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Motorola Moto E: Feature Phone Killer

Moto E undercuts the competition with respectable features and a rock-bottom price.

Motorola announced the Moto E, its least expensive smartphone to date, on Tuesday. Motorola believes the device will not only shake up the entry-level smartphone segment, but sound the death knell for feature phones once and for all.

The Moto E carries over the same design language used by Motorola in the Moto X and Moto G. It is compact, made of durable plastics, and offers at least some customization of appearance. Where the Moto X can be made to order, the Moto E lets users swap the rear cover to change the look of the phone. Motorola Shells (as they are called) come in 20 different colors and cost an extra $14.99 each. According to Motorola, the Moto E is splash- and scratch-proof, which means it should be able to handle the minor bumps and bruises that occur throughout the life of a modern smartphone. The base colors of the Moto E are black and white.

The Moto E has a 4.3-inch display that is protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass 3. The resolution is qHD, or 960 x 540 pixels. Motorola says the Moto E has a pixel density of 256 pixels per inch, which is far below that of today's high-end smartphones -- but outclasses the 800 x 480 displays on most entry-level phones. The Moto E is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor with two cores clocked at 1.2 GHz each, accompanied by an Adreno 302 GPU at 400 MHz for graphics. The Snapdragon 200 is one of Qualcomm's least-expensive processors. It doesn't offer the killer power of the Snapdragon 400 or 800, but it is more than capable of delivering performance for a device such as the E. The E has 1 GB of system memory, 4 GB of internal storage, and supports microSD memory cards up to 32 GB.

[Protect your phone: 1 In 10 US Smartphone Users Victims of Theft.]

Motorola opted for a 5-megapixel camera, but there's no user-facing camera for selfies. (What a shame!) The camera can capture 720p HD video and offers shooting modes such as panorama. The phone has a 1,980-mAh battery that Motorola says delivers a full day of battery life.

Connectivity options are somewhat limited. In order to keep the price down, the Moto E does not include LTE 4G. It supports HSPA and CDMA networks in some regions, and also includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and single-band WiFi. It doesn't have NFC.

The Moto E runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, which is the most recent version of Android available, and Motorola is promising the phone will receive at least one major operating system update during its lifetime.

(Image: Motorola)
(Image: Motorola)

The specs aren't the whole story. Motorola is going to push the device through 80 carriers in 40 countries for the low price of $129. That's without subsidies and about as low as it gets for a contract-free smartphone. The Moto E falls under the Moto G in Motorola's lineup, which costs $179. (A new LTE-capable version of the G went on sale Tuesday for $219.) The Moto X is still available for $349 without a contract.

To put the Moto E's price into perspective, Motorola said the $179 Moto G is its best-ever selling smartphone. That's significant, considering the popularity of its Droid smartphones, sold by Verizon Wireless. The Moto G has a better set of specs, and is wildly popular with prepaid services around the world. The Moto E should be even more popular, as the lower price point will make it more attractive to the budget conscious.

The Moto E's price is so low that it truly endangers feature phones. Sure, plenty of feature phones can be purchased for $50 to $100 without a contract, but the Moto E closes that critical features-for-the-cost gap. It will be much easier for people to see the value of the Moto E and make the jump from a feature phone to a smartphone. There are billions more people on Earth yet to connect. The Moto E could very well be their first smartphone.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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User Rank: Strategist
5/14/2014 | 11:03:44 PM
A smartphone can be a really poor replacement for a feature phone.
The premise of the article - not the content, is absurd.  If you prefer feature phones, this won't change your mind.  For instance, my 80 something year old mother has no interest in ANY of the apps you find on a smartphone - not even a picture gallery.  She just wants a cell phone that flips open, is comfortable and easy to use, and performs well when needed.  That this phone packs in decent technology for a fairly low price means nothing to her.


I like the abilities of my fairly expensive Moto smartphone, except for the really poor performance when wifi is enabled.  But I hate making phone calls on it.  Can't hear well, uncomfortable to hold, bulky, and relatively heavy.  I have and use the smartphone because I need the apps and communications.  If you don't need them, a flip / feature phone may be a much better choice!
User Rank: Apprentice
5/14/2014 | 1:51:50 PM
Is the phone cost the issue?
I think there's a decent sized percent of the feature-phone carrying population who would be glad to buy a smart phone right now - and pay a fairly high price for it - but aren't willing to lock themselves into high data costs forever. (And it's forever - once you have it, I doubt you're willing to go back.)

The phone can actually be free but if the carriers can't get the data plan costs to where everyone is willing to pay it, the smart phone "revolution" is probably approaching its max saturation.

Personally, right now I have an iPhone 4S in one pocket. It has no plan at all - no phone service, just WiFi. In my other pocket, I have my trusty old feature phone that costs me $10 a month on a Verizon family plan. I'd love to combine the two, even without iPhone data, but the carriers aren't willing to play along.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/14/2014 | 5:31:39 AM
Buy Online MOTO E
MOTO E the most awaited android smartphone is availble now at affordable range. Just order the new MOTO E is that is available on Flipkart, Amazon and snapdeal with latest launch day discounts and offers.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/13/2014 | 11:32:05 PM
Moto X
Gotta say that Motorola is making some fine phones. Picked up a Moto X last week, and am really impressed with this unit. Head and shoulders above other similarly priced units from other carriers. Best part is the price, which was free after a $50 rebate.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
5/13/2014 | 4:24:41 PM
Waiting for next year
I'm holding out for a Project Ara phone.
User Rank: Author
5/13/2014 | 3:03:27 PM
Splash proof?
I wonder what splash proof really means in practice. A few drops of coffee won't do the phone in, but don't drop it in the sink? Still doesn't protect phones from the hard drop on the driveway, but still, better than no splash protection.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/13/2014 | 11:38:20 AM
Good way to enter the Google marketplace
The key here is that this is the cheapest way to get a much higher quality Android phone than the very cheap ones on many of the pre-paid. And that's more attractive to a lot of buyers because it includes access to all of the apps on the Play Store. If I was going cheap, I'd certainly choose this over Windows or the low quality budget smartphones. 
User Rank: Strategist
5/13/2014 | 11:24:28 AM
Re: A ccheaper smart phone, thats good
The Nokia does have one huge flaw, though: You're stuck running Windows. Blech. No thanks.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/13/2014 | 11:06:11 AM
Re: A ccheaper smart phone, thats good
Ignore these Microsoft fanboys/marketing guys. The Moto E seems like a nice phone.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/13/2014 | 10:53:16 AM
A ccheaper smart phone, thats good
I got my mon a Nokia 520 for $62.00, last week and it is an excellent smart phone. and it will run windows 8.1, I think thats cheaper.
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