Moto E4 Review: Decent Budget Phone Has One Huge Flaw

Motorola’s latest budget phone offers unexpectedly good features for an insanely low price, but its battery life disappoints.

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Moto E4 is a budget phone that lets you enjoy Android Nougat on the cheap, but there are some serious trade-offs.


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    Very cheap

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    Ships with latest version of Android

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    Fingerprint sensor

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    Available unlocked on all major carriers


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    Outdoor photos not the greatest

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    Runs hot when playing games

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    Poor battery life

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The Moto E4 is a cheap smartphone with a decent 5-inch display that runs the latest Android software, complete with Google Assistant and an attractive textured design. It’s a tempting enough package to make anyone on a budget to take notice. So what’s the catch?

Available through Verizon for $69 and $99 unlocked through Amazon Prime ($129 without Prime), this phone seems ideal for teens, international travel or iOS users looking for a (cheap) first taste of Android. However, you’ll have to live with an unimpressive battery and it can run a bit hot under pressure.

Design and Specs 

The 5-inch Moto E4 has a 720p display, quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a not-too-shabby 8-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera. You’ll find a fingerprint sensor on the front of the phone, a feature rarely included in this price range.

In another nice reward for bargain hunters, the Moto E4 ships with Android 7.1.1 Nougat, the latest version of the operating system. That means you can query Google Assistant to handle all of your pressing needs and take advantage of useful functions like split-screen apps and bundled notifications. Of course, Android O is just around the corner, so who knows how long the Moto E4 will remain up-to-date. Still, many budget devices make do with the ancient Marshmallow.

There’s some bad news: The device has just 16GB of storage, and less than half of it usable, thanks to the OS and preinstalled apps. A microSD slot lets you expand that storage up to 128GB, so the 16GB base is more of a technicality.

I tested the Verizon model of the Moto E4, and, yes, it does come with some Verizon bloatware. (Shocking, I know.) But those few apps, such as My Verizon and VZ Navigator, are nothing too intrusive. The Moto E4 offers a fairly standard Android experience.

What’s Good About the Moto E4 

Having an up-to-date phone is reassuring from a security standpoint, as is the Moto E4’s superfast fingerprint sensor, which I activated immediately. The sensor supports gesture controls for one-handed use, a feature I’d expect from a pricier device.

It’s also refreshing for a budget phone to have the latest and greatest features from Google. Google Assistant is a standout, and responds quickly to questions about the weather, nearby restaurants and movie times. (Though when I asked about the movie The Big Sick, Google Assistant kept showing me results for “the big stick.”)

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Little things like split-screen apps and faster app-switching made the Moto E4 feel like a current device instead of a sad, cheap hunk of plastic you’re trying to squeeze the last bit of use out of.

The E4 is indeed made of plastic, but the slightly textured removable back doesn’t feel cheap. Motorola bucked the current trend in Android hardware by wisely putting the fingerprint sensor on the bottom front bezel, which makes it easy to unlock the phone without having to pick it up. Larger phones have dominated the market for quite some time now, but Motorola chose to go with a 5-inch display for the 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.37-inch Moto E4. That makes the phone easier for us small-handed folks to use.

The E4’s 8-MP camera won’t win you any photography awards, but it gets the job done. One exception is bright sunlight, where the rear camera struggles. Photos I shot in midday looked blown out, without the crispness of detail you’d get from other camera phones.

The E4 accurately captured the blue sky around the Flatiron Building, but the colors of buildings and trees are muted and the clouds look almost pixelated. The fountain in Madison Square Park isn’t quite as muddy, thanks to the green of the trees, but the colors aren’t as bright and the details in the photo aren’t as crisp as they could be.

Sunlight isn’t as big of a problem for the 5-MP front camera, which takes some decent selfies. The details of my face, sunglasses and lipstick are crisp and clear. You will have to experiment a little bit to capture the background behind you. In some lighting, the background will be completely blown out, but I managed to capture the skyline in a few front-facing shots. Both front and rear cameras fared better indoors, where the lighting is less harsh.

The 5-inch 720p LCD screen isn’t full HD, but I didn’t really notice when I streamed videos from YouTube, because the color clarity and accuracy is really, really good. The Moto E4 displays 125 percent of the sRGB color gamut — excellent for an LCD screen — and displayed colors accurately, with a Delta-E score of 0.26. (Numbers closer to zero are best.) I watched the new Jumanji trailer on YouTube and the color looked exactly the same on the Moto E4 as it did on an iPhone 7 Plus.

With an average brightness of 503 nits, videos and games are bright and clear on the E4’s display. While not as bright as the similarly priced ZTE Max XL (560 nits), it’s much better than the 364 nits we measured on the Blu R1 Plus, another budget option. And it’s well ahead of the 433-nit average for smartphones.

What’s Bad About the E4

Where a $100-or-so phone would naturally fall short is processing power, and the Moto E4 doesn’t buck that exception. The E4 scored 1,711 on the Geekbench 4 test of overall system performance. That’s in line with other budget phones — slightly higher than the Blu R1 Plus(1,583) but lower than the ZTE Max XL(1,865).

