Moto E and Moto G LTE review

8

Daniel Bader

June 8, 2014 1:23pm

The story of compromise is really a narrative of degrees. How much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve something else? In the Android world, as the dwindling price of components outpaces the speed requirements of the software powered by those parts, such commoditization has created a market of capable, low-cost devices with Motorola at the forefront.

While the Moto X was initially marketed at similar prices to competitors’ flagships, it became quickly apparent that Motorola’s advantage would be in the low-margin, high-volume sales tier. It was difficult, with the Moto X’s smaller, lower-resolution screen and last-generation chipset, to justify charging $200 on contract and $600 outright; the company quickly dropped the price permanently to $399 and, later, to $299 on promotion.

The new Motorola doesn’t mind making a small margin (if any) on its smartphones; it just wants as many of them out there as possible to ensure that it has the mindshare, and hopefully marketshare, of the first-time smartphone customer.

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Moto E

To really understand the Moto E, I had to pretend I upgrading from either a really crappy Android device, or an equally simple non-smartphone. Motorola isn’t expecting the Moto E to be attractive to existing owners of its own smartphones, but rather to the millions that have been tempted by Android’s siren call while unable to justify the $200+ entry.

When approached that way, especially after playing with other Android devices that run in the $180 level, the Moto E is quite a knockout. Not only does it perform admirably in most scenarios, but its screen is bright, its UI unadorned with subsidized carrier garbage, and its camera, an area usually sacrificed in the pursuit of lower costs, is pretty good.

There’s also something comforting about the weight and heft of the Moto E; it’s not a delicate phone, and while not waterproof is covered with Gorilla Glass 3 on the display and an anti-ingress coating throughout. The matte back cover, while removable, looks and feels sturdy, and represents the best of both worlds; replaceable with colourful insets, the phone’s longevity is directly correlated to the availability of those $15-25 pieces of plastic.

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Using the Moto E is a curious case of Android’s benefits and limitations. As one would expect from a device with such a limited spec sheet — we’re looking at a 4.3-inch qHD display, a 1.2Ghz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a 5MP rear camera sans flash and a 1980mAh battery — the device has its performance issues, and all but one, the limited user storage, are easily overlooked. Indeed, that the phone comes with just 2.2GB of storage out of the box limits what could otherwise be a phenomenal and compelling value proposition.

Alleviating the storage issue somewhat is the presence of a microSD slot, which can offload some of those storage issues for apps, games and media. Eventually, though, with enough downloads and the inevitable file system detritus they bring, that Low Storage Space Available message will rear its head. I had a difficult time, even limiting myself to the few apps I use on a regular basis, pushing all the games and third-party apps I could to the SD card, keeping that storage warning at bay.

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Otherwise, though, Moto E is adept at just about everything. I loaded the 3D game Smash Hit and played it for an hour before I realized where the time went; I enjoyed a session or two of Ski Safari and revelled in the beauty of Monument Valley. The dual-core Cortex-A7 CPUs may be relatively underpowered compared to the quad-core prowess of most high-end Android devices, but the OS chugged along swimmingly. The GPU, a single-core Adreno-series chip running at 400Mhz, didn’t have to work too hard to keep up with the games I threw at it, mainly because the 960×540 pixel screen resolution is not that onerous.

Indeed, it appears that Moto made sacrifices in the right places. Battery life was phenomenal, period: I was easily able to get more than a day from the device, thanks to its low-profile spec sheet and highly-optimized software. And while the camera did not amaze, its 5MP sensor proved competent in good lighting.

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The issue with the Moto E, at least in Canada, is that the price is all wonky. The $179.99 price tag is for the unlocked version sold in stores like Staples, which can be taken to any carrier in Canada. But being $50 more than the same product in the US is sure to irk consumers north of the border, and carrier pricing of the more-capable Moto G makes the Moto E less compelling. Koodo gets away with telling consumers that its Moto G, the 8GB HSPA+ version, sells for $150, when in fact it requires a service plan to be sold at that price. The beauty of the Moto E is that it is unlocked and omits any carrier bloatware; the equivalent unlocked 16GB Moto G sells for $249.79.

