Calling and Data
This is a GSM world phone with voice and 2G EDGE on the 850/900/1800/1900MHZ bands. 3G HSPA 21Mpbs bands vary depending on the variant you purchase. As mentioned, Moto says a CDMA model is coming soon, but we don't know if it will appear in the US and be approved for Sprint and Verizon's networks. Voice quality, typical of Motorola phones, is very good and volume is also good via earpiece. The mono speaker is surprisingly loud for speakerphone calls and multimedia.
Data speeds will vary by region and network, and on AT&T we averaged 7Mbps down and 1Mbps up according to the SpeedTest.net app, which is average for that carrier's 3G network in the Dallas, TX area. That's enough speed to load web pages quickly, download email and even stream video at 720p and modest to moderate bitrates. Since the phone doesn't have a 1080p display, there's obviously no need for speeds sufficient to stream full HD video.
Horsepower and Performance
The good news is that you get a name brand, decent dual core CPU. The Moto E runs on the 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 CPU. Our benchmark utilities report the graphics chip as an Adreno 305 rather than the 302 listed on Moto's site. Since Motorola has ordered custom chips before with upgraded GPUs, we'll report what the benchmark and testing apps tell us. In any case, the Adreno 302 is simply a slower clocked version of the 305, so the difference is moot.
The phone has a gig of RAM, standard for non-flagship Android smartphones and a paltry 4 gigs of storage with about 2.5 gigs free for your use. For the price, we won't complain, and this obviously isn't the phone for hardcore 3D gamers in terms of CPU, graphics or storage. The Moto E has a microSD card slot where you can store music, videos and files but not programs.
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Motorola has a reputation for making mediocre cameras in their phones. Sadly, the Moto E is no exception, and the camera takes photos that I'd not call vivid or even colorful. Photos are mostly a tad murky and dull, though turning on HDR mode does wonders to improve contrast and color saturation. The camera can shoot 720 x 480 video at 30fps, which is surprisingly low resolution even for a 5MP sensor, though third party camera apps on the Google Play store can drive the resolution higher (not to 1080p, sorry).
The phone has a 1980 mAh battery, and that's a high capacity battery for a smartphone with a small display, lower end CPU and small body. To fit the big battery in a small phone, Motorola couldn't make it removable, so it's sealed in the casing (you can see its outline if you remove the back cover, but there's a plastic plate over the battery to prevent removal). Given the beefy capacity and low demands the Moto E places on the battery, we easily made it through the day on a charge. In fact, we've so far averaged 2 days of use with moderate use including streaming a few YouTube short videos, 30 minutes of calls, checking and sending email, browsing the web for 1 hour, playing Hay Day, reading an eBook for 45 minutes and playing music through earbuds with the display off for an hour.
Obviously the Moto E isn't for those who want all the latest smartphone bells and whistles like a large high resolution display or a fast quad core CPU. Like the $179 Moto G (soon to be released as an improved $219 model with LTE 4G and a microSD card slot), the Moto E is for those who can't or simply won't spend big bucks on a smartphone. The good news is that doesn't mean you have to skimp on build quality, warranty or the basics. The Moto E delivers on the smartphone staples with a clear and colorful display, responsive performance for everyday tasks and good voice quality. Better yet, you won't be tied to a carrier or have to sign a contract. The Moto E makes a great world travel phone, replacement for an in-contract broken or stolen phone or for those who want something reliable and solid at a low price.
Price: $129 (no contract, full retail price)
The Moto G and Moto E.