Modern Combat 5 turned the Moto E4 into a phone-shaped Hot Pocket.

Shell out an extra $100 and you can get the Moto G5 Plus, which at 3,746 doubles the E4’s score. Then again, with 2GB of RAM and Qualcomm’s low-end mobile processor, you wouldn’t expect a powerhouse in the Moto E4.

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And that’s apparent when you try to play a graphically demanding game on this phone. Modern Combat 5 was a poor experience — the frame rate lagged and the graphics stuttered. After a few minutes of gameplay, the phone became uncomfortably warm, as the popular shooter turned the E4 into a phone-shaped Hot Pocket. The side-scroller Badland fared much better with no lag or glitches, so if lightweight games are more your speed, the Moto E4 isn’t bad. 

Battery life is also not the E4’s strong suit. The 2,800mAh removable battery lasted just 6 hours and 42 minutes when we put it through the Tom’s Guide Battery Test (continuous web-surfing over Verizon 4G LTE). The G5 Plus, Blu R1 Plus and ZTE Max XL all last significantly longer — so does the average smartphone at 9 hours and 37 minutes. If battery life is important to you, the Moto E4 isn’t the best option.

Bottom Line

If you have more money to play with, the $230 Moto G5 Plus has a better camera and longer battery life with a more impressive display. (And Amazon Prime members can get that phone for less than $200 if they don’t mind ads popping up on their lockscreen.) Still, with its bright display, updated Android and decent enough-camera, the Moto E4 is a solid device that’s better than any sub-$100 phone has a right to be.


Price: $69.99 on Verizon, $129.99 unlocked
Display: 5-inch 1280x720 LCD
OS: Android 7.1
CPU: Snapdragon 425
Storage: 16GB
Cameras (Rear/Front): 8-MP / 5-MP
Size and Weight: 5.69 x 2.83 x 0.366 inches, 5.29 ounces
Battery Life: 6:42

Credit: Tom's Guide

Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.

  • sfootie
    Few comments of constructive criticism:

    1) Other online reviews mark the battery life as good, and that really depends on usage.
    2) Criticising it for 'gaming' performance - this is not a phone designed to run the best Android games, it's a cheap smartphone with loads of good features for people that need to run Android, so of course it has not been designed with gaming in mind. I'd argue that the typical user of this phone would not look to be running the latest games on this given the specs and pricing, so I think marking it down so critically because of this isn't really fair.

    Other than that - good review.
  • skshrews1
    Disagree with battery life complaints. My experience, without gaming, and routine use, is easily a day and sometimes 1 1/2 days.
  • trippleboy
    battery explodes Motorola e4 very dangerous junk caused 3500.00 in damages to my home the the g6 is cheap and will break no matter how careful you are with a protective case over it junk products I bought both phones in a 2 week time span I had the old Motorola e 3 years old and did not have any problems the new stuff is all junk
  • jjryder257
    trippleboy... Let's see proof of your fire claim
  • lostinspacefan65
    My problem with the e4 is that when I am talking it just cuts off my conversation.
  • sonali456
    The Moto E4 Plus is one of the best budget smartphone. It’s heavy and fitted with a massive battery that will last you days, and can handle any scenario to a certain extent. But if you’re looking for excitement or innovation, look elsewhere.
  • mjrtom
    Please keep in mind that if you review a Verizon device, that means its CDMA.
    CDMA is known to have a shorter battery life than GSM devices.
    Also CDMA is unable to support similtaneous voice/data, which GSM does standard.
  • bsagreg
    So what's the HUGE flaw?
  • selden
    Thank you BSAGREG. The headline is clickbait.

    I bought an unlocked GSM Moto e4 ~6 weeks ago for $100 from Walmart. Battery life is better than expected (>24 hours on standby). The camera is "OK" but I knew that going in. Voice quality on calls is better than expected. I don't play games on phones, and performance is excellent — better than either of my Android tablets.

    The only problem I have had is that with a memory card installed (in order to offload as much as possible to external storage) it's unstable, and reboots frequently when it's not plugged in or in motion, such as on my body. This instability has been confirmed by Motorola support, and the "fix" is to remove the memory card.

    It is using 8.83 gb of internal storage, and 3.93 external, for 12.75 gb total, so in theory it would still have sufficient free space if I removed the card. I'm going to watch space utilization before taking any action, as the instability is inconvenient, but not disruptive.

    On average, I make 1-2 phone calls a week, so the Moto e4 far exceeds my basic requirements. For $100, I am satisfied.
  • ted.chelmow
    I'm on my Fifth replacement for the same recurring problem with the MotoE4. Sound shuts off randomly--ringers, alarms. Need to reboot, reset, factory reset and the problem recurs no matter which model. I've begged them to send me an older phone or a newer model. 5!!! replacements---plus over 120 emails from them (their service department has troubles too), plus each time they replace they fail to put in FEDEX mailing information. Stay clear of Motorola. Trust the anonymous me.