Ahead of MWC, 2015 Is Shaping up to Be a Good Year for Low-Cost Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | February 28, 2015 - 04:42 PM |
Tagged: smartphones, MWC 2015, MWC, Moto E, LG Magna, ios, Android 5.0

Last year my favorite smartphone became the 2014 version of the Moto G. This was (and still is) a $179 unlocked Android phone that shipped with 4.4.4 KitKat, but recently received an OTA update to 5.0 Lollipop (and subsequently 5.0.2 via a second OTA update). Motorola’s aggressive pricing made the phone compelling on paper, but using the device was even more impressive. It looked good, with a 5-inch 720p IPS display and the same design language as the Moto X and later Nexus 6, and ran a virtually untouched stock Android OS. It was never going to win any awards for raw speed, but the quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC was plenty fast for daily use. The main drawback was a glaring one, however: the Moto G was not LTE capable. Enter the new Moto E.

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The Moto E 2nd Edition

Here are some quick specs from Motorola:

Moto E 2nd Edition (LTE capable)
4.5” 540x960 display
Android 5.0.x
Snapdragon 410
Quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A53/Adreno 306
1GB RAM/8GB storage
2390 mAh battery
Unlocked, $149

We are already off to a solid start in 2015 with a great option from Motorola in the new 2nd edition Moto E. This LTE capable smartphone might look a little chunky, but the specs make it more that just a compelling option at $149 (unlocked) as it could have the disruptive impact on price that Microsoft just couldn’t make last year with their inexpensive Lumia phones. With 2015’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) fast approaching the Moto E has already been making some noise in the affordable phone space that last year’s Moto G played a big part in, and this time the message is clear: in 2015 a smartphone needs to have LTE, regardless of price.

To be fair Microsoft has already addressed need for LTE with their low-cost Windows Phone devices like the Lumia 635 (which is actually selling for just $49 on Amazon now), but the app ecosystem for the platform is just too restrictive to make it a viable solution compared to Android and iOS. Honestly, I love the Windows Phone OS but there are too many missing apps to make it a daily driver. So, since Windows clearly isn’t the answer and Apple won’t be selling a sub-$200 unlocked smartphone anytime soon (the cheapest unlocked iPhone is the 8GB 5c at $450), that leaves Android (of course).

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LG's 2015 mid-range smartphone lineup

Another possibility comes from LG, as ahead of MWC there was a press release from the company showcasing their new “mid-range” smartphone lineup for 2015. Among the models listed is another phone that matches the specs associated with a $200-ish unlocked phone, but pricing has not been announced yet.

LG Magna (LTE capable) - Unreleased
5.0” 720x1280 display
Android 5.0.x
Quad-core 1.2/1.3GHz
1GB RAM, 8GB storage
2540 mAh battery

We await the announcements from MWC and there are sure to be many other examples of low-cost LTE devices, but already it’s looking like it won’t take more than $200 and a SIM card to avoid the endless device upgrade cycle in 2015.

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March 1, 2015 | 12:16 AM - Posted by Mark Harry (not verified)

I'm all in, we have 2 OnePlus One's and a Moto G, my oldest daughter had to have a Note 4 and AT&T promptly jacked our bill by $30.00 a month. After spending 30 minutes yelling at an AT&T rep who barely spoke english, I'm done, he wouldn't answer the question of "why". T-Mobile here we come.

March 1, 2015 | 01:46 AM - Posted by ThorAxe

The only app I miss on on Windows Phone is Strava (although Striver does a decent job of pulling in Strava's data. Once Windows 10 arrives and all apps are unified, this should not be a problem for very long.

March 1, 2015 | 04:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I still have a flip phone, no desire for any phone or tablet, until the ones with full Linux OS distro begin to appear. The BQ Aquaris E4.5(Ubuntu) is available in Europe, I really can't wait for a Tablet with Linux MINT, and I'm hoping the Fit-pc folks are developing one, But in the US the big TRUSTS rule, and the SOC/OEM hardware makers are beholden to the TRUSTS.

Android(Linux kernel based, restricted pseudo OS) should run just fine under any Linux kernel based OS, being that Android is a bit like JAVA/other in software VM type of system. To me Android on any CPU/SOC based system is a bit like having a PC/Laptop that is rigged up to only run JAVA, and the JAVA ecosystem! A fully functioning CPU, SOC, or other CPU capable device is a terrible thing to waste on Android/win RT(depreciated), or any other closed application ecosystem run time! It's time to make the antitrust division of the Justice Department aware of the laws on the books that are there to prevent illegal monopolistic practices of Google, M$, and others. The android device makers, are dependent on too many supports from a single OS ecosystem, and OS makers' influence. Its time to ask for Tablet computers, and not Tablet appliances.

Folks in the EU appear to have more options, as opposed to people in the US who are trapped behind an OS/closed Application ecosystem Iron curtain.

March 11, 2015 | 11:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

how come no mention of the lumia 640 and 640xl?

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