Hands on with the Moto E – Motorola’s newest smartphone

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I’m sitting in a little Italian café just outside the Rialto South Tower, having an informal meeting with a Motorola Mobility representative named John. He tells a waitress his order before asking me if I would like something. I politely decline, instead opting to drink the free water. I already had a cup of coffee beforehand.

Having a one-on-one meeting with a company representative is very rare. Companies prefer to hold media briefings and events, obviously for logistical reasons. However, because I was unable to attend the media briefing in Sydney held earlier this week – otherwise, you would have seen this piece with the other hands-on pieces from Ausdroid and Gizmodo Australia – I was able to arrange this quick meeting so I could have a look at the Moto E myself.

Once the waitress leaves, John opens his notebook to get the spec sheet before handing me Motorola’s recently-announced smartphone – the Moto E.


Motorola wants the Moto E to be affordable and durable, but it also does not want to compromise on performance. And after seeing the Moto E being able to handle Angry Birds Star Wars with just only 150MB of memory left, I feel that Motorola has succeeded. Even with a lot of apps opened, there was no lag – something that is almost unheard of in the low-end smartphone market.

The Moto E features 4.3-inch qHD display with Gorilla Glass 3 coating and runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor and 1GB of RAM. It also comes with 4GB of storage with a microSD card slot (up to 32GB), a 5-megapixel camera, and a 1980mAh battery promising all-day battery life. However, there is no front-facing camera – that was one of the few sacrifices Motorola made to keep the price low.

The phone fits comfortably on your hand, with the rubberised back providing a nice feel to touch when holding it. Motorola says the Moto E is designed to allow you to use it with one hand – something that I miss when reviewing the higher-end smartphones due to their massive screen sizes.

Running on Android 4.4 Kit Kat, Motorola is one of the very few manufacturers to use the native Android look. That is not to say that they haven’t customised the experience, but they are very subtle. Like the Moto G and Moto X, Motorola has guaranteed that Moto E owners will get new versions of Android as soon as Google sends them. We assume that this means they will also bypass the carriers, who take ages testing the OS before pushing it to users.

One of the brand new features coming to the Moto E (and most likely all Motorola phones) is Moto Alert. It will send out a text message to select people on your contacts list when you enter and leave a geofenced area. In other words: if you arrived home, then it will send a message to your mum or dad saying you arrived home safely. Alert can also periodically send your GPS location to your contacts if you are lost or want to tell them where you are; and will sound an alarm if there is any trouble.

The only real issue we have the phone is the build quality with the back cover. John removed the back cover to show me where the dual SIM and microSD card slots were. When he put the cover back on the Moto E, I did notice that one corner wouldn’t click back into place. Hopefully it was just the demo unit, but we will see once we get a proper review handset.

Motorola has not revealed the price or a release date for the phone. However, I expect the phone’s price to be in the sub-$200 range.

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