The first cellphone I ever owned was the cute and compact Nokia 6510. My heart was actually set on the more expensive and slider-protected 8850, but a teenager’s budget could only stretch so far. The funny thing is that over the course of its lifetime, the handset I got served me exactly as well as my dream phone might have done. I made calls, sent and received texts, and played Snake II a lot. Those were the uncomplicated days of feature parity (mostly because phones just didn’t have all that many features to begin with). The premium handsets distinguished themselves with design, materials, and style, not with specs and performance.

I've waited a long time to be able to say the same thing about smartphones. A cascade of technological evolutions at the start of this century set phone makers off on a breathless chase for the latest and greatest hardware spec and feature list. Bigger screens, more storage, faster processors, 3G and then 4G — the list of must-haves for a satisfying smartphone experience was growing every few months. It was all coming so quickly that by the time a desirable feature trickled down to an affordable level, it was already superseded and no longer so desirable. The bros with 5-megapixel cameras on their phones would mock the straggler with his 3-megapixel device.

The demand for high-end features at low-end prices thus produced an unhappy compromise: the cheap pseudo-smartphone. It wasn't simple, quick, and responsive like the basic phones of the past, nor did its battery last anywhere near as long. But it had Twitter and Facebook clients, dammit, and it could surf the web if you gave it five minutes to load every page.

The $129 Moto E is different. It's a real smartphone.