/ product review

My thoughts on Republic Wireless and the Moto E

I purchased a Moto E last week when Republic Wireless announced it as the new (least expensive) option in their lineup. Here are my initial thoughts after using the phone and their service for a mere week (I’ve already easily spent several hours configuring it every evening since it arrived).

motoe

Disclosure: Let me apologize now if any of this sounds naive. It’s a result of my newbie marvel at what smart phones can do, as I am the last developer alive who still had a flip phone, as of last Friday. But no more! (Thanks, Verizon, for such crappy service that you pushed me to look for better alternatives. I owe you one nothing.)

Things I Like

Micro SD Card Support ✓

It’s got a Micro SD card slot, which its big brothers, the Moto G and Moto X, do not have. It’s internal memory is only 4 GB and the preloaded OS (KitKat 4.4.4) and other services and base apps take up a decent chunk of that. When I first turned it on I think I had about 2.8 GB free.

The saver here is the Micro SD slot. I purchased a 32 GB Samsung card (the maximum supported size) off Amazon for $18. It’s loaded up with about 10 GB of music and a movie, and everything loads and plays quickly.

Even better, you can offload some apps to the SD card as well. Not all can be moved, so I’m assuming it’s a conscious effort on the part of the programmer to support it..?

The Apps setting screen displays a list of the apps that support moving to the SD card. So far, nothing I moved (even music and video players) runs any slower from the card.

apps - move to sd card config

It Runs Angry Birds ✓

Come on. That’s the standard of whether any device is actually worth buying, isn’t it?

I kinda figured since I’m sacrificing computing power and screen resolution (Republic Wireless says of the Moto E, “low cost doesn’t have to mean low quality”, but I’m not kidding myself… it’s low*er* quality for sure), it might stutter on games. But it didn’t. It runs great, actually.

I have yet to try out other games. Actually, I want to get Monument Valley, but I’ve read it can be played through in under a half-hour so that’s a bummer. Hopefully they’ll expand upon it.

Data on WiFi Only ✓

Republic Wireless offers a $10 monthly plan without data, while allowing the phone to download all the data you want over WiFi connections when available. This is not earth-shattering. Someone should tell Verizon about it. I got nowhere with a VZ phone rep when trying to upgrade my phone. “Wait, you want a touch screen and computing power, but don’t want to pay $40 extra a month for it?? Inconceivable!”

When out of range, apps are unable to use data, and they don’t attempt to connect using standard minutes. Instead, a message similar to this one is displayed:

motoe_no_wifi_available

Changing Plans During the Month

Another nice perk of RW, not offered by VZ. I can change my plan a couple times a month, and they’ll prorate it. You’re not permanently upgraded. There are no penalties.

This’ll be great for vacation, or when something comes up for a few days or a week, and there won’t be WiFi available (or only insecure WiFi). The even provide an interface to do it from the phone. Less expensive for the company, quicker for the customer. The only downside is you lose the privilege of listening to static-filled hold music and suffering through yet another upsell.

rw change plan

Community ✓

They’ve developed a robust community, where members can ask and answer questions. The forums seem to be very active… there’s a lot of knowledge-sharing going on in there.

No doubt the outpouring of support in favor of companies like Republic Wireless is directly attributable to the amount of sheer disdain for the behemoths.

Overall Design ✓

The phone looks as sleek as the other models. Motorola didn’t create a blocky, subpar piece of crap that screams, “my phone isn’t as pretty as yours, but it’s got a nice… personality”.

What I Don’t Like

It doesn’t feel low quality. But it’s lower quality for sure. So where did they cut corners?

No Built-In Compass ✕

Not worth a $50 upgrade by itself, but it would’ve been useful for things like following a route (yes, assuming I had the data plan) and using apps that depend on direction like Google Sky Map. It’s got GPS for finding your location… it just can’t tell which way you’re currently facing when you’re standing still.

No Built-In Flash ✕

There’s no flash built-in, so evening / indoor pics will be grainy. I took a couple action shots of the kids playing inside, and they ended up blurry. That may just be a quality of the camera too. But then, these phones have become a swiss army knife of sorts. If you need really good pics, you could purchase a great digital camera for a couple hundred bucks instead of spending $500 more on a phone with a great camera.

Low Camera Quality ✕

The camera is absolutely on the lower-end. Here’s a photo I took on a bright, sunny day at the park. The full-size image looks grainy and low-quality.

motoe_camera_sample_sunnydayatpark

Low Resolution ✕

I think this has less to do with screen size and more to do with resolution. The resolution is fairly low, so it can be a little awkward doing some tasks like writing emails.

motoe_small_screen1

Rotating the phone helps, but then the keys are skinnier and tougher to use.

motoe_small_screen2

Everything’s a Bit… Less

There’s no front camera, and it’s dual-core vs quad-core or more. Less memory, less resolution, less screen. None of that should come as a surprise, and I have to say I’m enjoying it anyway.

I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind of all these phones is that they are hand-held computers. Just like you can’t start 15 apps on your home PC without suffering for it, and eventually needing to close down the ones you’re not using, so it’s the same on a smart phone.

When you’re in an app, and want to get back to the main screen, don’t just press the home button in the middle. Get in the habit of pressing the button in the lower-right corner. It brings up a list of running apps. A quick swipe to the right to close them out, then click the home button and go from there.

motoe_closeapp

Community ¿!¡?

Wait, didn’t I like this? I kinda worry that the presence of a strong community might mean the company will take a major hands-off approach. Unless some of the “top contributors” are actually employees.

But the cuts in the plan prices has to come from somewhere, and that may be partly in support. Time will tell. At least if I decide it’s unbearable, I’m not locked in for years. Then again, they know it too, and hopefully it encourages everyone to do their best.

A (short) Verizon Rant

Just a short note on Verizon and my switch. (If you can’t rant on your own blog, where can you..?)

After being a loyal customer for 10 years, I’m done. Piss-poor customer service (including switching my plan without my telling them to, having to call them half a dozen times over a couple of weeks, and being told dept A filled out the paperwork wrong so dept B rejected it and now dept A has to fill it out again… like I give a crap, just fix the issue!), expensive inflexible plans (I was told that if I purchased a smart phone, I had to get the data plan) and 2-year contracts have finally sent me over the edge.

People will put up with a lot to avoid the pain of changing, but sometimes, eventually, minor annoyance becomes prickly thorn and eventually a stabbing checkmark-shaped pita. It’s easier to complain and do nothing, but it’s amazing how a little effort can be rewarding.

Looking forward to my new relationship with RW. And when the honeymoon’s over, and the excitement of the phone has worn off, I look forward to still being satisfied with the change. What I know for sure is, no matter how bad it gets, I’ll never go back to Verizon (for more reasons than the above).

verizon-nsa-meme-2

Other Reviews

You can read a ton of user reviews at Engadget. Nothing surprising based on my experience so far (especially concerning the camera).


Grant Winney

Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.

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