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Starting with the Moto X in 2013, Motorola started a whole trend of making value-for-money smartphones with a heavy focus on optimised software. Later came the Moto G (1st Gen), which sold like hot cakes in various parts of the world, including India. It offered the right amount of hardware for the price, and Motorola had put in a lot of effort in getting the basics right, such as the build quality, loudspeaker performance, and the battery life.
Later, it went on the release a slimmed-down variant dubbed the Moto E, but it lacked a little too much, such as autofocus and an LED flash for the primary camera, and even completely negated the front-facing camera, which seems a stupid idea for this day and age. I didn’t recommend it to anyone who asked me for entry-level smartphone buying suggestions, because there were just too many basic things missing from the device.
Seems like Motorola has learned from its mistakes.
Now, the company has come up with a successor to the Moto E (1st Gen), which is a bit obviously named the Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen).
It now ships with an autofocus lens, a front-facing camera, a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chipset as well as faster cellular connectivity. I’ve managed to use it as my primary smartphone for a couple of weeks now, and here my two cents on the device.
Design, build quality & ergonomics
For starters, it looks and feels a lot like the Motorola Moto G (1st Gen), and it has all the right things going for it in the ergonomics department.
It has a nice soft-touch patterned plastic material on its sides, matte plastic on the back along with a dimple to rest your finger. The primary camera is also situated over the dimple at the back. The rear cover is non-removable, but the grippy strip on the sides of the phone is, under which you’ll find the SIM card and a microSD card slot.
Similar to other smartphones from the American company, the Moto E comes with on-screen buttons for navigation. The volume and power buttons are on the right hand side of the device, while the front-facing camera, ambient-light sensor, proximity sensor, and the loudspeaker are on the front of the device. The microUSB port and the headphone jack are at the bottom.
Overall, the device is a treat to hold and operate. The soft-touch plastic, the dimple at the back, the handy size, and the grippy strip on the sides help to make this device an absolute ergonomic gem. It features a no nonsense design, high-quality materials, and great ergonomics, which is a great deal for its price range.
This second-generation Moto E comes with a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display with qHD (960×540) resolution — rather standard in this price range. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which is also coated with oleophobic material tasked with fending off greasy fingerprints.
Glossing through the specifications, you’ll notice that Motorola missed out on the 720p standard when compared to its competitors, but it is well-worth noticing that real-world performance is much better than the on-paper specifications. The screen is bright, vibrant (at least for its price), and sharp enough to not irritate its viewer. You certainly won’t have problems with the screen, and it is better in reality than some denser screens (like the Asus Zenfone 5 or Zenfone 2).
As I mentioned earlier, the Moto E (2nd Gen) has received a massive upgrade in the imaging department. It features a 5-megapixel primary camera with an autofocus lens and a VGA front-facing camera. The primary camera can record 720p videos, which is the bare minimum these days, as probably all the screens we currently own cross that resolution.
On the software side, Motorola needs seriously up its game. The stock camera app, aptly named ‘Motorola Camera’, follows the ideology of tap-to-click, which became famous after the first-generation iPhone, but it won’t suffice for smartphone users of this generation.
There are just two on-screen buttons; the first switches on the video recorder, and the second allows the user to switch between the two cameras. You need to slide from the side of the screen to see the half-ring settings menu. From there, you can change the resolution, HDR, panorama, geo-tagging, storage location, focus, gesture, camera sound, and timer settings from there.
Coming down to the image quality, it’s expectedly much better than the Moto E (2014). The images came out with good amount of details, lively colours, and decent dynamic range, however the camera misses the white balance most of the time. Turning on the HDR mode fixes the white balance, but then the images clicked with HDR don’t look lively and effect is a bit of overdone. The panorama mode relies on a stock Android algorithm so the resulting images are of low resolution as well as low quality. I would advise you to use the Google Camera instead of the stock app as it has a better interface, and it is better at capturing panorama images.
Moto E Camera Samples Hdr 003
HDR snaps are surprisingly effective.
Moto E Camera Samples 001
Close-ups boasting vivid colours seems par of the course with the Moto E.
Moto E Camera Samples 002
It could perhaps do a little better in low light scenarios.
Moto E Camera Samples 003
Bright light is where the device really excels, but only when snapping with the light.
Moto E Camera Samples 004
Not bad for an every day snapper.
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Artsy shots are fair game too.
Moto E Camera Samples 006
Colours can seem a bit washed out at times
Moto E Camera Samples 007
The selfie camera's not too bad.
Moto E Camera Samples 008
Another example of the camera's ability.
Moto E Camera Samples Hdr 001
HDR on this camera is only barely noticeable between snaps.