So while the Moto E is a good deal for customers who either want to bring it to an AWS carrier like WIND, Videotron or Mobilicity, the carrier-sold Moto G — if carrier flexibility is not important — is a better proposition.

The Moto E will be available sometime this summer at select retailers.

Recommended with caveats

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Moto G LTE

Whereas the Moto E has some glaring pricing issues, there is no mistaking the incredible value of the Moto G LTE. Adding a microSD slot and LTE connectivity, the two main issues with the XT1032 model available in Canada on TELUS and Koodo, the Moto G LTE is a keeper.

The more I use the Moto G, the better I realize its triumph. It lacks the wow factor of the Moto X’s OLED-based Active Notifications, and eschews the streamlined body for one slightly thicker and more utilitarian, but it’s the first $200-ish phone I’d heartily recommend to my peers.

While the Nexus 5 perhaps offers a better spec-to-price ratio, most customers still buy phones from carriers, which puts its $349 entry price out of reach for many. The Moto G, however, looks and feels like a real smartphone, and now that an LTE version exists, it can stand head to head with many other more-expensive choices on the Rogers or Fido showroom.

Its 720p screen still amazes, specifically because it’s comparable in sharpness, brightness and viewing angles to devices twice or even three times the price. The same goes for performance; the Snapdragon 400 inside the Moto G compels it to complete tasks effortlessly, and the only real downside is the low RAM count, from which the device suffers when attempting to quickly cycle through applications.

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The specs are well known by now: a 4.5-inch 1280×720 pixel LCD display, a 1.2Ghz quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC, 1GB of RAM, a 5MP rear camera with flash, 8GB of internal memory with expandable storage, a 2070mAh non-removable battery, and now LTE connectivity. And, of course, Android 4.4.3 out of the box, the latest and greatest version of the software.

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It’s hard to fault the Moto G, but camera enthusiasts should heed a warning of softness and overall lack of detail. There’s also a distinct lack of affectation in the software; the Moto G lacks the Google Experience launcher of the Nexus 5, and while I’m a fan of stock Android, some may find its Android 4.4.2 version unimaginative. Of course, like the Moto X and Moto E, Motorola’s speciality apps, specially Assist, ensure that users will be treated to unique qualities not found on other Android phones. For example, Moto Assist can be configured to detect when you’re at home and read out caller names or the contents of a text message. Motorola’s Gallery and accompanying Camera apps are also superior to most OEMs’, and, like the rest of the company’s wares, get right to the point.

Coming on June 19th to Rogers for $0 on a 2-year plan and to Fido for between $0 and $50 depending on the plan, the Moto G LTE is not a hard buying decision to make. While Motorola won’t confirm plans to sell this version unlocked — it currently only has the 16GB 3G version in that configuration — consumers will be well-served by either one.

Highly Recommended

8

Final Score

  • Jim Thibault

    Motorola Mobility has long as I remember been late, overlooked Canada. For awhile they got away with it, being American but now that they are sold again. I can not in the short term picture me buying any Motorola device, though the new owners may get Motorola Mobility’s act together, being first to market and a world wide market at that.

  • TomsDisqusted

    Regarding the tight space on the Moto E. My guess is that the plan for the new ART runtime is that it allows them to stop storing the app (other then the resources) on the device. Do that for all system and user apps and it could help a bit.

  • thedosbox

    Isn’t this supposed to be a Canadian site? Because Rogers sold the X at CAD$550 outright initially, whereas it cost US$600 south of the border.

    Somewhat amusing given the reverse situation for the E.

    • Sequoia46.2

      No that was the month-to-month price. It was $599 at launch.

