Motorola Moto E review
Android 4.4 (KitKat), 4.3in 540x960 display
The Moto G continues to be a huge success for Motorola. It's a fantastic phone that sets the bar for budget phones, and Motorola has confirmed it has no intention of taking it off the market any time soon.
It seems therefore strange that the company is now releasing an even cheaper 3G smartphone in the form of the Moto E. At just £90 SIM-free at the time of writing, the Moto E is much cheaper than a SIM-free Moto G, and if you don’t want to spend over £100 on a smartphone the Moto E is the phone to buy.
The Moto E may be a chunky 12.3mm at its thickest point, but its smooth, soft-touch chassis curves and tapers to a slim 6.2mm at each edge, making it supremely comfortable to hold in your hand. At 142g the Moto E is also a gram lighter than the Moto G, and it feels just as sturdy and well-made. As with the Moto G, you'll be able to remove the rear of the phone and swap it for a range of colourful snap-on shell cases to give your Moto E a little more personality.
The Moto E has 4GB of storage, but you can expand its storage with a microSD card, letting you add an extra 32GB of space for your apps and files.
One of the most impressive things about the Moto E is just how smoothly it runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. It's unusual to see KitKat on such a cheap handset, as most budget phones are often lumbered with older versions of Android that don't require much memory. The Moto E, on the other hand, has 1GB of RAM. That’s not a lot, but is enough to make the Moto E responsive when swiping through our home screens.
SMART AND SAFE
Like the Moto G, Motorola has left the Android user interface largely untouched in terms of design, but the Moto E does come with a few exclusive apps that help the phone seem smarter in everyday use. The newest app is Moto Alert, which is especially handy if you're a parent buying the Moto E for a child. There are three ways the app can alert others. The first is Emergency, which can send a text alert to certain contacts during an emergency, sound an alarm automatically or auto-dial your chosen emergency contact number. It works surprisingly well, and worked happily with both landline and mobile numbers. Moto Alert can also keep track of when you leave and arrive at places you visit regularly, such as school or work, and automatically alert your chosen contacts when you do so.
The second feature is Follow Me, which sends your current location to select contacts at specified intervals so that concerned family members know where you are. It’s also handy for helping your friends track you in busy, crowded areas. Meet Me, meanwhile, can send a text to your contacts telling them where to meet you.
The other main Motorola app is Moto Assist, which can affect your phone's behaviour at specific times of the day. It can automatically set your phone to be silent at night but still ring if a specified contact calls, or if someone calls twice within five minutes. It can also access your calendar and make your phone silent during meetings as well as send callers a text message saying you're busy. It’ll also read text messages and let you know who's calling while you're driving.
The Moto E's 4.3in screen has a resolution of 540x960 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 256ppi, which is much lower than the Moto G's 1,280x720-resolution screen and 329ppi pixel density. Even so, text still looked sharp and crisp on the Moto E’s screen. The screen also has an anti-smudge coating to help keep fingerprints at bay, and uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to protect it from scratches.
The display is excellent for such a cheap phone. With a measured sRGB colour gamut score of 90.7 per cent, colours looked bright and accurate, and its measured contrast ratio of 923:1 is close to the Moto G's contrast ratio of 1,116:1. Black levels were also good, and we measured a black level of 0.38.cd/m2. We also measured a pretty good peak brightness of 354cd/m2, and we could use the phone outdoors in bright sunshine with no problem. Viewing angles suffered when we put the phone down on a table, with whites turning a dull shade of blue, but this is typical with budget phones.
We also had to zoom in to read news headlines on desktop-based sites, as we found them difficult to read otherwise. In general, though, web browsing was a very smooth experience thanks to the Moto E's 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor. There was a very small delay when scrolling through image-heavy web pages such as The Guardian's home page, but its performance when zooming and panning proved much less frustrating than that of other budget phones we've tested. Indeed, the Moto E’s performance in the SunSpider benchmark is very close to that of the Moto G, with the Moto E completing the SunSpider benchmark in 1,658ms and the Moto G completing the benchmark in 1,410ms.