Motorola unveils the £89 Moto E, adds LTE and MicroSD to Moto G

Motorola's assault on the low end of the smartphone market continues with a new entry-level handset and an upgrade to the popular previous incumbent.
Written by Charles McLellan, Senior Editor
Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNet

Motorola's Moto G, announced just six months ago in November 2013, quickly proved to be the best-selling smartphone in the company's history, thanks to its combination of a solid specification and an affordable price (£135/€169/$179 SIM-free at launch). Our review of the original Moto G (now available from around £119), concluded that "If you're looking to equip a workforce with a basic Android phone, it's arguably the best choice currently available".

Encouraged by the Moto G's success, Motorola today launched a two-pronged follow-up. With IDC estimating the average global selling price for a smartphone in 2013 at £199 ($337), the new Moto E pushes the smartphone price envelope into 'feature phone' territory at just £89. Meanwhile, the Moto G gets an upgrade, adding LTE connectivity and a MicroSD card slot for storage expansion.

Moto E

The £89 (unlocked) Moto E measures 64.8mm wide by 124.8mm deep by 12.3mm thick and weighs 142g. It has a 4.3-inch Gorilla Glass-protected screen with a resolution of 540 by 960 pixels and is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core SoC with 1GB of RAM. Image: Motorola

Described by Motorola's vice-president of software engineering Steve Horowitz as "the smartphone to end the feature-phone era", the Moto E looks similar to the Moto G in design, with edge-to-edge glass on the front and a curved (removable) backplate. However, the new model is a little smaller as it has a 4.3-inch screen compared to its predecessor's 4.5-inch display. There's a considerable difference in resolution though, the Moto E offering 540 by 960 pixels (256ppi) compared to the Moto G's 720 by 1,280 (329ppi). For an entry-level phone, the presence of Gorilla Glass 3 and an anti-smudge coating on the Moto E is impressive. Weight-wise, the Moto E and Moto G are almost identical, at 142g and 143g respectively.

Powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 SoC with 1GB of RAM, the Moto E is once again impressive for its class (at the launch, Motorola's product marketing director Cathay Bi made some pointed comparisons with Samsung's similarly priced Galaxy Fame). There's only 4GB of available internal storage, but a MicroSD card slot under the removable backplate allows this to be expanded by another 32GB. The Moto E runs the latest Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) OS, and Motorola's excellent record of updating inspires confidence that the Android experience will remain up to date as far the hardware platform allows (one upgrade to the next major version of Android is guaranteed).

Remaining Moto E specs include quad-band GSM and 3G connectivity (no LTE here) via a Micro SIM, 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n wi-fi (no dual-band ac wi-fi here), Bluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS with GLONASS support and a 5-megapixel rear camera. The handset's removable 1,980mAh battery should give you up to 24 hours of 'mixed usage', according to Motorola.

The Moto E introduces a new feature, Motorola Alert, which is designed to provide friends and family with status updates as to your whereabouts and wellbeing. Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNet

As far as software is concerned, the main innovation on the Moto E is a new feature called Motorola Alert. This is intended to give friends and family some peace of mind about what you're up to, by broadcasting your location status, sending a 'meet me here' message or quickly dialling a predetermined emergency number.

The main talking point with the Moto E, of course, is its price — just £89 unlocked in the UK. Having spent a short time with the handset at the launch, it certainly doesn't feel as though any serious corners have been cut to achieve that price point. We look forward to further investigating the Moto E — which will be available in 40 countries worldwide in the coming weeks — in a full review.

Moto G with 4G

The Moto G now offers LTE support and storage expansion via MicroSD card — the slot is located beneath the removable backplate. Image: Motorola

The original Moto G was well received both by reviewers and the smartphone-buying public. Now, two of the main feature omissions — LTE connectivity and MicroSD storage expansion — have been rectified in the upgraded and otherwise identical £149 Moto G with 4G. As Motorola's Steve Horowitz put it, the new model offers "almost everything you'll get in a higher-end smartphone costing three times as much — there are no compromises with this product".

As Motorola Mobility embarks on a new phase as part of Lenovo, the company is providing its new (subject to regulatory approval) owners with a strong platform from which to attack the entry-level segment of the smartphone market.

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