Motorola just launched a new version of its Moto E mid-tier smartphone on Wednesday, and its predecessor would be proud.
The latest model is almost a dead ringer for the original, except that the previous swappable backplates have transformed into color bands lining the outside of the phone. It also boasts 4G LTE, a larger display and a price of $150, unlocked.
It’s a bump in price over the original, but it’s still the company’s best “cheap” smartphone to date. Let’s take a quick tour.
The “E” Stands For Evolution
The new Moto E continues the design philosophy the company established last year with its first version. It still offers a rounded backing that rests comfortably in the hand and just enough heft to feel substantial. Customers get a choice of bumper bands in 6 colors to adorn the handset, which comes in black or white. (Larger “grip shell” cases are also available.)
Though the old and new devices look similar, the current generation boasts a few other improvements—namely faster connectivity, storage and screen size.
The new model now offers 4G LTE connectivity and a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, along with a boost in storage (8GB built-in, instead of last year’s 4GB). There’s no big upgrade in resolution, which still sits at 540 x 960 pixels, but that’s not entirely surprising given the price. But at least the display is a bit bigger now, sized at 4.5 inches instead of 4.3 inches.
The cameras also got updates, with a new 5-megapixel rear shooter with autofocus and a VGA front camera. New features include Quick Capture, a gesture-based shutter feature that snaps a photo when you twist your wrist, and Active Display, which wakes the screen when you yank it out of your pocket. It’s all powered by Android 5.0 Lollipop.
Obviously these details pale in comparison to advanced flagship devices, but not everyone needs the biggest, beastliest phone just to call, text or check Facebook. For the money, this well-built phone offers respectable specs. But if $150 is still too rich for your blood, the company offers a 3G variant for $119.
The Big Business Of Budget Phones
As it becomes harder and harder for phone makers to distinguish themselves in advanced smartphones, companies like Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC seem to be pushing harder in the budget market. They’re effectively hedging their bets by spraying the wall with a range of options.
For instance, LG has one of the most intriguing advanced smartphones in its latest LG G Flex 2, but even before announcing it Tuesday, the company first introduced four new mid-tier phones, the Magna, Spirit, Leon and Joy. Likewise, Motorola offers the Moto X, Droid Turbo and several devices at practically every price level.
If stand-out innovation proves too elusive, phone manufacturers can make more use of the expertise they already have. That can be a win for consumers when it means stuffing better specs and features into lower-priced devices. For companies, meanwhile, a wider array of phones can help broaden their reach in developing markets and among people just buying their first smartphones.
It also keeps their mobile business alive, as sexier technologies that use those phones as hubs—to smarten up cars, homes and wrists—push ever closer to the mainstream. That potential hasn’t eluded Motorola, which makes one of the hottest Android Wear devices on the market, the Moto 360.
Motorola hopes to succeed by offering well-made devices that offer a “purer” Android experience and keeping the customizations limited to the handset design. Given the high marks its Moto E line earns, that tactic appears to be working. New parent Lenovo must be thrilled.
The Moto E launches today in more than 50 countries in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite