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

  • Editors' rating
    Not yet rated
  • $49.99

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.

Top ZDNET Reviews

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.


Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, FM radio, voice recorder, navigation
Body Color Black
Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, call timer, conference call, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
Additional Features Dual microphones
Technology WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Application Software Google Chrome
Type Smartphone
Integrated Components FM radio, front-facing camera, navigation, rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Navigation A-GPS, GLONASS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900 / AWS 1700/2100
Mobile Broadband Generation 3G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android
SIM Card Type micro SIM
Input Device Multi-touch
Messaging & Internet
Cellular Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Mobile Services Gmail, Google Chrome, Google Maps, Google Now, Google Play, Google Play Books, Google Play Movies, Video Call, YouTube
Messaging Services Google+ Hangouts, MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Google+
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
Color black
Color Category black
Protection anti-smudge coating, waterproof
Communication Features Internet browser, mobile Email client
Data Transmission EDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11b/g/n
WLAN Security WPA2
Technology IPS
Display Resolution 960 x 540 pixels
Pixel Density (ppi) 245
Diagonal Size 4.3 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 11.4 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 4.5 in
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (scratch resistant glass)
Color Support color
Clock Speed 1.2 GHz
Manufacturer QUALCOMM
Processor Core Qty Dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor
Digital Zoom 4
Focus Adjustment automatic
Features Burst mode, Quick Capture, Slow motion video, panoramic pictures, video recording
Front-facing Camera VGA
Media Player
Supported Digital Video Standards MPEG-4, H.264
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, AAC, MP3, AAC +, MIDI, M4A
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC - up to 32 GB
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 302
Navigation Software & Services Google Maps
Run Time Details Mixed usage: up to 24 hrs
Capacity 2390 mAh
Digital Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Lens Aperture f/2.2
Focus Adjustment automatic
Video Recorder Resolutions 854 x 480
Features Burst mode, Quick Capture, Slow motion video, panoramic pictures, video recording
Navigation System
Navigation Software & Services Google Maps
Brand Motorola
Product Line Motorola Moto
Model E (2nd Gen.)
Packaged Quantity 1
Connector Type Headset jack - mini-phone 3.5 mm
Micro-USB - 5 pin Micro-USB Type B
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, speakerphone, vibrating alert
Additional Features Dual microphones
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards AAC, M4A, MIDI, MP3, WAV
Supported Digital Video Standards H.264, MPEG-4
Installed Size 1 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 8 GB
Max Supported Size 32 GB
Supported Flash Memory Cards microSDHC
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 302
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 5 pixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 0.3 Megapixel
Dimensions & Weight
Width 2.6 in
Depth 0.5 in
Height 5.1 in
Weight 5.11 oz

Topics: Smartphones, Mobility, Reviews

Top ZDNET Reviews

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Where To Buy

Motorola Moto E (black)

Part Number: Moto E


You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All