Skip to main content

Motorola Moto E (2020) and Moto G Fast review: smartphone basics on a budget

Motorola Moto E (2020) and Moto G Fast review: smartphone basics on a budget


Motorola’s least expensive phones give you what you pay for

Share this story

The Moto E (2020), left, and Moto G Fast (right)
The Moto E (2020), left, and Moto G Fast (right)
Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge

Despite a recent run of high-end phones, Motorola’s ambition for the past few years has been to own the budget and midrange phone space. And the newly announced Moto G Fast and Moto E (no numbers anymore) are the final pieces of that puzzle for this year’s lineup, joining the previously released Moto G Power and G Stylus at even lower price points. 

Starting at $149.99 for the new Moto E and $199.99 for the Moto G Fast, the new phones mean that Motorola now has budget phones at every $50 increment between $149 and $299. That’s a lot of phones, and it turns out they aren’t very different from each other.

The new Moto E
The new Moto E

The 2020 Moto E is an interesting entry to Motorola’s lowest-cost phone line, and there’s a lot to like here, especially compared to last year’s Moto E6, which was a more incremental update. 

There’s a faster Snapdragon 632 processor, a new secondary depth camera, a more premium design with a notched screen, and a fingerprint sensor on the back (a first for the E-series). But there are still lingering issues, like the fact that Motorola is sticking with just 2GB of RAM and a Micro USB port for charging, specs that were already outdated in last year’s Moto E6 and are particularly disappointing to see here. And there’s still no NFC or wireless charging.

The Moto E looks good — from a distance

Some of these improvements are long overdue, like the Snapdragon 632 processor. While it’s over a year old — for reference, Motorola used it in last year’s Moto G7 and G7 Power models — and it certainly won’t win any awards for speed, it’s still capable enough in 2020 for most tasks, and there’s no noticeable lag in most of the everyday apps I used, like Instagram, Chrome, and Tiktok. 

Gaming is trickier. Simpler games (like Alto’s Adventure) run fine. But more graphically demanding titles like Asphalt 9 struggle, and the most intensive game I tried to test — Fortnite — didn’t run at all. 

New on the 2020 Moto E: a 2-megapixel depth sensor and a rear fingerprint reader.
New on the 2020 Moto E: a 2-megapixel depth sensor and a rear fingerprint reader.

But while the processor performance is a big improvement, the paltry RAM holds the Moto E back; 2GB just doesn’t feel like enough RAM to run Android comfortably. The Moto E runs fast enough at first — the new processor certainly helps with that — but once you’ve got a few tabs open in Chrome, or a couple apps running in the background, things start to slow down, especially if you’re switching between apps regularly. 

And while the new Moto G phones and Edge Plus have started to reverse Motorola’s camera woes, the new Moto E is still firmly in the past, with a 13-megapixel main sensor that appears to be unchanged from the old model — which is to say, bad. 

The new processor is speedy, but the lack of RAM holds it back

The new addition here is a depth sensor for portrait mode, which works, although it’s not particularly great at cutting out fine details like hair. It’s also held back by the lackluster main camera (which still has to take the actual photo). 

Lastly, there’s the display: a 720p panel running at 1520 x 720, which looks fine from a distance, but jagged edges and blurry text start to appear when you look up close. It’s especially noticeable since Motorola jumped up to a 6.2-inch screen here, compared to the 5.5-inch panel on the Moto E6. 

That “good from a distance” approach applies to a lot of the 2020 Moto E — it’s a phone that looks a lot like a premium smartphone, but up close, the illusion doesn’t quite hold up. The all-plastic design feels lighter in your hand than it should, the camera is outclassed, and the performance is average. For better or for worse, it’s a $149.99 smartphone. 

Moto G Fast
Moto G Fast

But while the Moto E is a substantial upgrade over last year’s model, the Moto G Fast is effectively a less interesting downgrade of its pricier siblings. If you’ve seen the Moto G lineup from this year — particularly the Moto G Power, from which the Moto G Fast is visually indistinguishable — you should have a good idea of what to expect.

