Motorola Moto E, First Take: Great value, but only one camera

Motorola Moto E, First Take: Great value, but only one camera

Summary: The Moto E redefines the functionality to be found at the budget end of the smartphone market.


Motorola stirred up the smartphone market last year with its Moto G handset, which launched at £135 and quickly became Motorola's best-selling phone ever. The Moto G has been a genuinely disruptive product — readers of handset reviews will be familiar with phrases like 'the less expensive Moto G does better', or, more bluntly, 'why buy this when you could buy the Moto G?'

The Moto G has just had a refresh to incorporate 4G and MicroSD storage expansion. At the same time Motorola launched the £89 Moto E, which fires a broadside at handset makers targeting the sub-£100 category. Indeed, Motorola has claimed that this is the handset that will finally bring the 'feature phone' era to an end.

The Moto E measures 64.8mm wide by 124.8mm deep by 12.3mm thick and weighs 142g. It's powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 SoC with 1GB of RAM, has quad-band GSM and 3G connectivity, 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and GPS. Image: Motorola

The Moto E certainly has some impressive credentials. Headlining these is Android 4.4 in a pretty much unskinned form, along with good battery life — my experience with the Moto E so far indicates that with light usage you should be able to go two days between charges.

The Moto E has a 5-megapixel rear camera with no flash. There's no front-facing camera. Image: Motorola

The Moto E's 4.3-inch screen has an anti-smudge coating and is protected by tough Gorilla Glass 3, which is impressive at this price point. Indeed, the Moto E generally feels robustly built, and should hold its own in a travel bag full of school- or work-related gear. In contrast to the original Moto G, the Moto E has a MicroSD card slot, so the paltry 2.2GB of storage that remains from the internal 4GB is easily expanded.

Camera functionality is a potential deal breaker for some, though: the rear camera is a rather lacklustre 5-megapixel unit with no flash, and there's no front camera. A year or so ago this might not have been an issue, but with 'selfies' now firmly established among younger users (surely one of the key target markets for this handset), the lack of a front-facing camera may prove a trade-off too far. Anyone who likes to do videoconferencing on their phone via Google Hangouts or Skype will miss a front camera too.

Although the Moto E's 4.3-inch screen has a relatively low resolution of 540 by 960 pixels (256ppi), other aspects of the display bothered me more — notably moderate brightness and viewing angles. Both of these shortcomings will compromise outdoor use.

There's another potential downside in that music-loving youngsters might not be wowed by the moderate sound quality from the single front-facing speaker that's hidden behind a narrow silver strip beneath the screen. It delivers enough volume, but high volume is no substitute for good audio quality.

Motorola may have caused a mini-revolution with the first-generation Moto G, but the Moto E has been built to even tighter financial constraints, and that shows. There are plenty of good things about this £89 handset, but there are clear opportunities for a competitor to improve on some aspects. Also, the £149 Moto G with 4G (LTE) connectivity, a front-facing camera and 8GB of internal storage may prove to be a bigger draw for those who are prepared to spend a bit more money.

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Mobility, Reviews

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  • Flash

    I never use the front camera. I do use the flash a few times a year as a flashlight tough.

    With these specs I wonder if it's not cheaper to use something like a second hand Galaxy S2, or another flagship device from the same eon.
    • The Moto G is also routinely £100 now too.

      Making the £89 Moto E not such a good prospect. The Moto G 4G is still a bargain though.
    • or brand new BlackBerry?

      The BlackBerry Z10 has same sized higher res screen and two cameras
  • BlackBerry Z10 is more premium "cheap" option

    The BlackBerry Z10 was meant as a premium smart phone, but due to lack of sales, it is free on all major plans. As well, two cameras. Ten megapixels on one, good video conferencing. Most users may not use both - but if BlackBerry offers the "just in case" second camera, and a far better primary camera, for the same price - why risk a cheap Moto (or any "Windows Phone") when BlackBerry does it better, for the same price?!