The budget smartphone champion Motorola Moto E has arrived in its 2015 refresh, now with speedy 4G capability. And by arrived we mean literally: a semi-surprise pre-Mobile World Congress delivery arrived at the office ahead of the show. Is it still the best budget smartphone around?
Perhaps "refresh" is a soft description, as the 2015 Moto E has had quite an overhaul: it's a slightly larger handset than the first-generation model, with a 4.5-inch screen (not 4.3-inch like before). That makes a little practical difference, but the resolution is the same 960 x 540 pixels (245ppi) typical of this entry-level device. It's bright and colourful though (albeit a little warm/yellow), with ample viewing angles ensuring ease of use.
Not only is the screen brighter, the new accent colour edges (called "Bands" by Motorola) add a lick of creative colour to the device too. Rather than the full rear panel being removable - meaning the battery is now fixed, not replaceable - the black edge panel comes off and can be replaced with one of six options. We've added the blue one, which brightens the whole phone's aesthetic.
Such a design concept keeps the look of the phone neat and tidy too. With the exception of the USB charging port to the base and 3.5mm headphone jack to the top, the other ports and card slots are hidden beneath the band. That includes a microSD port to expand on the 8GB internal storage by up to 32GB more, and there's a dual SIM option available (not shown here, though, this is single SIM UK business).
The soap-bar shape of the phone remains the same as the first generation, as does the 12.3mm thickness. And despite the larger screen being squeezed into the 66.8 x 129.9mm front, the whole device is only a couple of grams heavier than before, at 145g total. For a budget phone it feels reassuringly heavy, not cheap and nasty.
On the front Motorola has removed one of the two ugly metal bars that we have always bemoaned, meaning there's just a single one to the top to hide away the speaker output. We would rather there were none, as per the original Moto G, as there's something odd looking and intrusive about it within the design.
Android fans may be aware that the original Moto E has just received its Lollipop version update. With the 2015 Moto E it's already there from day one, meaning the latest and greatest from Google's operating system. It's slick in use, but not really more powerful than the first-gen model: the use of the 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 chipset is more about bringing 4G LTE connectivity to the party than anything else.
But that's a big deal: super-fast browsing is becoming the norm, and for its £109 price point - making it £20 more than the 2014 model - the Moto E 2015 is a deal.
Having just pulled the device from its box, there are some new features we've yet to test. The more capacious 2390mAh battery, for example, ought to go the extra mile, as it's a 20 per cent capacity boost. With better software and no screen resolution bump that should translate to better longevity this time around, or roughly the same with 4G firing away.
Camera-wise the rear 5-megapixel rear offering is as familiar as before, but the presence of a new front-facing is a curious new addition. Curious because its 640 x 480 maximum resolution gives it limited appeal.
Overall the new Moto E is a sensible push forward from Motorola. The size differences are negligible - it's the 4G connectivity, more capacious battery and fun colour accents that still put it up there as one of the best budget phones to buy. Motorola may have been sold to Lenovo, but it's continuing the positive legacy that it started.
A more detailed Moto E (2015) review will follow when we've got stuck into using the handset in more depth.