Hands-on with the Moto E and Moto G LTE

Daniel Bader

May 13, 2014 8:33 pm

We got to spend some quality some with both of Motorola’s new products today — well, one is a new take on an old favourite — and came away impressed.

The Moto E is a much nicer device than anything I’ve used in the same price range, but there are some fundamental issues that, at least in Canada, would lead me to recommend the original Moto G — discounted to $150 at some carriers — over it in most cases.

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If you’ve used a Moto G, you know exactly what to expect with the Moto E. Slightly shorter, a little fatter, and not quite as fashion-forward, the Moto E is nevertheless a comfortable and capable smartphone. Its 4.3-inch qHD display is an IPS panel, and though it lacks the high pixel density of many modern premium smartphones, it is a notable improvement over most entry-levels from Samsung, LG and others.

I noticed immediately that the dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor produced performance that was considerably more sluggish than its quad-core Snapdragon 400 counterpart in the Moto G. Though they are practically identical parts, with the Moto E missing two of the four Cortex A7-based cores, Android clearly needs the extra horsepower when the cores are clocked this low. ARM’s Cortex-A7 architecture has found its way into many smartphones over the past year, but this is the first I’ve seen in a dual-core variety, and the chip shows its limitations.

While basic interactions with the OS were smooth enough, the Moto E was between 15% and 25% slower than the Moto G in CPU-intensive benchmarks. This shouldn’t prove a problem in day-to-day usage — after all, the device is aimed at converting feature phone users, most of which have never used a smartphone before — it does pose the question of whether the device’s performance will scale well with the guaranteed updates Motorola is promising.

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Also of concern is the low storage space. The Moto E comes with 4GB of internal storage, but only 2.2GB is usable out of the box. That leaves a very small window for app installations, and while there is a microSD slot, Google has severely hampered its functionality with the KitKat update. Users will still be able to install apps to the microSD card, but apps are limited to where they can store their content and, unlike internal storage, that data is automatically culled once the app is deleted.

For avid photographers, whom I believe the device will appeal to, this poses an issue. Motorola includes a utility to manually transfer media like photos, videos and music to the SD card, but the process is time- and labour-intensive.

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Those two concerns, which I front-loaded for a reason, don’t detract from the fact that this is an extremely well-made and compelling product for its price. The 5MP camera, which I had a short time to test, was surprisingly good, focusing quickly and capturing relatively sharp photos. It’s unclear whether this is the same sensor as the one in the Moto G, but at first glance it appears so.

The camera better be good, too, since it’s the only one; there is no front-facing sensor on the Moto E. This won’t pose an issue for the majority of people, and if there areas necessary to save costs I’m glad it was there and not by sacrificing the fidelity of the rear one.

Like the Moto G, the version of Android is about as unmolested as you’ll find on an OEM smartphone: Chrome is the default browser, but the AOSP messaging app, not Hangouts, is the default SMS client. Users will also discover a number of Motorola services on board, including Moto Assist, Alert and Migrate, along with the nice, one-touch camera app.

At $179, the Moto E is $50 more expensive in Canada than what it’s sold for in the U.S., but it hits that magical sub-$200 price point that makes it easy to justify buying on a whim. The device, like the Moto G, will come with optional backplates in a variety of colours, including a new Grip option that you see above. Coupled with the Gorilla Glass 3 screen and water resistant coating, the Moto E could be that smartphone you buy your clumsy 11 year-old — or your clumsy self.

This is the new Motorola, a company that understands it though cannot win in the high-end against Samsung and Apple, it can change the definition of what it means to buy a low-cost smartphone. The company constantly reiterated that it was one of the only companies producing high-quality, low-cost devices that run the latest version of Android, and if more people were to buy the Moto G or Moto E over the equivalent Samsung or LG in the same price range, not only would they get a better experience, but a regularly-updated one, too.

The Moto E is interesting not necessarily for its specs, but for its ability to carve out a product category that has, in North America at least, been practically non-existent to date. With the introduction of two-year contracts, users are paying more for devices, both subsidized and outright, and Motorola’s product line is the gateway to that compromise.

Coming to select retailers at an unknown date in June, the Moto E is going to sell very, very well, as it deserves to.

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As for the LTE Moto G, well… it’s the same phone, slightly faster connectivity.

Coming to Rogers and Fido on June 17th for $224.99 on a month-to-month term and $0 on most 2-year plans, the updated model addresses the new main pain points from the original: lack of LTE and no expandable storage. While the device will still default to 8GB of internal storage — the 16GB model is limited to HSPA+ for now — users can now augment that space with a microSD slot up to 32GB.

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  • MobiDude

    lol that dog picture

    mobilesyrup seems to be getting rich, so many phones, accessories and trips to conferences! Plus getting an extra person to hold the phone… new hire?

    • MikeOxlong

      It better be a manly girl too as those fingernails are waaaaaay too long for a dude to be sporting.

    • MobiDude

      It’s a girl. Video has smaller nails and hairy arms. Could be wife (Daniel has a son, unless he was adopted and he isn’t straight… Sorry Daniel, you need wiki page)

    • Daniel Bader

      Guys, it was a small PR event organized by Motorola.

      And no, I don’t need a wiki page.

    • rgl168

      I’d say those are the hands of a Moto rep.

    • thedosbox

      It’s likely a PR event held by motorola. And as it appears to be at a bar, there shouldn’t be any shortage of barstaff or PR flaks to lend a hand.

    • MobiDude

      PR event at a bar?

    • thedosbox

      See Daniel’s response, and look at the sample picture.

  • Columbo

    Moto E sounds actually pretty awful. If it was sluggish brand new, imagine it in 6 months with a bunch of apps installed and long text message threads. It’s a good idea in principle, but this is a bit TOO low end for the North American market IMO. 2.2GB free space, limited SD potential, what looks like a pretty crappy battery and screen… It will probably just turn first-time smartphone buyers off Motorola.

    • Susan

      What do you expect for $180 phone? Motorola is targeting people who are still using “dumb phones”, who don’t want to spend too much money on a new smartphone. For first time users, the Moto E is more than capable of doing a lot compared to a flip phone. I might get this for my mother who is still using an old Motorola flip phone that has no features.

    • MobiDude

      moto g was 150 last year. At least better processor?

    • Susan

      That’s on a tab. It’s $200 outright. Look on Koodo’s site.

    • MobiDude

      nope, 150 (stores offering discount or sale). 200 was on release. But still, for 180, should’ve better processor. Maybe charge $5 more.

    • Susan

      Actually correction. On their site, it’s $150 on tab. On prepaid which is the same as buying it outright, is, $250. I was at Koodo store 2 weeks ago, it’s still going for $150 on tab.

    • MobiDude

      so they getting expensive.. got one on release for $200 (day 1), no tab. Better to get oneplus one for $50 more

    • Susan

      It looks that way. But I bet the price is going to drop very soon, now that the Moto E and Moto G LTE are coming out. They will have to compete with Fido since they will be carrying the Moto G LTE version.

    • crimsonablue

      Virgin Mobile has it for $150 on prepaid, gigantic thread on RFD

    • Susan

      I bet a lot of people are buying them. I wouldn’t be surprised if most Virgin Mobile stores are sold out by now. Once it gets posted on RFD, everyone goes out a get one or more.

    • Jay

      Can’t speak directly to Koodo but I just bought a Moto G on Virgin (outright) for $150.

    • Columbo

      What do I expect for a $180 phone? Not much. I’d rather pay an extra 20 and have it not be garbage, is my point. For example look at the BlackBerry Z3, leaving the different OS aside for an extra $20 its specs are just vastly superior. No reason Motorola couldn’t do the same.

    • Columbo

      Not my point, just look at the specs and see what an extra $20 gets you (ignore the fact that you hate the OS inside). Bigger screen, more RAM, more storage, better battery, 2 cameras, a flash, etc. Couldn’t have Motorola done the same? Is the $20 difference so important that they decided to make an awful phone?

    • Susan

      BlackBerry Z3?? You can’t compare a phone that’s not available in North America. If you buy the Indonesian version, you won’t get 3G. So this comparison is moot.

    • Jay

      Part of me wants to agree with you. From a personal standpoint, I could not use this phone without wanting to throw it against a wall! But, as a retailer, I love this category of phone. With fewer and fewer ‘basic’ phones available, these phones bridge the market between standard phones and smart phones. It is a low cost, low risk way to get in to a smart phone. Motorola hasn’t added all kinds of bloatware which also makes it less intimidating for first time smartphone users. I think the only ‘problem’ I would have with this phone is it currently retails for $30 more than the Moto G on Koodo or Virgin and itsn’t as good a phone as the Moto G.

  • Ben Burger

    Sorry this is off topic but: Frequently when using this site stories and / or the second page will not open, I get the error “The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.”. This happens daily, only on this site.
    I am using Firefox + Windows 7, on a satellite connection (Xplorernet).
    Does anyone know why this is happening?

    • qrtyuyikfdvcv

      cause you touch yourself at night. ^_^

    • Ben Burger

      I was hoping a mod might answer…

  • GrimConch

    The Moto E is just around to hype up people for the Moto G. Imagine a reveal event like this: “Think this sounds like a great phone for a great price, coming out soon? WELL GUESS WHAT, we have a better cheaper phone and it’s OUT TODAY!” and then the specs/price powerpoint slide they have on stage changes to the Moto G and the crowd goes nuts. That’s what I assume they were trying to capture, at least. Or maybe they’re just really bad at pricing.

  • gommer strike

    “…the Moto E missing two of the four Cortex A7-based cores, Android clearly needs the extra horsepower when the cores are clocked this low” – …well no, I don’t think so.

    It’s slow *because* the available cores(both of them) are clocked low. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the case where normally, the other cores sit completely idle unless you fire up a game or something very graphics intensive(think any racing game)? Remember the Moto X? Wasn’t that thing “only” dual core(but the cores were clocked higher than say, the HTC One M7)?

    Point is this. Android doesn’t fire up every single core just to scroll the screen or launch apps. It doesn’t do so, unless it needs to. And you don’t need all 4 cores firing on all cylinders to do most(non-gaming) things. In fact only a single core’s enough.

  • Northern Raven

    Sort of a shame a Canadian review didn’t address what 3G bands are available. The original G had “US” and “Global” varieties which each supported only 4 of a group of 5 3G bands – the “US” supported the AWS1700 (band 4) used by T-mobile, etc, while the “Global” didn’t but added the 2100 (band 1) found in Europe and Asia. Koodo/Telus/Virgin carried the “Global” (Wind, etc needed the “US”).
    For the LTE, the Moto site shows preorders for only a “US” version, but Amazon calls it “Universal”, and one or two places seem to show it supporting all 5 3G bands combined from the two original models. It would be nice if someone hands-on could confirm this.

  • sggodsell

    This makes no sense that the moto e is $179. When you can buy a moto g for $150. The moto g is superior to the moto e. Larger HD display, more internal storage, USB otg, rear camera flash, front facing camera, slow motion video capture. None of that is on new moto e. I can see the moto e being popular in places like India and Brazil. But not in Canada. Which I believe that is its intended targets.