Agree to continue: Moto E (2020) and Moto G Fast

Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.

To actually use the Moto E (2020) and Moto G Fast, you must agree to:

  • Motorola Privacy Policy
  • Google Terms of Service
  • Install updates and apps: “You agree this device may also automatically download and install updates and apps from Google, your carrier, and your device’s manufacturer, possibly using cellular data. Some of these apps may offer in-app purchases.”

To add a Google account, you’ll also need to agree to two more things:

The following agreements are optional:

  • Back up to Google Drive: “Your backup includes apps, app data, all history, contacts, device settings (including Wi-Fi passwords and permissions), and SMS.
  • Use location: “Google may collect location data periodically and use this data in any anonymous way to improve location accuracy and location-based services.”
  • Allow scanning: “Allow apps and services to scan for Wi-Fi networks and nearby devices at any time, even when Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is off.”

Additionally, for Google Assistant, there’s an option to agree to use Voice Match: “Allows your Assistant to identify you and tell you apart from others. The Assistant takes clips of your voice, which is only stored on your device(s).”

Final tally: three mandatory agreements to use the phone at all, another two for Google account services, and four additional optional agreements.

There are, in fact, exactly three differences between the $249.99 G Power and the $199.99 G Fast. First: the battery on the G Fast is a 4,000mAh cell, instead of the 5,000mAh battery found on the G Power. Second: the G Fast’s display is a 720p panel, instead of the crisper 1080p display found on the G Power. And third, the G Fast only has 3GB of RAM, instead of 4GB. 

Stretching a 1560 x 720 resolution across a 6.4-inch display is rough. If you look closely, you can actually see the pixels of some icons and text. (The smaller 6.2-inch Moto E actually looks better than its pricier sibling, thanks to a slightly higher pixel-per-inch ratio.) 

Less RAM, fewer pixels, and less battery

The fact that the G Fast has fewer pixels to push should help battery life, although it’s hard to tell whether the smaller battery will make a huge impact without more extended testing. Motorola promises that the G Fast will last at least two days, at which it handily succeeded. (For another comparison, the G Fast also has the same processor and battery as the pricier G Stylus, but with a less demanding, lower-resolution screen.)

Lastly, the RAM. While 3GB is on the lower side for a modern Android phone, it seems to be enough to keep everything running smoothly, although it’s something you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re planning on heavy gaming or multitasking. (For example, Fortnite — which asks for a minimum of 4GB of RAM — technically works, but looks and runs terribly.)

Everything else about the G Fast — the hardware design, the processor, the cameras, the lack of NFC, wireless charging, or substantial waterproofing — is identical to the G Power. To learn more about that phone, I’ll refer you to my colleague Cameron Faulkner’s excellent review, as it goes into far more detail about the pros and cons of the 2020 Moto G lineup. For my money, the extra $50 is worth the larger battery, crisper display, and extra RAM, but if you’re on a budget, the trade-offs aren’t so terrible that they ruin the experience entirely. 

With so many midrange and budget phones with similar specs all so closely grouped together on its lineup, the new Moto E and Moto G Fast are a little hard to parse. It’s a strategy that feels less about building phones on their own merits, and more about building devices to hit specific price points. 

And as the cheapest members of Motorola’s family, the new Moto E and Moto G Fast succeed in that regard. Just remember: you get what you pay for. 

Photography by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 23 10 minutes in the clouds

Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.

James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.

Richard LawlerSep 23
Green light.

This week Friday brings the debut of Apple’s other new hardware. We’ve reviewed both the new AirPods Pro and this chonky Apple Watch Ultra, and now you’ll decide if you’re picking them up, or not.

Otherwise, we’re preparing for Netflix’s Tudum event this weekend and slapping Dynamic Island onto Android phones.

The Apple Watch Ultra on a woman’s wrist
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
External Link
Jess WeatherbedSep 23
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!

External Link
Thomas RickerSep 23
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and

External Link
Corin FaifeSep 23
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.