Moto E Camera Samples Hdr 002
HDR mode is pretty great for well defined imaging though.
Moto E Second Gen 4
Moto E Second Gen 2
Moto E Second Gen 6
Moto E Second Gen 3
Moto E Second Gen 5
Moto E Second Gen 1
Moto E Second Gen Lead
Antutu X Moto E Second Generation
Geekbench Explore Moto E Second Generation
Battery Life Moto E Second Generation
Ui Moto E Second Generation
The 720p video recording quality is nothing like the still images, with videos lacking detail and white balance problems. The front-facing camera is there for being there. The scene looks much better in the preview screen than the final image. The final images are soft and lack detail, so don’t expect any usable selfies from the Moto E (2015).
Software & UI
The Moto E comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop out-of-the-box, with little to no customisations. All the customisations done to the interface are for the good. You get things like Motorola Alert, Motorola Migrate, gestures, and Notifications at a Glance. What’s missing though is the file manager, but you can install one from thousand of options available on the Google Play Store.
Here’s a break down of each of the customisations below:
- Motorola Migrate: An app which helps you fetch personal data like contacts, messages, media files, and other things from your old smartphone to your new Moto E (2015).
- Motorola Alert: This app can be used to get in touch with emergency contacts through calls or by sharing your GPS co-ordinates. There’s an option where your GPS location is sent to them at regular intervals.
- Gestures: You can quickly twist your wrist to activate the camera.
- Time-specific sound profiles: Keep the device in the silent mode to help you sleep better or to not irritate you with notifications while you are in the meeting. Meeting times are fetched through calendar entries.
- Notifications at a Glance: This feature was first introduced with the Moto X (1st Gen) to take advantage of its AMOLED display. When you take your phone out of the pocket or from the table, the screen lits up and shows icons of apps which have unread notifications. You can hold the unlock button to see the notification preview, and either swipe up, which takes you to that particular app, or you can swipe down to unlock the screen and go to the home page.
Overall, it’s a great software package with only features adding functionality making the cut. Motorola resists changing things for the sake of it (cough HTC cough).
In terms of processing guts, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 in the Moto E is far more powerful than the Snapdragon 200, which was used in its predecessor.
The SoC combines quad-core Cortex A7 CPU and Adreno 305 GPU, which is mated to 1GB of RAM. The device felt snappy when operating on a general day-to-day basis like using apps and browsing the web; the light, optimised software is to be praised here. The Adreno 305 GPU performed decently for gaming on many smartphones with HD screens out there.
The Moto E comes with a qHD screen and the same GPU, which means that you can play casual games quite easily, with the most high-end games to be the only ones struggling to run at smooth frame rates. On the whole, the users would be fine with its day-to-day performance.
Below are some of the key benchmark scores:
- AnTuTu X: 15479
- GeekBench Single-Core: 329
- GeekBench Multi-Core: 1105
- Vellamo Metal: 703
- Vellamo Multi-Core: 1376
Plastic, rubberised body means that the signal strength was superb all around, even when I was at that part of the staircase in my building where the signal can’t penetrate. Call quality was clear and the speaker was loud. I never missed any call or notifications, even when the device was in my pocket, or even my bag. The headphone output was quite loud, and the music quality was surprisingly good for a device in this price range. Motorola surely did some nice job there.
The Moto E comes with a 2390mAh non-removable battery, which is a decent upgrade from last year. It has a higher capacity than one of the best-selling smartphones in its price category, the Xiaomi Redmi 2.
A larger battery capacity, a smaller screen with lower number of pixels, and a bloat-free software should lead to very good battery life, right? Yes, it does, and the Motorola Moto E’s battery lasts really long, at least better than its competitors.
I always test devices with all my essential apps installed, five email accounts and half a dozen social media accounts on sync, and screen brightness set to auto. After a full charge, I was able to consistently use the device for more than a day (36 hours generally), before the battery gave up on me. I was getting around five hours of screen-on time, and I can say that it is very respectable.
It’s definitely better than the Moto E (2014), and many other competitors in its price range. Except the Moto X, Motorola has been releasing phones with satisfactory battery lives, be it the Moto G, the Moto G (2nd Gen), or the Moto Turbo.
Verdict: The Motorola Moto E, which is currently priced at INR 6999 in India, ticks all the right boxes and gets the basics right, be it a no non-sense design, perfect ergonomics, bright and decently sharp display, loud speaker, bloat-free software, promise of fast software updates, and long battery life. The only sore thumb in the whole package seems to be the lack of LED flash for the primary camera, as it leaves the camera becomes completely unusable