Moto E6 hands-on review

The Moto E6 cuts too many features in its pursuit of value

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Moto E6 hands-on

“The Moto E6 lacks any standout feature, and Motorola sells a better phone for $50 more.”
  • Affordable
  • Clean Android software interface
  • Decent screen
  • Still no USB Type-C charging port, no NFC
  • Price is too close to the better value Moto G7 Play
  • Exclusive to Verizon for now
  • Won’t get Android Q

Unremarkable. That’s the first word that popped in my head when I saw and put my hands around Motorola’s latest phone, the Moto E6. That’s not a slight, because this $149 phone focuses on providing strong fundamentals for people looking to spend as little as possible on a smartphone. Unfortunately for the E6, there’s a problem.

You can buy a remarkable phone $50 more (or less, on sale): The Moto G7 Play. It has features missing from the new Moto E6 including a USB-C charging port and a fingerprint sensor. If you are strictly limited to $150 or less, however, the Moto E6 will satisfy.

Bare-bones design, 5.5-inch screen

Bare-bones is how I’d describe the Moto E6’s look. It has a speckled, textured back that’s made of polycarbonate and feels cheap. The plus side? It’s not glass, so it won’t shatter if you drop it.

A circular cutout exists in the center of the Moto logo, but there’s no fingerprint sensor. Instead, you’ll have to rely on Google’s Face Unlock to unlock the phone. That means entering passwords on all secure apps, as they don’t support Face Unlock. It’s a shame there’s no fingerprint sensor. Select models of the Moto E5 Play had one last year, and it was less than the Moto E6, and the $160 Nokia 3.1 Plus has one too. There’s no reason Motorola couldn’t have added one here.

Motorola hasn’t trimmed the bezels surrounding the screen. That makes the phone look dated. It’s a contrast with the $200 Moto G7 Play, which has a notch design, but slimmer bezels overall. The G7 Play looks contemporary. The Moto E6 does not.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 powers the Moto E6. That’s a problem.

The Moto E6 looks generic. It’s a slab, and there’s nothing distinct or unique about it. What’s positive? The textured power button on the right edge differentiates it from the volume rocker above. Oh, and there’s a headphone jack.

There’s a 5.5-inch screen on the Moto E6, and since most smartphones have screens larger than 6 inches, that must mean the Moto E6 is compact, right? Not necessarily. The Moto G7 Play is shorter, narrower, and thinner, despite having a larger 5.7-inch screen. Yep, the Moto E6 is larger than the Moto G7 Play. Still, most people should be able to use both phones with one hand.

The LCD screen looked dim in my time with the phone. It has an 18:9 aspect ratio, as well as 1440 x 720 resolution (296 pixels-per-inch), which is standard across most phones in this price range. From what I saw, it was fine for a budget phone, but I’ll need more time with the phone to reach a verdict.

Performance and software

A Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 with 2G of RAM powers the Moto E6. That’s concerning. I haven’t had a great time with phones using a Snapdragon 400-series processor; for example, the Snapdragon 439 in the Nokia 4.2 delivered frustrating performance. The Snapdragon 435 is a step behind the 439, so I’m expecting similar if not worse experience.

My initial impression wasn’t doom and gloom. Swiping around the Moto E6 felt smooth, and apps opened with reasonable speed.

Still, this is another reason why the Moto G7 Play is a better buy. Motorola made a point to differentiate the G7 series by upgrading them to Snapdragon 600-series chips, which deliver a significant boost in performance. If $50 is all that stands between a Snapdragon 435 and a 632 (the chip in the G7 Play), I’ll always pay up. It even comes with 32GB of storage, while the E6 only has 16GB (though there’s a MicroSD card slot in case you need more space).

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Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Moto E6 runs Android 9 Pie, and Motorola told Digital Trends it’s not “currently scheduled” for an update. It likely won’t receive Android 10 Q, which is set to launch at the end of August, and there’s little chance of seeing timely security updates. Such lackluster support is disappointing. The Moto G7 Play is at least set to receive Android Q.

Otherwise, the software experience is uncluttered and similar to stock Android. It has a few Motorola flourishes, along with Verizon bloatware, as it will launch as a Verizon-exclusive phone.

It’s worth noting there’s no NFC, so you can’t make contactless payments via Google Pay. It’s a shame, because there are budget phones that do offer the feature. The Nokia 3.1 Plus, for example, is a Cricket Wireless exclusive with NFC, and it costs just $10 more than the Moto E6. The Nokia 4.2 also has NFC, and it costs $189 (though doesn’t work on Sprint or Verizon). But Motorola has historically been shy about putting NFC in its North American devices, so it’s unsurprising.

Camera

The Moto E6 has a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.0 aperture, which is par for the course on most low-end phones. I didn’t have the chance to snap many pictures with it, but the few images I took were at least acceptable. The camera is packed with features like a software-based Portrait Mode, Manual mode, Spot Color (which lets you pick one color and makes the rest of the photo black and white), Timelapse mode, and more.

Around front is a 5-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture, though I didn’t get a chance to test it.

No USB-C, no water resistance

The Moto E6 has a removable 3,000mAh battery. That’s unusual today, as many phones no longer let users remove the battery. Its capacity, which is typical for a phone of this price, should pull the phone through a full day of use.

The lack of USB-C is disappointing.

USB-C is nowhere to be found, and that’s a big disappointment. Instead, there’s a Micro USB port on the bottom. In last year’s Moto E5 Play review, Motorola told us all its 2019 phones will have a Type-C port. While the company kept its promise for the full Moto G7 range this year, Motorola has failed to bring support to the affordable Moto E6. The Nokia 3.1 Plus yet again is a similarly priced phone, but it has USB-C. If HMD can do it, then so can Motorola.

Unsurprisingly, the Moto E6 is not water-resistant — most phones in this price range aren’t — but Motorola says it has a water repellent design with “P2i nano coating,” which should keep it safe from spills and the rain.

Price and availability

The Moto E6 comes in starry black or navy blue and is priced at $149. It’s available exclusively on Verizon for now, but Motorola says it will be available on other carriers later this year. An unlocked model is planned, too.

Looking at similarly priced options on Verizon, there’s the Samsung Galaxy J3 V 3rd Gen ($168), or the Alcatel Avalon V ($99). The Moto E6 is easily the better choice. Those phones are running dated Android software (version 8.0) and have lackluster internals compared to Motorola’s phone.

If you’re on Verizon and you want to buy through the carrier, keep in mind you can buy the Moto G7 Play unlocked and activate it on Verizon. If you don’t want to buy it straight from Verizon, the Moto E6 is one of your better choices at this price.

Wrap-up

The Moto E6 is fine. Just fine. That’s praise, given its low price, but my gut says to overlook it and go for the Moto G7 Play — even if it means waiting for it to go on sale to match the $150 price tag (which has already happened).

Motorola’s G7 Play seems better in every single way, and you’ll be happier for it. But I’ll need to wait until I can use the Moto E6 for a prolonged period before I can reach my final verdict.

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