  • Scazza

    “Koodo gets away with telling consumers that its Moto G, the 8GB HSPA+
    version, sells for $150, when in fact it requires a service plan to be
    sold at that price.” You guys said this last time too, and clearly didn’t read the comments. The Moto G doesn’t require anything from Koodo. Go to their site and move the slider on the Moto G price to full, then add to cart. REMOVE the sim from cart and viola! You have a $150 moto G.

    • Scazza

      Could just be out of stock, bought my 4th one a few weeks ago.

    • Rich

      That’s not true at all. It’s been like this for a few months now. I tried and it’s only available in stores, which is why most people went to the Virgin prepaid one that you can order off their site (which is oos now too).

  • AGoodM8

    “The Moto G … [is] the first $200-ish phone I’d heartily recommend to my peers.”

    The Moto G is certainly the best phone in that price range now; however, when the Nexus 4 8/16 GB went on sale for $199/249 for a short time last September, it was equally impressive for its price.

  • Northern Raven

    To be fair to Motorola, the Moto E price of C$180 is a suggested list price. The US$129 is effectively a street price, since Moto itself is selling it at that, as is Amazon. The “E” is in Ingram’s Canadian database, so presumably you’ll see other retailers carry it, and perhaps some downward price pressure.

    The real question on the “E” is why Amazon Canada isn’t listing it (they do in the US, UK, Germany, Spain, etc). Motorola is blocking Amazon US from shipping these to Canada (as they block the G LTE, and did the original G for six months during carrier exclusive windows). I have a hard time imagining that Staples (or Ingram) would pony up enough cash to bribe Motorola into bypassing Amazon, so perhaps there is an unannounced carrier deal in the works for the E. The carrier might be willing to allow some Staples-like unlocked sales at $180, but want to avoid having Amazon Canada selling it at $145-$150.

  • J Smith

    Adding a microSD slot and LTE connectivity just makes the G that much more of a winner.

    Brand new, off contract the Moto G is 99$ in the US (Metro, Boost and Cricket will price match).
    Quad core, 1GB, Android upgradable…why spend $400 on any other Android phone?

  • Gohy

    Hmmm… this wasn’t much of a review. I know that the Moto G LTE is the exact same phone as the regular Moto G but I was hoping for a battery test to see how the LTE effects it…

  • Thullraven

    I have the Moto G 16GB and love it. My Moto G LTE Version is on it’s way as I type this. I switched to the Moto G from a Galaxy S3 and haven’t looked back. AT&T ruined my S3 with the forced upgrade to 4.3 Jellybean, which destroyed battery life among other issues. Got the Moto G directly from Motorola unlocked and bloatware free. Awesome device, especially for the price.

  • Colton Politte

    It should be noted that the current 8G, HSPA version of the Moto G can be purchased from Virgin for $150 outright on prepaid. No need to sign for it or anything.

  • Policyman

    I bought a Moto G in store for 150 bucks, no sim card or activation required. I put my Telus sim in when I want to (I know, Telus = Kodoo, but no activtation required when I bought it)

  • Rick Hilsendeger

    This would be a great replacement for my GS1!

  • FedBC

    Looks like a good phone for those that just want a phone with some smartphone capabilities.

  • Narendran Janardhanan Sreedevi

    This will be a very good replacement for my Samsung Galaxy S. I can bet it’s not cheap plastic .. This is a definite buy for me.

  • Thullraven

    I’ve got the Moto G 16GB and the Moto G $G LTE Unlocked. Both directly from Motorola online. The Moto G LTE is my primary device and I love it!

    • David Paul

      I’m guessing you had it shipped to a US address. I’m in Canada and want this phone , with a warranty. AFAIK motorola or amazon won’t ship to a Canadian address.

    • Thullraven

      Yeah David, I’m in Texas. I wasn’t aware Motorola wasn’t shipping them to Canada. That sucks. Moto G 4G LTE is great. Wish I could help you get one.

    • Leif Shantz

      I ordered it off Amazon.com and shipped it to my Grandma’s vacation home in Florida and I was there for holidays in February and picked it up and brought it up to Canada!!!! Easy!

  • nikhil

    Yup