a room or for everyone to hear when taking calls in speaker phone-mode.

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An almost pure Android experience, with a twist

The Moto E comes with Android 5.0.2 Lollipop out of the box. Motorola has said that it will support its phones (including the Moto E) with the latest software updates for a minimum of two years. This means that you can expect the Moto E to receive Android 5.1.1 and even Android 6 Marshmallow when it comes out.

Whereas other phone makers add a lot of bloat apps to distinguish themselves from the competition, the UX of all Moto phones, including the Moto E is as near as stock as it can be. Not only that, the additional Moto enhancements such as Moto Actions, Moto Display, and Moto Assist are actually useful in daily use.

Motorola Moto E 2015 13

With Moto Actions, you just twist your wrist twice to launch the camera app. This also works even when the phone is locked so you won’t have to fumble and swipe just to launch the app and miss those memorable moments. Moto Display is an elegant way to see notifications when the phone is locked and then easily swipe the notification to open the corresponding app. Also, picking up the Moto E will show you the time and any notifications without pressing the power button. Moto Assist automatically sets the Moto E notifications to your needs depending on the time or location. This means that the phone will automatically be set to silent or vibrate when it detects that you are at work or at night while you’re sleeping so that you won’t be disturbed.

By being as near as stock Android, the Moto E still feels snappy and responsive even with its budget specs. You can experience its snappy performance when swiping through apps in the apps switcher. It is almost lag-free. There are times where I would find myself going to the app switch just to swipe through all the apps just for the heck of it.

This doesn’t mean that the whole experience is silky smooth though. There are times when it would stall for a bit as the Moto E gets it bearings before continuing with its task. There is also a noticeable wait when launching apps. This is most likely due to the 1GB RAM of the Moto E. I also noticed that there were times when swiping to scroll wouldn’t register correctly. The phone would stutter or would not scroll at all. It did not happen often, but it happened a number of times for it to be noticeable. I’m not sure if it was specific to this particular device maybe the phone was completing tasks in the background.

Motorola Moto E 2015 01

Hardware that’s good enough for day-to-day tasks

The Moto E uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 410 system-on-a-chip paired with 1GB of RAM. The Snapdragon 410 might not be the fastest SOC that Qualcomm offers, but it does have other features that make the 410 good enough. First, the Snapdragon 410 is a 64-bit SOC to support the 64-bit Android 5 OS. The SOC also supports LTE so you can take advantage of the local telecoms’ LTE speeds. The display is just enough to satisfy with a resolution of 540 x960. It isn’t the sharpest screen, but you’ll still have to look hard to see each individual pixel.

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Using the Moto E is all about managing expectations and the benchmarks below just prove that point.Using AnTuTu Benchmark, the Moto E gets a 21627 which is decent and to be expected for a budget phone but well below even mid-range spec phones. In AnTuTu HTML5 test, the Moto E also gets a decent 13696. With the Work Performance benchmark of PCMark, the Moto E gets by with 3305 – again just enough to get by with daily tasks.

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We also installed the 3D game Marvel Future Fight to “test” the Moto E. The verdict? The Moto E handled the game pretty well. Future Fight is playable with a few stutters here and there. This shows that the Snapdragon 410 in combination with 1GB of RAM has enough grunt to power through demanding tasks if needed.

With all the benchmarks and game testing done, the Moto E does get noticeably hot. By the end of the testing, GSam Battery Monitor was registering 44 degrees C.

Motorola Moto E 2015 21 Motorola Moto E 2015 20 Motorola Moto E 2015 19 Motorola Moto E 2015 18

Budget phone, budget camera

It is in both the rear-facing camera and front-facing camera where you see the budget in this budget phone. Even on a well-lit environment, the grain is pretty much evident from the 5MP sensor from the rear camera. Forget about taking low light photos unless you want to be artistic in your shots and the lack of a flash doesn’t help at all.

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The less said about the VGA front camera the better. It’s ok for making video calls but to be perfectly frank, that VGA camera is just so mid-2000s.

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Battery life that can go on and on and on

Because of the low screen resolution and budget specs, the Moto E isn’t a power hog as compared to higher-end phones. On my typical day, the Moto E would be unplugged at around 8am and would still have around 45% to 40% charge by the time it gets plugged in by 11pm at night. My average day with the Moto E includes moderate to heavy date usage of over WiFi, light texting and phone calls, and some gaming in between. The screen is set between 25% to 40% brightness most of the time. It is possible to last two whole days with frugal usage or one and a half days of typical use from full battery to total battery drain.

We also subjected the Moto E to the PCMark Battery Test and got 5 hours and 51 mins with the screen brightness at 50%. This pretty good especially with the 2390mAh battery.

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Verdict: The Moto E is a good budget phone – but not budget enough

The Moto E is really a decent smartphone for the price. The Moto features such as Moto Display and Moto Actions make up for the shortcomings of the Moto E. If it were the only phone being sold in the budget market, you won’t be complaining. However, the Moto E isn’t sold in a vacuum. There are other phones competing in the budget market where the Moto E is positioned. Unfortunately, since being in this market segment, price is the most important factor. While the Moto features are a definite plus, it really is hard to recommend the Moto E that is priced at Php 6,999 while there are more affordable phones with better specs in the market selling at a cheaper price.

The Motorola Moto E (left) beside the Cherry Mobile Android One G1 (right)
The Motorola Moto E (left) beside the Cherry Mobile Android One G1 (right)

If only it had more storage and RAM to be on the same level as, say the Cherry Mobile G1 – not to mention the subpar charger – then it would definitely be a serious consideration even at a higher price. The problem is, the Cherry Mobile G1 offers double the RAM and storage as the Moto E while selling a cheaper price tag. Until then, we’ll just have to wait if Motorola will announce a third-generation of the Moto E.

4 Comments

  1. Para lang masabing naka- Motorola ka. My God what a pathetic phone! mas powerful pa ang SoC ng Spreadtrum dito. 6 months down the line siguradong ihahampas mo to dahil frustrated ka sa sobrang bagal.

      1. Please. You Qualcomm fanatics really make me laugh. Quarter HD na nga lang mas mataas pa score ng Intel 2 core a generation behind pushing 720p (Zenfone ?) kung di pa phased out yun mas sulit pa rin (nuke SoC notwithstanding) at talo to sa lahat ng bagay.

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